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Carbon Monoxide Poses a Risk to Seniors | Generations Home Care
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    space heaters are a common source of CO

    We’re lucky enough to have mild winters here in sunny Arizona. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t need some extra warmth during the year’s cooler weather. As we run our heaters more often, the danger of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning increases exponentially. This colorless, odorless gas is difficult to detect but can severely impact your health when it builds up indoors. Because combustion produces CO gas, most heating appliances can release this gas when improperly vented. Here are a few tips to help seniors stay safe from CO poisoning while the colder weather lasts. 

    Seniors Are at a Higher Risk of CO Poisoning

    When it comes to poisoning, medication errors are one of the highest risks for seniors. But carbon monoxide is the largest cause of non-drug poisoning deaths in the country. Seniors are already at a higher risk of being adversely affected by CO poisoning, as are people with chronic heart conditions or breathing problems–issues many seniors also experience. 

    Higher sensitivity to CO gas and a greater likelihood of chronic illnesses can put seniors at a higher risk of death from CO poisoning. In addition to those factors, seniors are in greater danger simply because they spend more time at home. Because CO gas builds up inside a house, staying indoors for longer can worsen the symptoms. According to a recent study, 2 million seniors identified themselves as mostly or entirely homebound. Isolated seniors may not only experience rapidly worsening symptoms of CO poisoning, but they also may have no one to help them identify the cause and get help before it’s too late. 

    Unfortunately, it can be difficult to distinguish between CO poisoning and other illnesses. The effects of CO gas often resemble the flu. Symptoms including an upset stomach and nausea, chest pain, headaches, dizziness, weakness, and confusion. Unlike the flu, CO poisoning does not cause muscle aches or a high temperature and will improve after time spent out of the house. The key is to realize the difference between these two illnesses while there’s still time to act. Most CO poisoning can take days or even weeks to become dangerous, but high concentrations can cause acute poisoning in mere hours.

    How to Protect Yourself Against CO Poisoning

    CO gas is impossible to detect with your senses alone, and the symptoms are hard to identify correctly. The good news is that there are many simple yet highly effective ways to protect yourself from CO poisoning this winter. The first step is the simplest: make sure you have a functioning carbon monoxide detector installed in your home. Ideally, you should place these detectors about five feet from the floor and never directly above or beside a fireplace or other heat source. If you already have a sensor installed, make sure it’s still working correctly and doesn’t need any new batteries. With a functioning detector, you can rest easy knowing you’ll be notified right away if the CO buildup in your home reaches a dangerous level. 

    Once you have your CO detector installed, it’s time to make sure your appliances are in good working condition. Dryers, furnaces, stoves and ovens, fireplaces, and virtually any other appliance that produces heat can potentially release CO gas. If you haven’t had the devices in your home serviced in a while, the winter months are an excellent time to complete that routine chore. You should always avoid using any sort of portable flameless heat sources indoors, such as a propane stove or heater. Generators should also never be kept inside a home or RV. 

    Lastly, take some time to perform a yearly inspection of your appliances’ vents. If you notice any cracks, damage, or taped-up sections of pipes or ducts, contact a professional to fix them immediately. 

    Caregivers Can Help Keep You Safe

    CO poisoning is a frightening possibility, especially for seniors living alone. It’s alarming to think you could be poisoned in your own home without even realizing that you’re in danger. It can be challenging to stay on top of all the essential maintenance tasks that living at home requires, especially as one year of skipped maintenance turns into two or three. Seniors who have had their appliances for a long time may also be at higher risk since older machines may not run as efficiently or have been serviced as often. A helping hand with household tasks like this is one of the many services an in-home caregiver can offer seniors this winter. 

    A caregiver can keep you safe from CO poisoning by helping you inspect your home for any potential sources of gas leaks, from old appliances to cracked vents. They can also ensure your CO detector is running correctly, especially if it’s in a high or hard-to-reach place. Perhaps most importantly, a caregiver can help spot any alarming symptoms of CO poisoning that you might not notice yourself. They can help you get out of your home more for walks or doctor’s visits, providing support and transportation to keep you healthy (and less at risk of severe CO poisoning). Overall, a caregiver can give peace of mind to seniors concerned about CO poisoning. 

    About Generations Home Care

    Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.

    Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.

    Our Specialty Services Include:

    • Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
    • Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
    • Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
    • Veteran’s connection to care program.
    • Live-in services and couples care.

    If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.

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