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Winter Weather Preparation for Older Adults

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Now that winter has finally arrived in Minnesota, it's especially important for older adults, their families and caregivers to be truly prepared for the cold. Older adults can lose body heat much more quickly than they did in their younger days, and are less likely to feel environmental cold. Exposure to severe cold for seniors can bring on hypothermia when the body's temperature gets very low. Hypothermia in an older person can cause many serious health problems, so it's important to lower your chances.

  1. Keep warm while inside

    Keeping your home too cold can cause hypothermia. Set your thermometer to 68° or higher and keep blinds and curtains closed to keep heat in. To save money on heating bills, shut off vents and close the doors to rooms you're not using. Be sure to dress warmly on cold days, even if you are staying inside all day.

  2. Keep warm while outside

    If you have to go out on a cold day, dress warmly and in loose layers. Be sure to wear a hat, scarf and mittens or gloves. Don't forget to put on warm socks and boots to keep out the cold and the dampness. You can also use hand and foot warmers inside your gloves and boots.

  3. Take care of yourself

    Maintain good health habits. Make sure you eat healthy, frequent meals and drink lots of water (8-10 glasses/day). Limit your consumption of alcohol, caffeine and nicotine; they can make you lose body heat. Drinking warm beverages will help raise the body's temperature. Keep active and mobile throughout the day as much as you can.

  4. Take care of your surroundings

    If you use a fireplace or wood-burning stove, make sure it is kept clean. Never leave space heaters on for extended periods of time or unattended; and do not plug them into an extension cords, due to fire risk. If there is ice on your steps or sidewalk, ask a family member or friend to help, if you are unable to safely remove it yourself. Be sure to stock up on non-perishable food and bottled water, just to be prepared for the unexpected. Talk to your family or friends and have them check on you during cold weather. You can call to check on your friends as well. Have a back-up plan in place and stay with someone who has heat if yours goes out.

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