Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Beating the Heat ...

Well, here I am, back from the hot sunshine and cool breezes of Kahshe Lake; from the many hours of reading, napping, and chatting  on the deck; from long swims out to the raft and back;  from concocting and eating delicious and healthy meals - plus the odd mini-cone of Chapman's amazing Cappuccino frozen yoghurt (!); from watching every episode of the second season of Downton Abbey on the small screen of a MacBook Pro; and, especially, from the loving companionship of my dear and generous friends.

I've returned to Vancouver freckled, relaxed, energized, and looking forward to all the busyness and creativity of the fall - and there's still a whole month of summer left! I have to say, though, that I was not quite prepared for the heat wave that was engulfing our lovely city when I stepped off the plane.

I'm profoundly grateful to be living in a cool basement suite but the heat does remind me of how difficult it used to be to help my husband breathe comfortably during the summer months. In a city where few homes are air conditioned and even hospitals struggle to keep their rooms cool, it can take some ingenuity to make those with chronic illnesses rest comfortably.

As a young student nurse working in the crowded red brick buildings of old St Paul's Hospital, I learned a few tricks for helping patients (and others) to beat the heat. They may sound hopelessly old-fashioned these days but the truth is that they work, whether one is ill or not!

  • Cool the air with a fan and ice.  A small fan positioned to blow across a large bowl of ice cubes will cool a closed room as effectively as an air conditioner and, if someone is having difficulty breathing, directing the air flow over his or her face will give the feeling of sitting in a fresh breeze. (A needed experience that disappeared a number of years ago when some bright soul decided that it would be good to make hospitals air tight.) 
  • Take a tepid bath.  Rinsing off your body with tepid water then allowing it to dry naturally will help to cool you down more readily than taking a hot shower followed by a towel drying.  Using a mister will do the same thing.
  •  Keep blinds and windows closed during the day then open them when the sun goes down and the air cools. 
  •  Turn off all heat sources. Turn off lights and your computer and use your microwave rather than the stove to cook. Better yet, eat cold food for the duration of the heat wave. 
  •  Freeze your pillow.  Place a small pillow in a couple of plastic bags and put it in the freezer a few hours before you go to bed. Or try putting a wrapped ice pack at the back of your neck.
  •  Keep hydrated.  Keeping in mind any fluid restrictions related to a health condition, or perhaps checking to see if that restriction should be loosened during the heat wave, be sure to drink a glass of water every hour or so. Adding mint, cucumber, orange, lime or lemon may make the water more palatable.  Ice chips, brushing your teeth, or rinsing your mouth frequently may help if fluid restrictions are severe. Try to avoid drinking alcohol or overly sweet drinks.  
  • Find or make an old fashioned bed cradle or footboard to hold bedding away from the body. These can often be bought or rented from medical supply stores or may be available from a Red Cross Loan Cupboard. 
  •  Soak a bandana or headband and wear it around your forehead. 
  •  Try wearing light weight cotton clothes or nightclothes.

I hope some of these ideas will help to ease the "hot brassy days of summer" for you and your family.

  • The next post will begin the promised series on life after long term caregiving so please do join us.
  • The brochures for the fall Caring On Empty and Enneagram workshops (see below) are now available - just email me at caregiverwellness@shaw.ca and I'll be happy to send them to you.


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