When winter temperatures drop significantly below normal, staying warm and safe can become a challenge, especially for the elderly. There are several factors that can put the elderly at risk during winter storms and lengthy sub-zero periods such as unexpected power or heating system failure.
Exposure to cold temperatures, whether indoors or outdoors, can cause serious or life-threatening health problems. Seniors are particularly at risk, but anyone can be affected. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests these tips for seniors to remain safe during the cold weather season.
• Be cautious with space heaters.
Do not place a space heater within three feet of anything that may catch on fire, such as drapes, furniture or bedding, and never cover your space heater. In addition to being a fire hazard, space heaters may also increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
• Consistently Check The Temperature. Older adults often make less body heat because of a slower metabolism and less physical activity. When over 65 years of age, it is important to check home temperatures often especially during severely cold weather.
• Eat Nutritiously. Eating well-balanced meals will help seniors stay warmer. Do not drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages—they cause body temperatures to drop more rapidly (regardless of age).
• Dress appropriately. Be sure the outer layer of clothing is tightly woven, preferably wind resistant, to reduce body-heat loss caused by wind. Using wool, silk, or polypropylene as the inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton.
• Keep a water supply. Have extra supplies of water stored in clean containers, or purchase bottled water (five gallons per person) in case your water pipes freeze and rupture.By preparing a senior’s home for the winter months and taking the necessary safety precautions, we can reduce the risk of weather-related health problems. If you know elderly persons who are unable, for any reason, to prepare for extreme cold-weather conditions, they should stay with family members or go to available shelter facilities. In addition to using shelters or family members, there are also companies that provide in-home services for seniors in these situations.