Keeping Seniors Protected from Hypothermia

Canadian winters typically present a variety of challenges for the senior population. Harsh conditions and frigid temperatures can result in all kinds of problems and health risks for older adults. Seniors are generally more vulnerable to hypothermia due to the body no longer being able to hold heat as efficiently as well as underlying medical issues.

The cold temperatures create a higher risk for seniors to become hypothermic, so it is important for seniors and their caregivers to remain aware and vigilant of the ways they can work to prevent it. Hypothermia is a genuine concern when caring for seniors, and it should be remembered that it can even happen indoors if the place is not properly heated.

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia develops when the body begins to lose faster than it is being produced. This is especially problematic for seniors as they struggle more to produce body heat and then also have a greater challenge retaining it. As we get older, the layer of fat under the skin becomes thinner making it more difficult to lock in the heat.

Hypothermia Symptoms

Hypothermia can cause body temperature to drop to dangerous levels which can lead to various problems within the body or even death in severe circumstances. There are some ways to identify hypothermia in its early stages so that medical assistance can be sought promptly. The following are indicators of a hypothermic state:

  • Cold Skin
  • Shivering
  • Bluish tinge on fingertips, lips, and skin
  • Slurred speech
  • Exhaustion
  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Lack of alertness
  • Lack of dexterity in the hands

It is important to note that individuals entering a hypothermic state will not necessarily be shivering or complaining of feeling cold, so keeping an eye out for these other symptoms can help family members and caregivers spot the issue.

Should you suspect hypothermia, seek medical assistance immediately and make sure your loved one has somewhere dry, warm, and comfortable to wait for help.

Hypothermia Risks for Seniors

As a result of advanced age, seniors’ bodies are less efficient in the temperature regulation process, meaning they are not always able to feel the full severity of a temperature drop. This biological factor is exacerbated by the possible impacts that medications or symptoms of other chronic health conditions may bring about. In short, the biological factors of aging put older adults at a greater risk of becoming hypothermic in the cold temperatures of Canadian winters.

Preventing Hypothermia

When it comes to hypothermia prevention, the most important thing to remember is to make sure seniors are kept warm at all times.

  • Maintain a Safe Indoor Temperature: People often assume hypothermia can only occur when someone has been outside in the cold for a long period of time. Seniors may also be at risk of hypothermia indoors if the temperature is too low and the place is poorly insulated. Make sure the home is amply heated and that all the doors and windows are properly closed to prevent cold air from seeping in.
  • Dress Appropriately: Wearing the proper attire for the cold weather is crucial. Dressing in layers and warm fabrics helps keep the body warm and insulated. Have blankets available in the home for covering up and perhaps extra bedding for a warm, cozy sleep. Gloves, boots, and warm hats should also be worn outdoors.
  • Medications: Consult with a doctor or pharmacist to see if any medications being taken may increase the risk of hypothermia.
  • Nutrition: The body needs a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein to produce sufficient energy to keep the body temperature at a healthy level in cold weather.
  • Stay Hydrated: Dehydration is a risk factor for hypothermia so it is important to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
  • Get Plenty of Sleep: Staying well-rested helps the body fight off hypothermia and a variety of other health issues.

Hypothermia can have very harmful impacts on seniors’ health and well-being, but prevention is easily attainable with little thought and planning. Taking some time to put strategies in place and properly equip seniors for the cold can make all the difference.

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