We are in the grips of extreme winter weather in South Texas: a cold snap that will come close to breaking records as a deep freeze stretches for several days into the middle of the upcoming week.
Seniors have been stuck inside most of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing. During the summer months when they would usually get outside, they’ve been staying away from other people to stay safe. Fatigue may be setting in, and if they do venture outside, they may be unprepared and take on an additional risk of exposure to COVID or influenza. But there are ways to keep them warm and safe this winter, as they continue to social distance.
#1 Keep the home at a reasonable temperature
As we age our skin gets thinner, which causes our bodies to cool off much faster. “You may hear your client tell you they are cold, even though you think the temperature in their home is just right,” said PHC Pride Vice-President Andy Cruz. Even though you may want to keep their bills down, any home that is cooler than 68 degrees can pose a risk for seniors, especially if the home is poorly insulated. So, make sure to keep the thermostat set at or above 68 degrees, and keep a few blankets around just in case it just isn’t warm enough for them.
#2 Keep the cold outside
Even if you keep the thermostat set at the right temperature for your client, how do you know the home is heating efficiently, and that you are keeping the cold outside and the heat inside? “Not only could you be using your system inefficiently and wearing it out faster, but it could also cost you or your client more money,” said Cruz. Some tips from heritageseniorcare.com include making sure all windows are closed tightly, make sure all storm windows are properly installed, check the caulking around the windows, and check the weather stripping around both the windows and the doors.
#3 Provide layers of clothing
During the summer, it makes sense for senior citizens to wear lightweight layers of clothing when they are inside because the air conditioning may be blasting. “Layering is also really important inside for a senior citizen during the winter months,” said Cruz. “If a senior is wearing layers, they can adjust their body temperature much easier.” Homecareassistancemesa.com advises to provide a cardigan or sweater over short sleeves, so they can start their day with an extra layer of warmth which can be easily removed as temperatures rise. And if your senior plans to go outside, have a heavy coat, hat, and gloves standing by to keep them warm. In South Texas, seniors may start to feel cold outside when the temperature gets below 75 degrees.
#4 Dress for the outdoors when going outside
If your senior decides they want to go outside during the colder months of the year, you have to keep an eye on the weather. “Even if it isn’t cold enough for ice the ground, the pavement can still be slippery,” said Cruz. That is why homecare.com suggests for your senior to wear nonslip/nonskid shoes. These types of shoes are manufactured to prevent falls in icy and wet conditions. Also, if your loved one uses a cane for assistance, make sure the bottom of the cane is slip-resistant. When returning inside make sure both you and your loved one take off your shoes to prevent dragging more water or ice inside, which could also lead to slips or falls.
#5 Keep an eye on space heaters
During the colder months, many seniors love to bring out their space heaters, even here in South Texas. Cruz said, “Even though these heaters provide warmth, they can be very dangerous if not used correctly.” If you are using a gas space heater, be sure the home has a carbon monoxide detector and a smoke detector. Double check the batteries to make sure they are properly working. If the heater is electric, make sure to inspect all power cords for fraying and get rid of damaged heaters. Don’t forget to keep heaters away from flammable materials like cloth and paper as well. And watch out for those cords, which have the possiblity of tripping a senior.
Please help us to keep our senior citizens warm and safe during this South Texas cold snap. Follow these cold weather tips as we march toward spring. Warmer weather will be here before you know it.