The weather seems to change all the time, but winter is here, and many places throughout the United States have experienced snow. The National Weather Service shows that as of Jan. 25, 2022, some cities in the central and eastern United States have seen near or above-normal snowfall, while other locales, but some are behind their average snowfall.
Big storms may hit yet before it is over. With winter weather coming for much of the country, most of us don't need to be reminded that many people don't care for severe winter weather and very cold and snowy conditions. However, the older we get, the winter weather's potential impact on our bodies and health becomes more significant. Older adults tend to lose body heat quickly. Their ability to feel the cold weather and control and regulate body temperature gets diminished.
Hypothermia can be a big concern for the elderly or those with multiple health conditions. People with dementia may not understand that the temperature dropped, and they fail to take appropriate action like turning up the thermostat or putting on warm clothing. Even when inside, a cold house could be dangerous.
The National Weather Service lists the winter weather forecast for your area - find it here.
More Winter Coming
La Niña should stick around until at least spring 2022. Power outages and cold and snowy weather impact everyone, especially those who are older. No matter the weather, preparing for the weather is always important, especially for the most vulnerable.
Some People are More Vulnerable to the Cold
People with chronic illness, those receiving long-term health care services, and those who use multiple medications are generally more vulnerable to the cold. Unlike most of us, older people typically need help preparing for the winter and its adverse impact on their health.
People with limited mobility also have more problems when there is ice and snow around, making it more challenging to get around even to get the mail.
Everyone needs to prepare for the winter months. Cold, snow and freezing rain make all of us uncomfortable. However, the winter weather leads to significant health concerns and a higher risk of falls and other accidents for our older family members. The winter months can worsen existing aging issues and lead a person to need help with daily living activities and other long-term care services and supports.
Even shoveling snow can be dangerous. Help older people or those with chronic health problems with snow and ice removal - assuming you have no health issues that could make it hazardous for you.
Sometimes ice is hard to see, no matter your age. Make sure ice melt is put down on sidewalks and outside steps to limit the risk of falls.
Wow, It's Cold Outside!
Cold weather alone is a problem. For those family members and others who are older, cold weather feels worse. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says, "Older adults can lose body heat fast—faster than when they were young. Changes in your body that come with aging can make it harder for you to be aware of getting cold. A big chill can turn into a dangerous problem before an older person even knows what's happening. Doctors call this serious problem hypothermia."
If you are like most people, you feel cold during the winter. You may not know that being really cold can make you very sick. The National Institute on Aging makes these winter weather safety suggestions - click here.
Being prepared for winter weather is for everyone, but older adults need special attention. Be sure older family members are ready for the cold and snow of winter weather.
Here are some hints from www.aginglifecare.org
Before a Winter Storm Hits
- Stay informed and sign up for severe weather alerts through your local city or state resource
- Refill prescriptions and have an extra supply of other medical necessities
- Buy extra food, including non-perishables, and bottled water (and don't forget pet food or supplies if needed)
- Keep vehicles filled with gas and have tires checked for safety
- Clear debris from downspouts and gutters
- Have trees inspected and remove any dead limbs
- Have evacuation routes planned with identified medical centers
- Identify an individual or company to shovel snow from driveways, stairs
- Make sure outside furnace vents are clear and carbon monoxide alarms are working
- Inspect outside plumbing, insulating any exposed pipes
Prepare for Power Outages
- If using oxygen, bi-pap, C-Pap, or other equipment, you will need a generator
- Purchase battery operated, plug-in lights that automatically turn on when the power goes out
- Make sure you have working flashlights within reach and extra batteries
- Keep cell phones charging, so you have a full charge at power loss
Plan for Caregivers
- If you rely on caregivers, consider the following:
- Arrange for a live-in caregiver
- Build a relationship with neighbors that may be able to temporarily fill-in
- Plan temporary or respite stay with a nursing home, assisted living community, or hospice
Safety First Around the House
- Keep areas around space heaters clear
- Use space heaters with automatic shut-off
- Gas stoves or ovens should never be used as a heating source
- Do not attempt to climb ladders
- Do not walk on frozen stairs, sidewalks, or driveways
Living in a cold house, apartment, or other building can cause hypothermia. In fact, hypothermia can happen to someone, even in a nursing home or group facility, if the rooms are not kept warm enough. If someone you know is in a long-term care facility, pay attention to the inside temperature and whether they are dressed warmly enough.
Staying Warm is Important
People who are sick may have special problems keeping warm. Do not let it get too cold inside, and dress warmly. Even if you keep your temperature between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, your home or apartment may not be warm enough to keep you safe.
This is a very big problem if you live alone because there is no one else to feel the house's chilliness or notice if you have hypothermia symptoms.
A heavy wind can quickly lower your body temperature. Check the weather forecast for windy and cold days. If you have an older family member, make sure they try to stay inside and stay warm. If they have to go out, wear warm clothes, and don't stay out in the cold and wind for a long time.
