Hypothermia in the winter time is a serious risk for seniors. As we age, our bodies grow less efficient at regulating body temperature, and a number of common diseases and medications make it even more difficult to stay warm. If body temperature dips below 94 degrees, hypothermia can set in and cause confusion, slurred speech, a weak pulse, and a rapid heartbeat, and it can be fatal.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Freezing for Hypothermia to Set In
Even warmer spring days can pose a hypothermia risk for seniors. For those who live in a poorly insulated house or who turn the thermostat way down to save money, a chilly home combined with poor heat regulation by the body can cause a reduction in body temperature.
What to Do if You Suspect Hypothermia
If you think your aging loved one might be suffering from hypothermia, take his temperature. If it’s below 96 degrees, immediate care is crucial. Turn up the heat and bundle him up, and call his doctor. He may need emergency care, which will likely involve intravenous fluids to warm his body from the inside.
How to Prevent Hypothermia
A poorly insulated house allows cold air to infiltrate, increasing energy bills and driving many seniors to keep the heat on a dangerously low setting. Air sealing is a simple, inexpensive fix that can be done in an afternoon to reduce heating bills and increase comfort. Either way, the thermostat should never be set lower than 65 degrees.
When your loved one is outdoors, make sure she dresses appropriately for the weather, including wearing layers and a hat when it’s cold. Encourage her to hire someone to scoop the sidewalks when it snows to further reduce her risk of hypothermia as well as prevent a heart attack or stroke.
Hypothermia is a serious condition, and doing everything you can to ensure your loved one stays warm will help keep her safe during the colder months.