Our body has to maintain body heat in order for us to stay alive and healthy. As we age, however, we can lose body heat faster than when we were younger. The danger is that we may not realize that we have experienced this drop in our body temperature. Chronic diseases and certain kinds of drugs, including over-the-counter cold medicines, can make us more prone to losing body heat. We may think we are fine, but in truth we can develop a potentially life threatening state called hypothermia by losing body heat, when it is very cold outside or inside. In fact, even a short exposure to cold weather conditions can lead to hypothermia.
Signs of Hypothermia
Unfortunately, some of these signs can be passed off as just being tired or getting old. Here are warning signs to watch out for:
Phone 911 right away if your loved one is showing any of these signs and move them to a warmer area.
A low body temperature 95o F (35.0o C) or lower can cause many health problems and lead to heart, kidney, liver problems and more.
A weak pulse is a warning sign, but perhaps no one has checked the pulse.
Drowsiness, which may be overlooked, is really quite dangerous if it is from hypothermia. In fact, people can become drowsy and fall asleep, but they may not wake up, especially if this happens outside in the cold. People who freeze to death really die first from hypothermia.
Confusion is another symptom which may be put off as due to being old.
Slurred or slow speech should not be ignored and should not be confused by thinking that the person may be drunk.
Shivering or feeling stiff in the arms and legs can also be overlooked because most people think it is normal to shiver in cold weather or that arthritis is acting up from the cold and making the limbs feel stiff.
Slow reactions may also be mistaken for signs of getting old.
Not able to properly control body movements
Steps to Prevent Hypothermia
When you go outdoors in the cold, wear a warm knit, fur or fake fur hat that covers the ears or a hat and earmuffs as well as a scarf, mittens or gloves. Wear long lined pants and long underwear or long stockings, leg and knee warmers if you are wearing a dress or skirt.
Wear warm socks and boots that are lined with fleece, fur or fake fur. Make certain the soles are non-slip to avoid falls, or better yet buy boots that have removable prongs to wear if there is ice.
Wear several layers of clothes that are not too tight-fitting. Each layer can help maintain heat.
Try to Avoid Going Outside Alone in the Cold
It is advisable to not venture out alone in the cold, but if you do need to spend time outdoors when it is cold, alert family members or friends and take a fully charged cellphone with you.
Keep your Home Warm
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) advises keeping the thermostat set from 68-70o F. The NIA states that even homes where temperature is from 60-65o F can cause hypothermia in seniors.
Buy thermal or lined drapes to put on windows during the winter to conserve heat in the home.
Make sure no cold air or drafts are coming in under your front or back door. Put a non-slip door mat or rug behind the door to prevent cold air from coming in under the door.
Keep warm by wearing several layers of clothes. Wear long underwear and long-sleeved underwear, sweaters, warm socks and slippers. Be sure to also wear a knit hat, head scarf or cap to keep your head warm.
You can put a hot water bottle or heating pad under your comforter or blankets to warm up the bed before you go to sleep, but do not sleep with the heating pad. Sleeping with more than one blanket will also help to keep you from losing body heat. You should also sleep with a night-cap or hat to keep your head warm while sleeping. Do not sleep right under windows to avoid getting drafts. At any rate no one should ever sleep under glass windows that could shatter during a storm.
Cover yourself with Afghans or shawls when sitting.
Help Covering the Costs of Winter Heating
If you need financial help to cover the cost of heating or cooling your home, contact your local state or social services agency. States, territories, tribes, and tribal organizations may be able to help eligible households pay for home heating and cooling costs.
Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing Syracuse, New York
If your loved one is in need of a warm, caring skilled nursing facility where they will be taken care of and will certainly have winter heating, then check out the Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York.
It certainly pays to take the steps to protect yourself or your loved one against getting hypothermia from the cold weather outside and the cold temperatures inside your home.