Health & Wellbeing     June 2, 2016

How Weather Affects the Elderly

It’s hard to believe that warmer temperatures will be here soon. As we are sat here composing today’s blog, my weather app is showing a maximum temperature of 11 Degrees with rain due throughout the day. Not a very good start as we look towards the Bank Holiday!

However, we cannot escape the fact that over the next month or so the temperature in the UK will start to improve, experts say we are about a month behind what would normally be expected. But this does raise the question as to how temperature changes affect the elderly, whether it is hot or cold and how we can be prepared to assist our elderly relatives.

Hot Weather and the Elderly

The reality is that the older we get the more sensitive we become to temperature changes; elderly people are far more prone to heat stress than younger people. As one specialist commented, “elderly people account for a disproportionate number of heat related hospital admissions and deaths.”

Very often, existing medical conditions make elderly people susceptible to further complications when there is an increase in ambient temperature. For example, a person suffering with heart disease will find that their bodies find it more difficult to circulate blood properly and dissipate heat. Other people may use medication that compounds a problem in warm weather – Diuretics for example cause water loss and therefore when the outside temperature increases, dehydration is accelerated.

Cold Weather and the Elderly

Temperatures in the UK are still below the average for this time of year (May), but it’s true to say that cold temperatures present a real problem for elderly people. Again cold weather puts pressure on the heart as the cold temperature thickens the blood and constricts the arteries. According to the British Heart Foundation, this results in the heart having to work harder and making the individual more susceptible to a heart attack or stroke. The rising cost of fuel also puts people off turning up their heating, but a cold home will only make the situation worse.

A person suffering from cold temperatures may also be affected cognitively, showing signs of clumsiness, lack of coordination, confusion and sleepiness.

Practical Tips on Combating Weather Extremes

Hot Weather

  • Stay in the coolest place possible and don’t do too much activity
  • Drink plenty of water and don’t eat too much. Also avoid alcohol and drinks with caffeine.
  • Have a fan on in the room you are located in. A handheld fan is a great idea.
  • Keep a cool damp flannel to hand to cool your face and neck.

Cold Weather

  1. If you go out, wrap up warm and wear several layers of clothes.
  2. Wear a hat as you lose a large % of heat through your head!
  3. Eat well – always have tinned food available.
  4. Avoid sudden periods of exertion.
  5. Keep your home warm – ideally between 18-21 degrees C.

Keep in Touch With Elderly People

Experts also say its vital that we stay in regular contact with elderly relatives when the temperatures are either rising or dropping. We need to be aware that symptoms such as a lack of eating, headaches or flu-like symptoms may be an indication your relative needs help. However, whilst we may be able to keep in contact with our relatives by phone, we may live some distance away to be able to provide hands-on help or to really gauge how our relatives are truly coping.

This is where technology can be a real help – a careline pendant alarm may be a real help in such situations. A simple careline alarm installed at your relatives home means that if they feel even slightly unwell they can summon emergency assistance by just pressing their pendant worn around their wrist or neck. A Careline alarm can provide reassurance for the individual as they know they can get help quickly if needed, and relatives can have peace of mind knowing that even if they cannot be close by, help is at hand if needed. Telecare24 specialise in providing help in such situations, trained operators at our 24/7 call centre provide immediate help by either contacting the Emergency Services or Keyholders so that assistance can be given as quickly as possible.

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