Winter Safety

The winter months can pose a serious danger for the elderly population. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has warned of the hypothermia risk, even in the warmer climates.

Surprising as it may sound, Southern California individuals can suffer from Hypothermia. Hypothermia is defined by person who has an abnormally low core body temperature, usually below 96 degrees Fahrenheit. When the body loses more heat than it can produce, hypothermia sets in, with the elderly being particularly vulnerable.

A properly functioning heating system is the key to safety. Make sure your home is warm. Even a slightly cooler environment, with the thermostat set at a range from 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit can trigger a decreased body temperature in the elderly. It is imperative that people set their thermostats to at least 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure safe conditions. Appropriate dress code including socks, slippers, blankets, and hats are also essential tools to ward off any threats of hypothermia.

Typically the elderly take a lot of medications, with some actually increasing the chances for hypothermia, so patient and doctor coordination is also encouraged. The warning signs of hypothermia include slurred speech, confusion, shivering or stiffness of arms and legs, and lack of body movement, with slow reaction time. If hypothermia is suspected, call 911 immediately.

The NIA also notes that low income families can receive assistance through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to offset any high heating bills.

Remember to check the thermostat and keep an eye on elderly neighbors.