Illness, Medicines, and Cold Weather
Some illnesses may make it harder for your body to stay warm. Diabetes, thyroid problems, Parkinson's disease, memory loss, and arthritis are health issues that make it harder for people to keep warm. Talk with your doctor about your health problems and how to prevent hypothermia.
The lack of activity and some medications can also affect body heat.
These include medicines you get from your doctor and those you buy over-the-counter. Ask your doctor if the medication you take may affect your body heat. Always talk with your doctor before you stop taking any medication.
Watch for the signs of hypothermia. People can get confused if body temperature gets very low. Know the warning signs:
Early signs of hypothermia:
- Cold feet and hands
- Puffy or swollen face
- Pale skin
- Shivering (in some cases, the person with hypothermia does not shiver)
- Slower than normal speech or slurring words
- Acting sleepy
- Being angry or confused
Later signs of hypothermia:
- Moving slowly, trouble walking, or being clumsy
- Stiff and jerky arm or leg movements
- Slow heartbeat
- Slow, shallow breathing
- Blacking out or losing consciousness
Something you may be doing during the winter might be aging you faster! If you don't want the winter weather to age you, here's what you need to keep an eye on - click here.
Prepare Family and Fiances for Long-Term Care
Planning in advance is also a good idea when preparing for your retirement. The financial costs and burdens of aging will impact you, your family, your savings, and your lifestyle. This is why many people include Long-Term Care Insurance in their pre-retirement checklist. Long-Term Care Insurance is Easy and Affordable Asset Protection.
LTC Insurance provides guaranteed tax-free resources so you can have quality care in the setting you desire – be it at home or a facility. You have worked hard to save money in your 401(k) and other retirement funds. Be sure to protect them from the high costs of extended care. Don't forget the tremendous burden long-term care places on your family.
Keep warm this winter and keep an eye on older family members so they can stay safe throughout the winter months.
About the Author
An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.
Contributor since August 21st, 2017
Being prepared for the natural decline in health, body, and mind is what you and your family should want to give everyone peace of mind. Long-term health care costs are rising rapidly nationwide. Since most of these costs will not be paid for by the government (outside of military service-related needs or for those with little or no income and assets), the responsibility for paying for care services is yours alone.
Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance will provide the guaranteed tax-free resources to pay for your choice of quality care options, including in-home care.
The ideal time to put coverage in place is before retirement. Most people purchase Long-Term Care Insurance in their 50s.
Planning Tools and Resources on LTC NEWS
You can find many tools and resources on LTC NEWS to assist you in your research for a planning solution or help your family find the appropriate care for a loved one at the time of crisis.
To help you plan for the future costs and burdens of changing health and aging, LTC NEWS has put in place several resources, including:
- The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator will show you the current and future cost of long-term health care services where you live. Plus, each state has vital state-specific information you should know - Cost of Care Calculator - Choose Your State | LTC News
- The Ultimate Long-Term Care Guide is an outstanding read to help you get a good overview of the topic area.
- Compare the major insurance companies that offer Long-Term Care Insurance products here - Top Insurers for Long-Term Care Insurance | LTC News.
- A detailed tax guide that includes available tax incentives can be found by reviewing the Long-Term Care Tax Benefits Guide.
Find all the resources on LTC NEWS - Resources for Long-Term Care Planning | LTC News.
Seek Professional Guidance
Insurance rates are regulated, so no insurance agent, agency, or financial advisor can give you special deals. However, premiums vary over 100% between insurance companies for the same coverage.
Experts suggest using a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you navigate the many options available to you and your family.
A specialist who works with the top companies can match your age, health, family history, and other factors and find you the best coverage at the best value. A specialist will save you money, and you will have peace of mind knowing they are making the appropriate recommendations - Work With a Specialist | LTC News.
Find Quality Caregivers and Long-Term Care Facilities
If your parent or loved one needs care now - or soon - you will need to find the appropriate care in the right setting depending on their needs.
Take a moment and read -
Get Expert Help Filing an LTC Insurance Claim
LTC NEWS provides free assistance with no obligation to help you, or a loved one complete the claims process with your Long-Term Care Insurance policy.
You can also get support in finding quality caregivers and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy or not. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News.
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Benefits of Reverse Mortgages
Today's reverse mortgages for those aged 62 and older could be an ideal resource to fund a Long-Term Care Insurance policy OR even provide money to pay for care if you, or a loved one, already needs help and assistance.
Some people have much of their savings invested in their homes. With today's reverse mortgages, you can find ways to fund care solutions, care itself, even help with cash flow during your retirement.
Learn more by asking questions to an expert. LTC NEWS columnist and host of the TV Show "62 Who Knew" will answer your questions regarding caregiving, aging, health, retirement planning, long-term care, and reverse mortgages.
- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.
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