There are a few things to consider for your personal safety. Cold wintry temperatures lead to conditions that increase risks of falling, frostbite, and hypothermia. When temperatures dip, it is best to stay home or at least in doors. Age-associated changes alter how efficiently the body maintains adequate temperature, so dress warmly, especially protecting the head, hands and feet. Drink plenty of fluids, stay well nourished, and stay active. Keep the house warm, at least the rooms that are frequently used. If this is a hardship due to fuel costs, contact utility companies or the Aging and Disability Resource Center (Tarrant County: 817.569.4036) to find out if you qualify for special programs to help pay heating bills or improve home insulation.
If you do have to venture outdoors, maintain a high level of vigilance against the cold elements- avoid icy areas, dress warmly, and limit your exposure. People with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid disease or heart disease, are more susceptible to accidental death from overexposure to cold. Keep clear of ice areas that could lead to a fall. Watch for signs of frostbite: numbness, cold or burning feeling, pain or itchiness, skin color changes to red, yellow or white, and hard skin. Watch for symptoms of hypothermia: shivering, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech, drowsiness, and in severe cases, unconsciousness. If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, get immediate medical attention by calling 9-1-1. Information about first aid for people with frostbite or hypothermia can be found on various websites, include the American Red Cross and Texas Health Resource’s Health Information Encyclopedia. I encourage you to ask your health care provider for more information, particularly if you have a chronic condition. They are familiar with your unique health needs and can make the best recommendations. Free classes on fall prevention and chronic conditions start at community locations this month. Enroll in a class to gain important life saving strategies for your personal safety.
One of the best things we can do to avoid preventable problems from cold weather is to keep connected and to keep an eye out for our neighbors. When cold weather hits, let friends and family know how you are doing. Note the needs of seniors who live alone to make sure they are staying warm and have adequate nutrition and human contact. Living alone can be even more isolating during days and nights of cold weather. And finally, keep in mind that senior centers offer the warmth of friendship and family, a hot meal, and the care and concern for your safety and well-being. Weather permitting, we hope you’ll join us!