The Summer Heat and Alzheimer’s

Teri Sellers

The PebbleCreek Alzheimer’s Support Group is available to all residents who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The group meets twice a month for a breakfast social and a support group meeting. Our goal is to provide support and information to families that are caring for a loved one with dementia.

The month of August will be a little different due to the renovation at Tuscany Falls Clubhouse. After polling our group, we decided to add a second breakfast social.

Too much of our Arizona heat is not good for anyone. It is even riskier for seniors with health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s. As we age our bodies are less likely to perspire and regulate body temperature.

Those with Alzheimer’s often do not recognize the effects of high temperatures and do not dress accordingly or stay hydrated on their own. They become at risk for heat stroke, dehydration or sun burn unless a family or caregiver is carefully monitoring them. Those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia may feel comfortable outdoors. However, they do not realize or cannot understand how the heat is really affecting them. They perhaps cannot “feel” the heat and often dress in layers of clothing. Plus, because of deficits in communication, they may not be able to express their discomfort to others.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these are three reasons why seniors are more prone to heat stress than the general population:

1. As we age, we lose the ability to control our body temperature. Sudden temperature changes are not easy to adjust to.

2. Chronic medical conditions, including cognitive impairment, can increase the risk of heat-related illnesses.

3. Medications, including the combination of multiple medications, can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate heat.

Summer can be safe and enjoyable for everyone, especially with few additional precautions for friends and loved ones with memory loss. Learn the signs of heat-related illness such as hyperthermia, including headache, nausea and dizziness, feeling faint and fatigued, and cramps. If the body temperature reaches over 100 degrees, medical attention is needed immediately. It may be a sign of a heat stroke. Other symptoms include rapid pulse, fast and shallow breathing, seizures or convulsions, and coma.

By monitoring and limiting the amount of time a memory care person spends in the heat and ensuring proper hydration, everyone can enjoy the summer.

If you are not a member of our group, it is easy to join. You are not alone. I want to share helpful resources and information with you and add you to our email list. Our support group is an excellent way to learn more about the journey that is dementia and a wonderful way to meet others who are going through the same journey as you. Your information is always safe and confidential. The benefits are priceless. Please contact me, Teri Sellers, at 602-793-0299 or [email protected]