This is the hottest summer on record, the news tells us. We stay inside, we use air conditioning, we hydrate well. But some elderly parents who live alone or with part-time help in the home are at particular risk. It’s not just that older people can’t regulate their body temperatures as well as younger people. It is that they can get confused and not realize the danger during bad heat spells.


Some families we work with at tell us that mom or dad tends to get out and get lost from time to time. We call it wandering in the health field. Neighbors notice and bring them home sometimes, if they’re lucky. Or someone calls the police about a missing elderly man found on the streets, with no idea how they got there. The police receive a call and return the elderly person to the house. Sometimes the older person is not dressed to be outdoors. They are in pajamas or underwear. Simply put, they are just confused and don’t remember what to do. Therein lies the danger.

The risk of extreme heat

Mild cognitive impairment, memory loss, and dementia can leave a person vulnerable to forgetting where they are or getting lost. During the hottest days and nights, an elderly person with cognitive impairment who wanders outside alone can put his or her life at risk. Families who may not have been concerned by the occasional wandering of their elderly parents should be even more concerned during these heat waves. If your loved one has left the house even once, now is the time to take additional protective measures. It is possible that an older person does not realize that she should not go outside at this time. With no supervision at home, she will do whatever comes to her mind at all times, disregarding any warnings. If she warns her about the danger of the heat, she can easily forget about it and go out anyway. It’s not her fault. She just can’t follow up on that warning.

To do

A forgetful old man who lives alone is at the greatest risk. Their probable wandering and not realizing the danger must be the most important thing for families. One option is to get some help at the older person’s home, even temporarily, for their protection. The cost is worth it if it saves a life. The alternatives are to take the elderly person with a family member temporarily, having them live there for the time being, until the danger is reduced. It can be inconvenient. Your loved one may protest loudly, but it’s not wise to let that stop you from making a change.

Even under normal circumstances, you will frequently see news reports of a missing elderly person who has dementia or other memory problems. They got in the car and forgot where to go, or where they left the car. They went out to do something and got lost before doing it. Sometimes they don’t meet until it’s too late.

Every public health official, governor, and other authorities in a position to speak out about the heat wave the US is experiencing is telling the population they serve to avoid going outside. They urge people to go to a cooling center if they don’t have air conditioning. Unfortunately, for a person with cognitive impairment, the public message is meaningless. Her reasoning is affected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines the symptoms of heat-related illnesses. In addition to high body temperature, nausea, vomiting, and headache, excessive heat exposure can also cause confusion. In a person who is slightly confused at first, imagine what an emergency is created with even more confusion. Extreme heat is deadlier than other types of disasters, and it’s tougher on the older among us.

Food to go

  1. If you have an elderly loved one who lives alone, check on them very often during extreme weather conditions. They may not understand what is happening.
  2. If your older parent has any memory problems, don’t let them be unsupervised during these hottest days. They might forget what to do and go outside in the heat, not realizing the danger.
  3. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very serious. They can become a serious medical emergency for an aging person and may not be reversed in time to save them. Prevention and protection are key.

By admin

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