The first days of 2018 brought record-breaking cold temperatures for North Carolina, with a few consecutive days when temperatures didn’t go above freezing. While that was somewhat unusual, it’s not unusual to have some cold days in the winter. Here in the Piedmont Triad, we’re used to roller-coaster- like changes in the weather, especially during the winter months. One day you might have bright blue skies and frigid cold temperatures thanks to an arctic blast from the north, while the next day will bring highs in the 50s and lots of drizzle as moisture creeps up from the Gulf. But through it all, winter is pretty chilly, whether the temperatures are below freezing or not.
For the elderly cold temperatures aren’t just something to talk about, they can actually be harmful to your health. The reason is that as we age, our bodies become less adept at maintaining body heat. Decreasing muscle mass, a thinning layer of body fat, and slower metabolism all factor into a decreased ability to stay warm. In addition, some diseases, such as diabetes, arthritis, and Parkinson’s disease, can also make it harder for a body to stay warm.
Most of us know to protect ourselves when venturing outside in cold weather. All those times when we were kids and our mothers reminded us to put on our hat and gloves make an imprint on us. But for the elderly, it’s important to stay warm inside the house as well as outside. The dangers of hypothermia are real, and you can get too cold even when indoors.
If you’ve ever been to visit your elderly parent and felt like you were going to break a sweat because the heat was up so high, that’s probably a good thing. It’s important to keep the house or apartment warm, not only because older people’s bodies don’t retain heat as well but also because they’re not very active, and sitting around is when you feel colder. Inside temperatures should be at least 68 degrees or higher. If you’re worried about high utility costs, you can close off the rooms you’re not in during the day, and put a rolled up blanket at the door sill to keep the cold air out.
Other things to consider are dressing in loose layers. The space in between the layers of clothing will help insulate you and keep you warm. Also be sure to wear socks and shoes to keep your feet warm, and use those decorative throws to keep your legs warm when watching TV or reading in your favorite chair.
Eating good meals three times a day is another way to help your body keep warm. Body fat is important, and warm foods like soups and stews can increase your warmth and provide comfort at the same time.
Most importantly, be aware of the signs of hypothermia, so if you or your loved one is starting to become too cold you can seek medical attention. These include:
– Slowed speech
– Cold feet and hands
– Pale Skin
Here at Piedmont HomeHealth, we are concerned about the safety of our clients and all older citizens at all times, but especially during the extreme cold and extreme heat of the winter and summer months, when the weather can adversely affect health. If you have an elderly loved one, be sure to check on them this time of year to make sure they are keeping warm and safe.