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Baby, It's Cold Outside

By Jennifer Bradley, Staff Writer


(Page 1 of 2)

In many areas of the country, cold weather is an old-forgotten nemesis that reappears this time of year. When caring for those with disabilities and seniors, caregivers must take some simple precautions to ensure a loved oneís safety this winter season.

Temperature control

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 600 Americans die each year from hypothermia, half of whom are older than age 65. Hypothermia occurs when a personís body temperature drops from the normal 98.6 degrees to 95 degrees or below. Seniors and those with disabilities are at a greater risk if conditions such as arthritis and a variety of mediations diminish their response to cold temperatures.

Layering is not just a fashion trend; it serves a purpose, especially for those susceptible to dangerous temperatures and if a home is prone to drafts. Use lighter layers of clothes nearest the body and make them easily removable and also a non-hassle to put back on. Layers trap warm air between each layer, keeping the body warmer.

When outside, keep a loved one's exposed skin covered, including head, face, ears, hands and feet. A couple things to remember: use mittens versus gloves, since they allow the fingers to touch and generate heat. Next, make sure a loved one's clothes are loose fitting, since tight clothes keep blood from flowing and minimize the production of body heat. Proper footwear is also something a caregiver should examine and see is proper for the season.

Maintaining an even, warm house temperature is essential during the cold weather season. A caregiver should make sure the thermostat is easy to read, perhaps with large digital numbers, so a loved one can check it frequently. The National Institute of Health recommends at least 68 to 70 degrees as a standard, and says that even mild cold temperatures such as 60 to 65 degrees can cause a hypothermia risk for seniors.

Stay Safe

Many times, cold weather is the cause of power outages. Both darkness and cold are situations a loved one does not want to find themselves in without some preparation and knowledge of what to do.

Many people with disabilities and seniors rely on powered devices for medical care such as oxygen or for mobility. Have emergency numbers easily accessible and an emergency kit with easy-to-use items available at all times. A generator is a great source of backup power. A caregiver should walk their loved one through its use and the emergency plan before such a situation arises.

 

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