Cold Outside? Be Safe Inside

It seems like this winter is never going to end. Oddly enough, there seems to be no mention of Polar Vortexes on the weather forecasts. Maybe it’s just not newsworthy this year. We seem to get a fresh blast of frigid air every two or three days. With that in mind, we need to be especially vigilant about the problem of dealing with low temperatures while caring for a senior friend or relative. Most people know about the dangers of broken bones from slip and falls or the breathing problems older people can experience outside in the cold air. What we generally don’t think about is the hypothermia that can occur inside your own home.

Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature which can result in illness or death. According to the National Institute on Aging, over 2.5 million seniors are especially vulnerable to hypothermia. As many as 25,000 of them die each year. According to the Center for Disease Control, when body temperature falls too low, it affects the brain and makes the victim of hypothermia unable to think clearly or move well. That means the affected senior doesn’t know what’s happening and isn’t therefore able to help themselves. When the body temperature drops to just a few degrees lower than the 98.6F that is normal, it can cause an irregular heartbeat leading to heart problems and death. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness.

Your loved one may be susceptible to hypothermia because older adults make less body heat due to a slow metabolism and less physical activity on their part. Their ability to feel a change in temperature decreases with age and some medicines they use can increase their risk of accidental hypothermia. These medications include drugs used to treat anxiety, depression, nausea, or heart problems. To make sure your loved one stays safe from hypothermia indoors, keep the thermostat between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure they wear several layers of loose clothing that will trap warm air between layers. Be sure they avoid alcohol and caffeine which can make them lose body heat. Place an easy-to-read thermometer in and indoor location so your loved one can check the temperature of the home often. Be especially careful that you check on your senior regularly since isolation can be life threatening in cold weather. Try to set up a regular call schedule so if a call-in is missed you’ll be alerted to a possible problem. Do you have any other tips for preventing hypothermia indoors? Share below and visit us at


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Filed under Aging in Place, Caregiver, Home Care, Senior Care, Trillium HomeCare

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