It's cold in the house in winter. A senior person freezing, fever or trouble with heating. Sad person in wool plaid and scarf and wearing warm hat sitting on sofa at home in wintertime.

Reducing Colder Weather Risks for Older Adults

As we experience winter temperatures, the risk of cold weather affecting older adults is high. The more frail or mildly confused someone is, the greater the risk of hypothermia or becoming too cold. As one ages, the recognition of being too chilly or freezing becomes more difficult to detect and could possibly lead to hospitalization or death.

Some key things to remember:

  1. Older adults are at significantly higher risk of hypothermia.
  2. The more frail or mildly confused the elder is, the greater the risk.
  3. As one shifts from mild hypothermia to moderate to severe hypothermia, there is a decline in cognition, and the frail elder may not recognize they are in trouble and/or not know how to get help.
  4. The elder may progress from a period of shivering to more severe hypothermia without realizing it.
  5. The risk becomes especially severe if there is an additional factor such as many medications, or the elder becomes wet, or they are already suffering from a chronic illness or infection.
Senior Woman Warming Hands By Fire At Home
Keeping seniors warm is essential as they may not be aware of temperature changes.

To keep a senior safe during cold weather, be sure to:

  1. Minimize exposing a frail elder to a cold environment, especially if they have some difficulty getting or notifying others that they are cold.
  2. Keep elders dry and warm. Be especially diligent if they get wet, dry them off quickly.
  3. Be careful with medications; be sure that elders are not taking OTC medications that can be dangerous.
  4. If you see an elder who is cold, get them to warmth. If they are faint or dizzy or have other symptoms besides cold, seek medical assistance.

Keeping these things in mind when the temperatures and rains drop will help keep seniors and others out of danger.