Here in Philadelphia, wintertime has arrived, with freezing temperatures and plenty of snow/ice. Winter can be dangerous for anyone, no matter how young or fit, but can be a particularly dangerous time for the elderly. Statistically, deaths among the elderly increase significantly during winter. If you have an elderly loved one in your life, be aware of the risks and learn about cold weather safety for seniors.
As a person gets older, they have more difficulty effectively regulating body temperature. Older people tend to lose body heat more quickly to the cold and are slower to warm up afterward.
So, merely being outside in cold weather is more dangerous to an old person than a younger person. The senior may be unaware of how much body heat is being lost until things become dangerous.
Hypothermia is the medical term for having a low body temperature, 95°F or lower. Even small drops in body temperature can be very dangerous, more so than rises in body temperature. Unfortunately, a person’s own body can have difficulty distinguishing temperature drops, so a person could have early stages of hypothermia without really recognizing the risk.
The typical symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, numbness in the extremities, difficulty thinking or speaking, and motor control problems. Be aware that this can happen inside, as well as outside. Older people may need to keep the heat in their homes higher than they did when they were young.
Also, be aware that drinking alcohol can significantly increase the loss of body heat in cold temperatures.
Diseases become more deadly in the winter. This is because the effects are made worse, and they further decrease the ability to properly regulate body temperature. In particular, common ailments among the elderly – such as diabetes or thyroid problems – will make cold into a bigger threat.
Of course, physical injury dangers also exist. Elderly people with mobility issues will be more prone to slip due to winds or slippery surfaces. They may need extra help getting around, or improved mobility devices, to help keep them safe when freezing precipitation occurs.
Senior care is our primary goal, and cold weather safety for elderly loved ones is an important topic as winter weather hits. When you are taking care of a senior loved one in Philadelphia and are struggling to provide the needed care, Neighborly Home Care can help. We have a variety of senior in home care services, including transportation and errand assistance. Contact us to learn more.