Stay Warm to Prevent Hypothermia. As people age, conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, poor circulation, paralysis caused by stroke and many others can cause lack of feeling, especially in the extremities. A diminished response to cold can put seniors at an even higher risk for hypothermia (abnormally low body temperature). To prevent hypothermia:
Keep your home’s thermostat set at or above 68 degrees F.
Wear several light, loose layers of warm clothes to trap warm air between them. Use a blanket to keep legs and shoulders warm and wear a hat, socks, shoes or slippers.
Use extra blankets at night because hypothermia can develop during sleep.
If paying an energy bill is a burden, contact your energy company to find out if you qualify for winter protection program assistance.
If you can’t get warm at home, visit a local Warming Center. These are public spaces where you can go to get out of the cold. To find the nearest Warming Center, call the AAA 1-B at (800) 852-7795.Eat Nutritious Foods. Food provides the body with energy. Seniors who have difficulty preparing their own meals should call the AAA 1-B toll free at (800) 852-7795 to sign up to receive Meals on Wheels.
Keep Your Spirits High. Depression poses an increased threat to seniors during winter months. Inclement weather restricts activities and opportunities to mingle with others. Shorter days mean less sunlight. Socialize when you can. Arrange for a daily check-in call with a friend, neighbor, relative, etc., or visit with family or friends when possible. Contact the AAA 1-B, at 800-852-7795, for transportation services, senior centers and social activities.
Know The Signs of Hypothermia. Some people die of hypothermia because they or those around them do not recognize the symptoms. Here are some signs to watch for:
Stiff Muscles: Muscles are often stiff, particularly in the neck, arms, and legs. This stiffness may be accompanied by a fine trembling, limited to only one side of the body, or one arm or leg.
Shivering: Shivering is a sign that the body is having trouble keeping warm. The shivering response is frequently diminished in older adults, and the fact that an older person is not shivering in a cool or cold environment does not GUARANTEE that the person is not cold.
Swollen Face: The face is frequently puffy or swollen, and this can be an important sign, especially when found in combination with cold skin and signs of confusion.
Poor Coordination: The person often has difficulty walking and has problems with balance. Look for poor coordination and jerky movements.
Slowed Breathing and Heart Rate: Both are slowed at low body temperatures, and may be very difficult to detect in severe hypothermia.
Lack of Consciousness: As the body cools, consciousness is depressed. Some hypothermia victims will still be conscious when their body temperatures are as low as 80 degrees. Remember, though, that "conscious" and "mental clarity" are two different things. A person can be "conscious and reactive" and yet still be in a confused, disoriented, and hypothermic state.
Confusion: One of the first changes brought on by hypothermia is a growing mental confusion, which becomes progressively worse as body temperature falls. Logical thinking becomes impossible and the person may become completely disoriented. Memory is affected and familiar things are often forgotten.
Apathetic Attitude: Apathy is common. Often the person doesn't care what happens and will do nothing to help reduce the danger; he or she may behave strangely, or become irritable, hostile, mean, and aggressive.
If you believe someone may be a victim of hypothermia, call 911
immediately. Hypothermia is a dangerous, complicated medical problem and the
victim needs professional attention.
For resources and more information, contact the Area Agency on Aging 1-B at 800-852-7795, or visit www.aaa1b.com.