This has been one of the more challenging winters on record, as those taking care of elderly loved ones surely know by now. Cold winter weather can be dangerous for seniors, so taking extra care is required.
The following tips can help those taking care of elderly individuals to keep them safe during especially cold periods.
- Take steps to keep heat inside the house. If possible, insulate any walls which do not currently have insulation. Keep blinds, curtains, and drapes closed to help prevent heat seeping out and cold air blowing in. Seal any cracks, especially those around windowpanes. Doors that don’t fit tightly should be weatherstripped. It also helps to use a draft stopper (a rolled up piece of cloth can do) at the bottom of drafty doors.
- Dress warmly, even inside the house. It’s important to keep the air in the house at an appropriately warm temperature during the winter. Sometimes, however, elderly individuals may also need to dress more warmly indoors than they would in other seasons. Extra socks may be a good idea, and keeping a blanket handy when sitting for extended periods is also beneficial.
- Sleep warmly. Body temperatures tend to drop a little when sleeping, so prepare for this. Have an extra blanket, or consider wearing long underwear underneath pajamas. A nightcap or even gloves may be necessary for some people who feel the chill easily.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol depletes one’s body heat.
- When going outdoors, dress in several layers of loose clothing. When the layers are loose rather than tight, air circulates – which actually helps keep a person warm.
- Talk with the doctor. Some medications (including some over-the-counter ones) can have a “dampening” effect on body heat. Find out if this is the case with any medications being used by the loved one in question. In addition, some conditions (such as diabetes) also can impede a person’s ability to retain body heat. It’s not a bad idea to have an in-depth discussion with a doctor about specific obstacles to staying warm that an individual may face.
- Watch out for hypothermia. When taking care of elderly loved ones, if a person suspects they have hyperthermia, it is important to get help right away. Call 911, and give them blankets or clothing to keep warm until help arrives.