When the winter weather season arrives everyone needs to be prepared. The cold, snow and freezing rain will make all of us uncomfortable. However, for those who are older, the weather change can lead to major health concerns and a higher risk of falls and other accidents. These can make existing aging issues even worse and lead to a person to need help with activities of daily living and other long-term care services and supports.
Cold weather alone can be an issue. For those families 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 every now and then during the winter. What you may not know is that just being really cold can make you very sick. As you age this becomes a much bigger concern. 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.
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 Storm
- 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
- 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 group facility, pay attention to the inside temperature and to whether that person is dressed warmly enough.
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 special problem if you live alone because there is no one else to feel the chilliness of the house or notice if you are having symptoms of hypothermia.
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 or in a warm place. If you have to go out, everyone should wear warm clothes, and don’t stay out in the cold and wind for a long time.
Here are some other tips:
- Dress for the weather if you have to go out on chilly, cold, or damp days.
- Wear loose layers of clothing. The air between the layers helps to keep you warm.
- Put on a hat and scarf. You lose a lot of body heat when your head and neck are uncovered.
- Wear a waterproof coat or jacket if it’s snowy.
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 problems that can make it harder for older adults to stay warm. Talk with your doctor about your health problems and how to prevent hypothermia.
Taking some medicines and not being active also can affect body heat. These include medicines you get from your doctor and those you buy over-the-counter. Ask your doctor if the medicines you take may affect 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:
Advance planning 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 to their pre-retirement checklist. Long-Term Care Insurance is Easy and Affordable Asset Protection. It provides the 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 401k 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.
Planning in advance for the costs and burdens of aging should start prior to retirement. Start your investigation by looking for your state on the LTC NEWS MAP. The map will show the current average cost of long-term care services and supports, available tax incentives and the availability of partnership plans which provide additional dollar-for-dollar asset protection. Click here for the map.
Experts suggest working with a qualified Long-Term Care Specialist when reviewing your planning options. Find an experienced specialist who works with the major insurance companies by clicking here.
Understand the reality of getting older. As we age many of us will require help with normal activities of daily living or even supervision due to cognitive decline. Caregiving is hard on loved ones and paid care will drain your hard earned savings and adversely impact your income and lifestyle. Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance will safeguard your assets and make getting older easier on those you love.
Long-Term Care Insurance is easy, affordable and rate stable income and asset protection. Stay warm and plan for the winter of life prior to retirement.