The forecast calls for high temperatures in the mid to upper 90s across much of Iowa for the next few days, and while prolonged heat can irritate us all, it can be worse for people living with dementia.

Lauren Livingston, spokeswoman for the Iowa Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, says they’re more sensitive to temperature changes and can become more easily agitated and anxious.

“It’s important as a family member that you’re checking in on your loved one who’s living with dementia,” Livingston says. “If they live at home, especially if they’re living at home by themselves, to make sure their AC is running and it’s on. If they don’t have AC, make sure plenty of fans are going.”

If they only have fans, you might consider taking them somewhere that’s air conditioned, like a senior center or a shopping mall. If they plan to be outside, remind your loved one to apply sunblock and to wear loose and light-colored clothing, as they may not remember on their own.

Even when the sun goes down, it can still be quite hot and humid, so take precautions at night, too.

“Nighttime can often be troublesome for people living with dementia,” Livingston says. “There’s something called sundowning, where night and day are reversed for people living with dementia, so it can be a particularly more difficult time that they are more agitated in general. So if it’s also hot on top of that, it can be kind of a bad combination.”

Make sure they’re sleeping in a cool, comfortable place and she suggests staying overnight when it’s particularly hot to make sure they’re okay, that they don’t wander off or get confused.

“Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can often be a little bit more difficult to identify in loved ones living with dementia,” Livingston says. “They may not be able to communicate that they’re really thirsty, that they have a dry mouth, that they have a headache. Keep an eye out to notice that they’re a little bit more fatigued or irritated, or if they’re smacking their lips a lot like they might be really thirsty.”

Make sure there’s plenty of water on hand and offer it to them, as she says they may not be thinking about themselves or remembering they need to stay hydrated.

More than 6-million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, including 66,000 in Iowa. Learn more at: alz.org