Winter is coming – and with it brings colder weather and shorter days.
Cold weather is no joke, especially if you are an older adult. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), older adults are more sensitive to the cold because they are more likely to have conditions that may make it harder to stay warm.
Cold weather can cause hypothermia, a serious condition where the body temperature goes below 95°F. The condition can increase the risk of heart disease and kidney or liver damage.
Here are some tips on how to stay safe and prepared when old man winter comes knocking.
SERVICE YOUR FURNACE – BEFORE IT GETS COLD
Having a functional furnace – especially during a major winter storm – is paramount.
Just like changing the oil in your car, it’s crucial to regularly service your furnace to ensure it’s running smoothly – before you depend on it for heat. Proactively servicing your furnace can save you money and the headache of finding a technician when you need it the most.
If you have a gas furnace, have a carbon monoxide detector nearby and know what to do if there is a gas leak.
BE WEATHER AWARE
Being aware – and prepared – is key when it comes to winter safety. Here are just a few things to think about when your area is on the heels of a major winter storm:
- Do you have enough food and water in your house to hold you over for a few days in case the roads are closed?
- Is your car winterized? (Full tank of gas, emergency blankets in case you get stranded, functional ice scraper, etc.).
- Are your electronics charged? Do you have an external battery backup? In today’s world without landlines, your cell phone is probably the only way to get help if the power is out.
- Do you have working flashlights (with extra batteries) or candles handy in case the power goes out?
BE WARY OF PORTABLE HEATERS
Portable heaters might seem like a helpful way to stay warm during the winter, but according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), they should be used with caution. The CPSC warns that portable heaters can cause fires if placed too close to combustible materials, such as drapes, furniture, or bedding. Due to the potential dangers of portable heaters, it is important to use them with caution.
SEASONAL DEPRESSION – KNOW WHEN TO GET HELP
The winter months can impact your physical as well as mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that happens during certain seasons of the year – most often during the fall or winter.
Medical professionals don’t know what causes SAD, but according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, less sunlight and shorter days are thought to be linked to a chemical change in the brain. Melatonin, a sleep-related hormone the body naturally produces when it’s dark, has also been linked to SAD.
Some of the common symptoms of SAD can include:
- Increased sleep and daytime drowsiness
- Loss of interest and pleasure in activities formerly enjoyed
- Social withdrawal and increased sensitivity to rejection
- Irritability and anxiety
- Feelings of guilt and hopelessness
- Fatigue, or low energy level
If you think you are suffering from SAD, talk to your healthcare provider.
KNOW THE SYMPTOMS OF HYPOTHERMIA – AND WHAT TO DO
It’s vital for someone with hypothermia to get medical attention right away. That’s why knowing the early signs is beneficial. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the early signs of hypothermia might include:
- Cold feet and hands
- Puffy or swollen face
- Pale skin
- Shivering (in some cases, the person with hypothermia does not shiver)
- Slower than normal speech or slurring words
- Acting sleepy
- Being angry or confused
If you think someone has the warning signs of hypothermia, it’s critical to call emergency services immediately.
After you call 911, the NIA recommends:
- Try to move the person to a warmer place.
- Wrap the person in a warm blanket, towel, or coat. Even your body warmth will help. Lie close, but be gentle.
- Give the person something warm to drink, but avoid drinks with alcohol or caffeine.
Finally, it’s important to remember:
- Do not rub the person's legs or arms.
- Do not try to warm the person in a bath.
- Do not use a heating pad.
If you have an older loved one who lives alone or out of town, it’s essential to check in regularly during the winter season. Home Helpers® Home Care is here to make life easier. Our Caregivers can provide companionship, wellness calls, and rides to heated locations while our state-of-the-art monitoring technology can monitor the temperature inside the house. Home Helpers is the extended family when family can’t be there.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR SERVICES, CONTACT US TO SCHEDULE YOUR FREE IN-HOME CARE ASSESSMENT OR FIND AN AGENCY NEAR YOU.