Keeping Loved Ones Warm in the Winter

It’s that time of the year again–cold.

The thermometer has finally dipped, and body temperature follows that same pattern as the weather gets colder and colder throughout the winter months. While our elderly loved ones typically prefer to crank up the thermostat and can’t stand the cold, there is scientific evidence that backs up their disdain for freezing weather conditions.

cold couple

As the body ages, the skin becomes thinner and is less able to tolerate fluctuation of temperature. When a person gets chilly, their heart pumps less blood to the skin, and tiny blood vessels in the skin constrict to conserve warmth. A person’s age reduces elasticity of blood vessel walls and thins the layer under the skin that helps contain and trap body heat. An elderly person’s skin is limited in its ability to control the changes between cold and heat; this places seniors in a higher risk bracket for complications such as hypothermia.

What Causes Low Temperature in the Elderly?

Besides the obvious exposure to the elements, body temperatures can drop because of various medical conditions and variables in one’s health.

Among some of these conditions are:

  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Anesthesia
  • Beta-blockers, sedatives or antidepressants
  • Malnutrition
  • Nerve damage
  • Sepsis (widespread)
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive)

How To Keep the Cold at Bay

Cold prevention for the elderly typically requires some precautions prior to winter setting in, along with ongoing observation by family & caregivers.

We’ve prepared a short-list of ways you can help keep your loved ones warm and toasty this winter:

  • Keep the home properly heated between 68 F to 70 F.

  • Protect the windows and doors using proper sealant.
  • Close vents and shut any doors in rooms that are not regularly being used.

  • Dress your loved one in warm layers that are easy to remove.

  • Keep legs insulated with slippers or socks, and use a blanket.

  • Make sure your loved one is properly layered up when going outdoors (hat, scarf, gloves).

  • Check the weather for any snow, rain and wind occurring that day.

  • Help your loved one practice good nutrition habits to help the body with heat and energy.

  • Ensure that seniors are drinking plenty of water. Dry air can quickly lead to dehydration.

  • Encourage your loved one to avoid alcohol, which can trigger heat loss.

  • Get education on any medications your loved one may be on–these drugs can cause variables in body heat changes and fluctuations.

  • Be aware that some space heaters and fireplaces are fire hazards and can actually cause carbon monoxide poisoning!

  • Make sure you’re always checking up on your loved one, and you have a backup plan in case of a power outage or your heat source shuts off.

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Public Safety Sources for Cold Weather Safety

If you’d like more information on how you can keep your loved ones warm and safe during the cold months, contact the following organizations or visit them on the web:

National Institute on Aging (NIA)

https://www.nia.nih.gov/ | Phone: 1-800-222-2225; TTY: 1-800-222-4225 | niaic@nia.nih.gov

Consumer Product Safety Commission

https://www.cpsc.gov/ | Phone: (800) 638-2772; TTY (800) 638-8270 |