Ever the optimists at Age Space, we’re thinking about a long, hot English summer and how best to help our elderly parents and relatives keep cool, calm and happy. Trench foot may seem a rather more likely ailment to watch out for judging by the weather at the moment, but we’ve got some useful – even life-saving – summery ideas.
Hydration, hydration, hydration (as Kirsty and Phil might paraphrase)..
Sausage fingers, listlessness, dizziness and dry mouth are things we’ve all experienced when dehydrated. Easily fixed when you’re younger and fitter. But potentially very uncomfortable and with pretty grim consequences in the elderly.
Drinking enough when you’re older, possibly with limited mobility, becomes a very finely tuned exercise; trips to the kitchen to fill up can become fraught with difficulty and the possibility of a fall; conversely not going to the kitchen and not drinking enough becomes equally fraught with difficulty and the possibility of a fall – thanks to dizziness caused by dehydration.
Very important tip: Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common amongst older people, particularly those with reduced mobility and other health conditions. Dehydration can be a contributory cause. UTIs are miserable to have, and awful to witness. Look out for extreme confusion, agitation, dizziness or falls and seek medical advice. UTIs are generally treated by antibiotics. We’ve got lots of information on UTIs here.
Our top tips for a sizzling summer (weather notwithstanding)
1. Drinking and Eating
A chilly bottle or a thermos close at hand during the day; regularly filled up with enticing drinks – not just lukewarm water from the tap; water with mint, or lemon or even cucumber; a nice refreshing lime cordial or elderflower; or really push the boat out with a mocktail or two – how about a lovely Long England Iced Tea.
A healthy diet; no need to go all quinoa and smashed avo; just plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables will also aid hydration, and at this time of year with all the English fruit and salad and veg, what is not to love?
2. These boots were made for walking…
Getting the hooves out for summer and re-connecting with summer shoes after months of proper shoes is a pretty grim prospect for most of us every year. A visit to/ from the podiatrist and a lovely pedicure, and then maybe a regular foot spa, will set anyone up for a summer of sandals as well as the medicinal effect of relieving the pain of cracked heels, corns and other delightful foot ailments.
Difficulty controlling your own body temperature can be a real problem among the elderly. From heat rashes to the far more worrying heat stroke, some factors may contribute; poor circulation, high blood pressure, or certain medication, as well, of course, as wearing the wrong clothes.
Signs that someone is overheating include sudden dizziness, a high temperature, thirst, cramp, clammy skin, swollen ankles or fatigue. It could lead to heatstroke when you may also see symptoms that include confusion, fainting or a change in pulse rate.
It’s back to hydration, hydration, hydration, as well as staying cool under a brolly or staying inside during the heat of the day. There is a reason that millions of (young and old) people take a siesta during the afternoons in sunnier climes. So a nap is highly recommended (for all of us, year-round, in fact).
4. Get the boiler serviced
You read that right. What better time than when everyone has turned the heating down/off, and the wait for a plumber should be short. Along with getting the boiler serviced, why not go the whole hog and get the chimney swept, the oil topped up, logs ordered etc. The days will be shorter before we know it….
Annabel James is founder of Age Space. Her views are her own.