The thought of freezing temperatures and treacherous winter storms can be frightening, especially when you have an elderly loved one that you care about. The elderly are susceptible to several dangers during the winter. Here are three of these dangers and how you can help:
From 2003 to 2013, there were over 13,400 deaths in the U.S. related to hypothermia. With each year, this is increasing, and elderly individuals are considered high-risk. During that 10-year span, the rate of hypothermia-related deaths was 2.9 per 100,000 individuals ages 65 years and older. The reason seniors are more vulnerable to hypothermia is because they have thinner blood, poorer blood circulation and lower body temperature.
To help avoid hypothermia in seniors, it is crucial that multiple layers of clothing are worn if going outside. It doesn't hurt to wear an extra layer when inside either. Since the elderly have difficulty regulating their own body temperature, it is important that the indoor thermostat is never set below 68 degrees.
Dehydration is usually associated with the summer heat, but it can actually occur at any time of the year. Since seniors typically tend to drink and eat less than their younger counterparts, they are more likely to become dehydrated. During the winter, when the body is cold, people tend to drink even less because they are cold and don't feel thirsty. This can quickly lead to dehydration. Plus, some seniors take medication that can increase their risk of dehydration.
Therefore, you need to make certain that your elderly loved one is staying well hydrated. The best way to do this is to make sure they have a water bottle beside them at all times and that they sip on it at regular intervals. Make sure that your loved one also has plenty of water-based fruits and vegetables as well as soups on hand, as this can help supply hydration to the body.
3. Space Heaters
Space heaters may sound like a great idea, especially since they can provide your elderly loved one with some much-needed warmth during the winter. However, these can also be extremely dangerous if not maintained and used properly. Space heaters are guilty of causing roughly 55,000 fires, 1,500 injuries and 450 fatalities every single year.
To help avoid unnecessary complications, here are a few tips. For a gas-powered heater, there is the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, so you need to make sure that there is a working CO detector in the house. For electric-powered heaters, it is important to check the cords for fraying and other damage. Heaters should be kept far away from rugs, clothes, paper and other flammable materials. A working smoke detector should be in the house as well. Don't forget to make sure the space heater is on a level surface when being used. It is best to choose a space heater with a tip-over security feature that switches the heater off when it is knocked over.
When Things Get Tough
It is important for the elderly to maintain independence for as long as they can, but when typical daily tasks become difficult, it may be time to consider an assisted living facility or a nursing home to ensure that your loved one is kept safe and out of harm's way. For more information, contact a community like Mayfair Village Retirement Community.