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Drew: Cold Weather tips for Seniors

By Samuetta Hill Drew

Cold frigid temperatures can have a devastating effect on cars, exposed pipes at your home, vehicle batteries and our bodies.

There are many factors which make this type of weather even more dangerous for the senior population. Plummeting temperatures can cause icy sidewalks and/or roads, hypothermia and other serious injuries. To thoroughly address this topic, it will be covered in two parts. This article will focus on a condition called hypothermia.

Because older adults lose body heat at a faster rate than when they were younger, they are not often aware of getting colder.

Frigid temperatures can turn into a dangerous situation before an older person realizes it’s leading to hypothermia.

Hypothermia happens to seniors when the body temperature dips below 95 degrees or lower. This condition can be caused by being outside in the cold, or even being in a very cold house. When individuals live alone it’s often difficult for them to feel the chilliness of the house when there’s no one else to notice.

Hypothermia can also occur in a nursing home or group facility if the rooms are not kept warm enough.

Hypothermia can result in a heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage or worse. Therefore, it’s important to know the early signs of hypothermia:

• cold feet and hands
• puffy or swollen face
• pale skin
• shivering (some cases the person does not shiver)
• slurring words or slower than normal speech
• acting sleepy
• being angry or confused.

Later signs include:
• moving slowly, trouble walking or begin clumsy
• stiff and jerky arm or leg movements
• slow heartbeat
• slow, shallow breathing
• blacking out or losing consciousness

If you see these warning signs in a love one, seek medical attention immediately by calling 911. Also move them to a warm location. Wrap them up in a warm blanket, towel or coat, even your body if none of these items are available. Give the older adult something warm to drink but avoid alcohol or caffeine beverages such as regular coffee. DO NOT rub their legs or arms, place them in a warm bath or use a heating pad.

Utility cost will often spike during very cold weather. Try to assist them, if needed, with identifying resources who can help pay heating bills if they’re having a hard time. Some resources may include local churches, the utility company or the National Energy Assistance Referral service at 1-866-674-6327.

To help Keep an Eye on Safety during cold weather may require that you visit those older love ones more frequently.