Outsmarting Old Man Winter
01/17/2007 - January is the coldest month, with February not much warmer, no matter where we live. Cold weather can be dangerous for seniors, unless we take a few sensible precautions. Here are some ideas for surviving the cold.
Ask neighbors to shovel the walk and bring in your groceries. Bone fractures are one of the leading reasons that seniors end up hospitalized. Invest in "ice grabbers" for the bottom of your shoes or boots to help avoid falls on snow or ice.
Wear layers and keep your head covered when you go out. Hands and feet need special attention, as we often have compromised circulation. Mittens are warmer than gloves, and acrylic or wool socks will keep moisture away from your skin.
Stay fit, even if you don't go out. Work out at home, either on a stationary bicycle or walking in place.
Keep your living space warm enough, between 68 and 70 degrees F. If you're having trouble paying for heating fuel, there are programs that can help. Call 1-866-674-6327 to ask about the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
Remember to drink enough water. Winter heat sources are often dehydrating. A small increase in calories also can help to help combat the cold.
Keep moving. If we don't move around, we won't generate much body heat. It only takes a small drop in temperature to develop hypothermia, especially if we're idle in a cold environment or on certain medications. Hypothermia, when the body's temperature drops below normal, can be deadly.
Note: If you work with seniors, learn to identify the signs of hypothermia: low blood pressure, slurred speech, confusion, shivering, weak pulse, slow reactions. If the body temperature is 96 degrees or lower, suspect hypothermia and get help. Hospitals are set up to warm the patient from the inside out, often with warm intravenous fluids.