By Rick Banas of BMA Management, Ltd., the leading provider of assisted living in Illinois.
With winter arriving tonight in the northern hemisphere (at 12:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time), we wanted to talk with you about how cold weather can turn into a dangerous problem for older adults even before they know what is happening.
Cold weather can cause hypothermia, says the National Institute on Aging. Older adults are among those who are especially vulnerable because of a diminished ability to endure long periods of exposure to cold temperatures. Older adults often make less body heat because their metabolisms are slower and they are less physically active. Certain diseases such as diabetes, thyroid problems, Parkinson’s Disease, and arthritis and some medications, including over-the-counter cold remedies, can make it harder for your body to stay warm.
Some older adults can even develop Hypothermia after exposure to relatively mild cold weather or a small drop in temperature.
With hypothermia, your body temperature drops to dangerously low levels. Among older adults, significant health problems can occur when the body temperature drops below 95°f. Hypothermia can cause a heart attack, problems with your kidneys, and damage to your liver. It can even cost you your life.
10 Things You Can Do
- Set the temperature in your home or apartment to at least 68 degrees. Be sure to check the temperature often. If you are concerned about being able to afford the cost of heating your home or apartment, you may be able to get help paying your heating bill through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). For information, call the toll-free Hot Line at 1-866-674-6327 or visit ncat.org.
- Eat well-balanced meals. Do not drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages as they cause your body to lose heat more rapidly.
- Dress in layers as the air between the layers help you keep warm. Wear wool, silk or polypropylene inner layers as these fabrics hold in heat better than cotton. Wear a hat or cap.
- Wear long johns under your clothes. Throw a blanket over your legs. Wear socks and slippers.
- Wear long johns under your pajamas. Use extra covers. Wear a cap or hat when in bed.
- Stay inside when it is very windy outside. A high wind can quickly lower your body temperature.
- Finds ways to stay active.
- Talk with your doctor about any health problems and medicines that can make hypothermia a special problem for you.
- Ask relatives, friends, neighbors to check on you frequently, especially when the weather conditions are extremely cold.
- Know the signs of Hypothermia and watch for them.
Signs of Hypothermia
• Puffy or swollen face.
• Slower speech, slurring words.
• Acting sleepy.
• Anger or confusion.
• Trouble walking or moving.
• Stiff or jerky arm or leg movements.
• Slow, irregular heart beat.
• Slow, shallow breathing.
• Blacking out, loss of consciousness.
If you think someone has signs of Hypothermia, call 911 and get medical attention immediately.
Until medical help arrives, get the person into a warm room or shelter. Wrap the person in a blanket. Warm the center of the body first. Do not rub the person’s arms or legs, do not use a heating pad, and do not try to warm the person in a bath.
For more information, the National Institute on Aging makes available a helpful booklet filled with tips on how to stay safe when it is cold outside. The “Stay Safe in Cold Weather! Learn Why You Need to Stay Warm When It’s Cold” booklet is available free of charge by going to this link http://goo.gl/kPp14
You can also read what Bob of Vermont has to say about the importance of keeping warm.
Also available is a Prevention Guide from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to promote personal health and safety during extremely cold weather conditions.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let us know.
“BMA Management is the leading provider of affordable assisted living in Illinois
and one of the 20 largest providers of assisted living in the United States.”