Community Blog

Senior Safety During the Colder Months

By Michelle Brown

Cold weather can be deadly for seniors. Sustained cold temperatures can result in loss of body heat and serious health threats such as hypothermia. Older adults are more susceptible in this regard than the young. If you are a senior or a caregiver it is important to learn what the symptoms of a cold-induced health complication may be and what you should do to keep warm during cold weather.

Understanding Signs of a Cold

Signs of a cold are hard to detect as they can be similar to changes associated with aging and symptoms of various ailments, such as diabetes and thyroid issues. They can be indirectly caused by conditions like arthritis, Parkinson’s, loss of memory and also the effects of medications. It is important to discuss all the signs and the underlying aspects with a physician to accurately diagnose the cause.  

Detecting Symptoms of Hypothermia

Hypothermia is a dangerous state when the body temperature drops below 95°F, affecting functions of the nervous system, heart and other organs. It can occur during cold conditions whether indoors or outdoors. If undiagnosed and unattended to, it can lead to organ failure and even fatality. Here are some of the signs that indicate that the body has started to lose heat faster than it can generate, causing hypothermia:

  • Slowed or slurred speech
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Slow or clumsy movement
  • Drowsiness, low energy and sleepiness
  • Shivering
  • Shallow and slow breathing
  • Pale, puffy or swollen face
  • Confusion, anger or irritation

Taking Steps for Staying Warm Indoors and Outdoors

The elderly are more vulnerable in general as health problems can compound fast, increasing chances of accidents and loss of consciousness. It is crucial to frequently check their living conditions during the colder months. Make sure that all steps have been taken to keep them warm when they go out and in their home or care facility. Here are some ways to ensure ideal conditions indoors:

  • Keep the temperature setting within 68-70°F.
  • Consume alcoholic drinks in moderation as it can cause heat loss.
  • Dress warmly during the day and at night.
  • Eat well to maintain body weight and fat and retain warmth.
  • Check guidelines from The Consumer Product Safety Commission before using a space heater as some heaters may lead to carbon monoxide poisoning or fire.

Seeking Immediate Assistance

If a you or a loved one are displaying signs of hypothermia, immediately seek local emergency help.  You can also learn about our care services at Home Helpers or contact us via the online form for any questions.