Winter in the midwest is no joke! Sudden storms and freezing temperatures can make life difficult for anyone who lives here—especially for seniors. It’s important for seniors to have a steady internal temperature, as their bodies aren’t able to regulate body heat and maintain warmth the way they could when they were younger.
In the midwest, winters can be extremely harsh, so it’s important that you take the necessary steps to ensure that your senior loved one is staying warm. From making sure their apartment is full of blankets and sweaters to limiting outdoor exposure as much as possible, there are plenty of ways you can help protect your loved one and keep them warm!
1. Turn the Heat Up
While most of us are used to turning down the heat in winter to help save money on heating bills, a senior’s home should be kept at a warmer temperature to protect them from getting chills. Remember, a senior’s body loses heat faster than people middle aged or younger. A senior’s home should be kept at 70 degrees during the winter at the very lowest.
2. Prepare for Outages
Harsh storms can sometimes cause power outages at the most inopportune moments. Having no heat or light is a dangerous situation, so help your loved ones prepare for the risk by:
- Stocking their house with flashlights and batteries
- Keeping an eye on the weather report and encouraging your loved one to go stay with family before big storms
- Reminding loved ones to keep their cell phones charged
- Having a case of bottled water and shelf-stable foods in case of multiple-day outages
3. Dress in Layers
It’s always easier to take layers off when you get too hot than it is to try and add them on after you’ve gotten too cold. Putting on a sweater after your internal body temperature has dropped often means a slow reheating process.
Encourage your elderly family members to wear multiple layers, which will help them maintain their body temperatures. And remember, layering isn’t just for heading outside, it’s equally as important to have extra clothing while staying indoors as well.
4. Keep Blankets Nearby
When we start to feel chilly, throwing a blanket over ourselves is a great way to quickly warm up. In your loved one’s home, make this simple task even easier by strategically leaving blankets in places where they might need them, such as near chairs or by their bed.
5. Warm Drinks and Foods
Eating and drinking warm foods can help encourage the body to maintain its internal temperature, as well as proving the essential nutrients needed for the body to maintain its mass and health during the winter. Rather than cold foods and iced water, encourage your senior family members to have foods like hot soups and tea.
6. Cover Extremities
It’s important to remember in colder months that the hands, feet, and head are the parts of the body that get chilled and lose their warmth first. With that in mind, it’s essential for these extremities to be protected in winter.
Hats, mittens, gloves, socks, and slippers are all examples of clothing items that are necessary to keep an elderly loved one from getting too cold throughout the winter. Hats and gloves can be worn inside to stay warm if needed, and having these clothing items nearby is helpful, so seniors don’t need to go searching when they get cold.
7. Safety when Traveling
Just like we need to prepare for a power outage, it’s important to prepare for vehicle breakdowns in winter as well. If your loved one travels alone, ensure they keep extra coats, blankets, and even boots in their car in case of an emergency. Similarly, if they are being driven by someone else, make sure they have extra warm clothes and water with them in case of an emergency.
8. Limit Outdoor Exposure
The worst of winter weather is obviously found outdoors. Freezing temperatures, ice, and wet snow that chills us quickly are all dangerous features of a midwest winter. In order to protect your loved one, do what you can to keep them out of the elements.
Helping keep a loved one indoors can mean anything from running errands for them to doing what you can to encourage them to enjoy the weather from inside the home rather than out of it. Keeping seniors inside helps them stay warm, and also reduces the risk of dangerous falls.
While midwest winters are more punishing than in other areas, they are still manageable with a plan and some preparation. Helping your senior loved ones stay warm is a wonderful to keep them safe from the elements, even as the winter storms rage outside.