Cold Weather Safety for SeniorsDecember 20, 2023
Though the temperature has steadily been dropping for weeks, tomorrow marks the official start of winter. With it brings a few months of brutal winter weather that native Chicagoans know well, but somehow are surprised by each year. This is especially the case for older adults, who are often colder more easily due to their decreased metabolic rate, slower circulation, or other medical conditions.
Even if you’ve lived in the greater Chicago area your entire life, it’s important to discuss cold weather safety for seniors each year. Refresh your knowledge and stay safe with these crucial tips.
How to avoid the risk of hypothermia
Hypothermia is a condition that occurs when one’s body temperature is dangerously low (under 95 degrees Fahrenheit). One often thinks of hypothermia happening in extremes—such as when one steps outside in intensely low temperatures. While this is certainly a recipe for problems, hypothermia can also occur in far less extreme circumstances. You could even fall prey to the condition if you don’t keep your home warm enough.
Between health problems and medication side effects, seniors are at a higher risk for hypothermia. For the sake of your own safety, as well as the safety of your loved ones, it is important that you recognize the warning signs of hypothermia. They include:
- Cold feet and hands
- Puffy face
- Pale skin
- Slowed/slurred speech
- Mood disorders, such as sleepiness or confusion
- Slow, stiff movements
- Slow heartbeat and breathing
- Blacking out/losing consciousness
How to avoid the risk of frostbite
Frostbite occurs when your body is exposed to extreme cold for long periods of time. This condition can not only damage the skin, but can impact you all the way down to the bone. Thankfully, you are far less likely to experience frostbite, but seniors with cognitive issues who are prone to wandering could have problems in the winter.
The best way to avoid frostbite is to remain indoors during extreme cold. However, if you are going to spend extended periods of time outdoors, bundle up. Make sure all your extremities are covered, and if you start to experience any pain, go inside right away. The potential warning signs of frostbite include:
- Ashy or grayish-yellow skin
- Skin that is hard or waxy
Stay safe in the winter by staying warm
Staying warm is one of the best ways to protect your health in the winter. Even if you’re not planning on going outside, dressing in warm layers (but not so much that you overheat) is the best thing you can do for yourself. Don’t skip out on socks and a sweatshirt, and when you go to bed wear long underwear and use extra covers.
- Make sure your home is ready for winter by checking your heating system, inspecting the chimney, and testing your smoke alarms/carbon monoxide detectors.
- Do not set your heating system lower than 68. Even if you are trying to save money on your bills, lower temperatures can be dangerous.
- Stay dry. Wet clothing chills the body more easily. After a shower, make sure you dry off well before getting dressed.
- Ask family or friends to periodically check on you while it is cold. Especially if you live alone, it can be difficult to sense just how cold your home is, or if you’re beginning to experience the early stages of hypothermia.
When you’re out and about, make sure you take the proper steps to avoid slips and falls. This includes wearing shoes with quality tread and non-stick soles and replacing the rubber tips of your canes and/or walkers. When you come inside from snowy weather, remove your shoes as soon as possible, as tracking in snow and ice could put you at risk for a fall.
Remain in the comfort of your home with the help of an at-home caregiver
The winter months can be a difficult time for seniors. Between the cold weather and slippery elements, leaving the home to complete errands or meet loved ones poses an especially difficult challenge. If you find you need assistance picking up your prescriptions, cooking meals, or with personal care tasks, consider hiring the help of an at-home caregiver.
For 30 years, Home Care Powered by AUAF has acted as one of the leading providers of senior home care in the greater Chicago area. Our staff are trained in all the latest standards of care, so you can be confident you are always in good hands. To learn more about our services, give us a call at 773-274-9262. We would love to help.
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