Now that winter’s officially arrived, it’s time to check in on our older loved ones to make sure they’re prepared for the colder weather. Because of the physical changes that come with aging, seniors are at a much higher risk for health-related complications due to chilly temperatures. However, they may also be less likely to understand the risk or to ask for help should the need arise. As such, it’s important for senior’s friends, family members, and neighbors to be proactive and watchful to spot problems before they develop.
Hypothermia occurs when a person’s internal body temperature drops below a normal level and stays there for a prolonged period of time. The condition can lead to tissue damage like frostbite or gangrene, and in the most severe cases even death. Older people are more susceptible to frostbite because of certain diseases like diabetes or because of certain medications. Older people are also generally less active, and as a result, produce less body heat than younger people.
The warning signs for hypothermia include, cold skin that is pale or ashy, feeling very tired, confusion, weakness, problems walking, and slowed breathing and heart rate. But as healthinaging.org notes, “shivering is not a reliable warning sign because older people tend to shiver less or not at all when their body temperature drops.”
To prevent hypothermia, healthinaging.org recommends seniors:
- Stay indoors during cold weather.
- Keep indoor temperatures at 65 degrees or warmer.
- Stay dry because wet clothing chills your body more quickly.
- Dress in layers. 2 or 3 thinner layers of loose-fitting clothes is warmer than a single layer of thick clothing.
If you think an older loved one is exhibiting signs of hypothermia, call 911 right away.
The ice and snow that comes with winter in many parts of the country may be beautiful to look at, but it presents a serious slip and fall hazard for older adults. As we age, our balance is often compromised by disease and physical mobility issues. That means navigating the world on two feet can be challenging under the best of circumstances. But when the ground is covered by uneven layers of slippery ice and snow, walking can be downright treacherous.
Falls are extremely serious for seniors. They’re more susceptible to broken bones, which can have profound health implications. Some studies have shown that the 1-year mortality rate for seniors following a broken hip could be as high as 58%! So if there’s a senior in your life, make sure their exterior walkways are clear of ice and snow by pitching in with a snow shovel and spreading a little deicer.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
It can be difficult to keep your home warm during the winter, especially it it’s older. Some seniors also rely on wood-burning stoves or space-heaters because it’s less expensive than running their home’s heating system at full blast. But if not used correctly, these alternative forms of home heat also include the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause severe health problems including death. Warning signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include, headache, weakness, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, confusion, blurred vision, and loss of consciousness. To protect themselves, seniors should:
- Have their chimneys and flues inspected annually.
- Crack a window when using a kerosene stove.
- Place smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the house, especially in areas where there are fireplaces, wood stoves, or kerosene heaters.
- Never heat their home using a gas stove, charcoal grill, or other stove not made for home heating.
Stay Connected This Winter
For a host of reasons, seniors often won’t reach out for help when they need it. As a result, it’s often necessary for the younger people in their lives to stay in touch and make sure they’re safe and warm during winter. A simple phone call or short visit will allow you to determine how they’re getting along, and by focusing on these three main risk areas, you’ll be helping them live a safer, healthier life.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care provides Arizona residents with the quality in-home care they need to live fuller, healthier, independent lives. 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. We take a holistic approach and emphasize 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.