Snow on the way KEEP WARM

Cold Weather Safety for Older People

If you are like most people, you feel cold every now and then during the winter. What you may not know is that just being cold can make you very sick.

Older adults can lose body heat fast, faster than when they were young. Changes in your body that come with aging can make it harder for you to be aware of getting cold. A big chill can turn into a dangerous problem before an older person even knows what’s happening. Doctors call this serious problem hypothermia.

What Is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is what happens when your body temperature gets very low. For an older person, a body temperature of 95°F or lower can cause many health problems, such as a heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, or worse.

Being outside in the cold, or even being in a very cold house, can lead to hypothermia. Try to stay away from cold places and pay attention to how cold it is where you are. You can take steps to lower your chance of getting hypothermia.

Keep Warm Inside

Living in a cold house, or other building can cause hypothermia. In fact, hypothermia can happen to someone in a nursing home or group facility if the rooms are not kept warm enough. If someone you know is in a group facility, pay attention to the inside temperature and to whether that person is dressed warmly enough.

People who are sick may have special problems keeping warm. Do not let it get too cold inside and dress warmly. Even if you keep your temperature between 60°F and 65°F, your home may not be warm enough to keep you safe. This is a special problem if you live alone because there is no one else to feel the chilliness of the house or notice if you are having symptoms of hypothermia.

Here are some tips for keeping warm while you’re inside:

Set your heat to at least 68–70°F. To save on heating bills, close off rooms you are not using. Close the vents and shut the doors in these rooms. Place a rolled towel in front of all doors to keep out drafts.

Make sure your house isn’t losing heat through windows. Keep your blinds and curtains closed. If you have gaps around the windows, try using weather stripping or caulk to keep the cold air out.

Dress warmly on cold days even if you are staying in the house. Throw a blanket over your legs. Wear socks and slippers.

When you go to sleep, wear long underwear under your pyjamas, and use extra covers. Wear a cap or hat.

Make sure you eat enough food to keep up your weight. If you don’t eat well, you might have less fat under your skin. Body fat helps you to stay warm.

Drink alcohol moderately, if at all. Alcoholic drinks can make you lose body heat.

Ask family or friends to check on you during cold weather. If a power outage leaves you without heat, try to stay with a relative or friend.

You may be tempted to warm your room with a space heater. But, some space heaters are fire hazards, and others can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Your local council has free information on the use of space heaters.

Bundle Up on Windy, Cold Days

A heavy wind can quickly lower your body temperature. Check the weather forecast for windy and cold days. On those days, try to stay inside or in a warm place. If you must go out, wear warm clothes, and don’t stay out in the cold and wind for a long time.

Dress for the weather if you must go out on chilly, cold, or damp days.

Wear loose layers of clothing. The air between the layers helps to keep you warm.

Put on a hat and scarf. You lose a lot of body heat when your head and neck are uncovered.

Wear a waterproof coat or jacket if it’s snowy.

Change your clothes right away if they get damp or wet.

BE SAFE AT HOME

Keep emergency numbers handy

Always keep a list of emergency numbers by each phone. Write this information in large enough print that you can read it easily if you are in a hurry or frightened. Be sure to list numbers for: Police                    Doctor                  Pharmacist                          Care Worker Your local council                             Family and or Friends

Prevent falls

If you have difficulty with walking or balance, or have fallen in the past year, talk to your healthcare provider about having a special falls risk assessment. Ask your provider if you would benefit from an exercise program to prevent falls.

If you have fallen before, or frightened of falling, think about buying a special alarm that you wear as a bracelet or necklace. Then, if you fall and can’t get to the phone, you can push a button on the alarm that will call emergency services for you. Don’t rush to answer the phone. Many people fall trying to answer the phone. Either carry a cordless or cell phone or let an answering machine do the work.

When walking on smooth floors, wear non-slip footwear, such as slippers with rubber/no-slip bottoms or flat, thin-soled shoes that fit well. Don’t be proud use a commode, instead of rushing for the stair lift. If you have a cane or a walker, use it instead of holding onto walls and furniture.

Always, always take your time.

Safety-proof your home

Make sure all hallways, stairs, and paths are well lit and clear of objects such as books or shoes. Use rails and banisters when going up and down the stairs. Never place scatter rugs at the bottom or top of stairs. Tape (double sided tape) all area rugs to the floor so they do not move when you walk on them.

Have your lighting checked by a professional. They will make sure you can see all hazards and obstacles.

Protect against fire and related dangers

If there is a fire in your home, don’t try to put it out. Leave and call 999 or shout to your neighbours. Know at least two ways to get out of your flat or home.

When you’re cooking, don’t wear loose clothes or clothes with long sleeves. Replace appliances that have fraying or damaged electrical cords. Don’t put too many electric cords into one socket or extension cord. Install a smoke detector and replace the battery twice a year. Never smoke in bed or leave candles burning, even for a short time, in an empty room. Make sure heaters are at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn, such as curtains, bedding, or furniture. Turn off space heaters when you leave the room.

Avoid bathroom hazards

Set the thermostat on the water heater no higher than 120° F to prevent scalding. Have grab handles installed in the shower and near the toilet to make getting around easier and safer. Put rubber mats in the bath to prevent slipping. If you are having a hard time getting in and out of your bath, or on and off the toilet, ask at your local council to help you get a special bath chair or bench and or raised toilet seat.

Prevent harm from:-

Carbon Monoxide

Never try to heat your home with your stove, oven, or grill since these can give off carbon monoxide–a deadly gas that you cannot see or smell. Make sure there is a carbon monoxide detector near all bedrooms and be sure to test and replace the battery twice a year.

Medications

Keep all medications in their original containers so you don’t mix up medicines. Ask your pharmacist to put large-print labels on your medications to make they are easy to read. Take your medications in a well-lit room, so you can see the labels. Bring all of your pill bottles with you to your healthcare provider’s appointments so can make sure you are taking them correctly.

Cleaning products

Never mix bleach, ammonia, or other cleaning liquids together when you are cleaning. When mixed, cleaning liquids can create deadly gases.

Protect against abuse

Always keep your windows and doors locked. Never let a stranger into your home when you are there alone. Talk over offers made by telephone salespeople with a friend or family member. Do not share your personal information, such as social security number, credit card, bank information, or account passwords, with people you do not know who contact you.

Always ask for written information about any offers, prizes, or charities and wait to respond until you have reviewed the information thoroughly. Do not let yourself be pressured into making purchases, signing contracts, or making donations. It is never rude to wait and discuss the plans with a family member or friend.

This list is not extensive always look for advice from professionals such as your local council departments, the fire brigade, recommended charities, your local community police, your primary care practice, local community centres etc.