Cold weather safety tips for seniors

From Home Instead Senior Care

With dangerous winter weather in the forecast, Home Instead Senior Care says now is the time for seniors and their loved ones to brush up on cold weather safety tips.

Winter can be a difficult time, as the harsh conditions especially impact seniors,” said Jeff Huber, president of Home Instead, Inc. “We want to make sure seniors and their loved ones are aware of simple ways they can stay safe and warm throughout the season.”

Those older than 65 account for nearly half of all hypothermia deaths. As the body ages, the ability to maintain a normal internal body temperature decreases, creating an insensitivity to moderately cold temperatures. Seniors may not realize they are putting themselves at risk until symptoms appear. Symptoms of hypothermia include: shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness. If symptoms are present, immediate medical attention is necessary.

The leading reason for hypothermia in the elderly is poorly heated homes, which is entirely preventable. Following are some tips to ensure a warm household:

Stay warm

Keep the thermostat at 65 degrees, at least. Consistently check it to make sure your home is sufficiently warm. Even as heating costs rise, your safety should be a priority.

Put a carbon monoxide detector near where you sleep.

Ensure that there is adequate insulation, and check and clean the fireplace and furnace. Furnace filters should be replaced monthly.

Minimize drafts by filling old socks with sand and using them in drafty windowsills and door jams. Weather-strip around windows and doors. Keep doors to unused rooms closed and close curtains at night.

Add an extra blanket to the bed and warm the bed in advance with a hot water bottle. Never use an electric blanket — it may be difficult to operate the controls if the temperature needs to be adjusted in the night.

Dress in layers of loose-fitting clothing. If you go outside, make sure your head is covered.

Prevent falls

Every year, more than 1.6 million seniors end up in the emergency room because of a fall. With icy conditions, the chances of falling are even greater.

Take a couple minutes per day to stretch your limbs to loosen muscles.

Stay inside — make arrangements for someone to shovel and salt driveways and walkways. Professional caregivers can assist with to-do items, such as bringing in the mail and/or picking up groceries.

Wear shoes or boots with a non-skid sole.

Have handrails installed on outside walls for frequently used walkways.

If you use a cane or walker, check the rubber tips to make sure they are not worn smooth.

Seasonal affective disorder in seniors

Winter weather can take a toll on everyone, especially seniors. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can occur in seniors and impact their emotional health. Some signs to watch for with SAD include: a loss of energy, an increased appetite and an enhanced feeling of lethargy and tiredness. If symptoms are present, talk to your medical provider about treatment options.

Winter storms are unpredictable

Winter storms can be unpredictable. It is important to be prepared in case of an emergency.

Build a network

Stay in touch in with family, friends and neighbors. Schedule phone calls, or enlist the help of a professional caregiver to come in for an hour a week.

Make arrangements for assistance in case of a blizzard or power outage. Keep important numbers in an emergency kit, along with non-perishable foods, water and medications.

Be familiar with your local resources. Visit www.ready.gov/seniors, www.noaa.gov or www.redcross.org for more about cold weather.

To learn how Home Instead Senior Care can assist in the cold weather, visit www.homeinstead.com.

Posted Jan. 7, 2015

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One thought on “Cold weather safety tips for seniors

  • January 8, 2015 at 12:46 am
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    Seniors who are living alone at home should really consider asking a family member or friend to come stay with them or better yet, hire a care worker to look after them, especially with the cold weather. In this way, they can be catered to when it comes to the temperature and they won’t overexert themselves with someone else accompanying them.

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