Frigid temperatures are sweeping across much of the U.S., presenting a very real danger to individuals of all ages. But colder temperatures are particularly hazardous for the elderly–not just because of the slippery ice caused by dipping digits.
Here are a few additional dangers to be on the lookout for during blasts of winter weather:
Dehydration: Seniors tend to eat and drink less than their younger counterparts and are thus more likely to become dehydrated. This is especially true during the wintertime when the lack of sun and freezing temperatures further curb the urge to drink. It’s important to encourage your elderly loved one to regularly drink water, even if they are not necessarily thirsty.
Hypothermia: A slower metabolism, sluggish circulation and less body fat are hallmarks of advancing age that significantly increase an older adult’s risk for hypothermia. Indeed, one in every two Americans that dies from hypothermia each year is over 65 and seniors can become hypothermic even if they never venture outside the house. The key to avoiding indoor hypothermia is to never set the thermostat below 65 degrees if the person living in the house is 75 or older.
Space heaters: They may help with warmth, but space heaters can pose safety problems if a senior isn’t careful. If your loved one has an electric heater, inspect the wires and make sure none are damaged or fraying. For gas powered heaters, ensure that your loved one’s carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can be deadly if inhaled in significant quantities.
Power outages: Severe ice and snow can cause power outages that may prove deadly to an elderly person who is unprepared. Equip your loved one with a disaster kit that includes enough food and water for several days (each person needs about 3 gallons of water per day), a few days-worth of their medication(s), extra batteries, a weather radio, first-aid essentials and a flashlight.
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By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor