Senior Alternatives

Care Management and Home Care Services
How Weather Conditions Can Affect Seniors

January 24, 2019

Winter time brings cooler weather, which sometimes can be unseasonably cold. Research has shown that cold is felt less by the elderly, and their ability to control and regulate body temperature is reduced. Also, elderly persons are liable to remain inactive at home, dressed inappropriately for the weather. And because they often worry more about money, they might not turn on the heat when needed.

The elderly are also more likely to have medical conditions that make them more susceptible to be impacted by the cold. They also have to be protected from the multitude of seasonal illnesses like colds and the flu.

Here are some precautions that you can take to minimize risks:

• Ensure proper home heating and avoid exposure to the cold.
• Maintain good health habits – drinking, eating and physical exercise.
• Consult with the family physician regarding precautions to be taken for persons with chronic illness and/or being treated with sleeping tablets or tranquilizers.
• Seek immediate medical treatment if hypothermia is suspected.

Keep in mind that the level of caution needs to be doubled for elderly persons living alone.

Some tips for keeping warm:

• In order for the heating to be efficient, make sure to properly seal home openings (windows, doors, etc.) while maintaining, proper ventilation.
• Room air should be kept sufficiently humid: avoid air that is too dry and uncomfortable for breathing, while at the same time avoiding air that is too humid that could cause illness.
• Verify the safety of heaters in the apartment, with the assistance of family members and professionals. The use of kerosene heaters is strictly forbidden, since these emit carbon monoxide which could cause loss of consciousness.
• If there is financial hardship in paying for heating expenses, you can ask the aid of the welfare services in your community.
• Make sure to wear warm and comfortable clothing at home, with several layers, to avoid heat loss, but without restricting movement.
• When going to sleep, keep covered with a suitable blanket, and wear warm clothes, including socks. Flannel sheets (which are warmer) are recommended, and make sure to heat the room (using safe heaters).
• Avoid going out in cold or stormy weather. Follow the weather forecasts and plan accordingly.
• When in is essential to leave the house, wear a hat and gloves in addition to a coat.

Health habits for winter time:

• Make sure to drink a sufficient amount of water (8-10 glasses a day) – even when not feeling thirsty!
• Avoid drinking alcohol and beverages that contain caffeine.
• Eat frequent, relatively light meals (5-6 times a day), and avoid heavy meals.
• Warm beverages and foods help preserve body heat.
• While at home, keep active and mobile, in order to increase blood flow and raise body heat.

For elderly persons living alone:

• Persons living alone may have difficulty heating the home and caring for themselves (clothing, eating, drinking and the like), and they are at elevated risk for injury from the cold.
• Sometimes, elderly people who live alone fall at home and remain lying on the cold floor for long periods, which could result in severe hypothermia. The most important thing to do is to keep in daily contact. If you cannot visit regularly, have a neighbor, friend or family visit.

Also, elderly persons are liable to remain inactive at home, dressed inappropriately for the weather. And because they often worry more about money, they might not turn on the heat when needed.

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