Learn What Hypothermia Is and How to Treat It

In some states, heating systems are on. Wintry blasts of frosty air have hit. Snow is falling. As temperatures dip to freezing or below freezing, it's also a time when some older adults have issues staying warm.

Some senior citizens will drastically lower the heat in their homes to save money. They can't afford a high heating bill and the medications they need. They don't want to have to choose between food or rent. Some fall prey to scammers and don't want to tell their family they gave the last of their savings away.

Turning the heat down can also lead to dangerous health concerns. Hypothermia is one of the greatest. It's also a risk if you have a parent that goes outside for walks or to shovel and falls. Here's what you need to know.

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is a medical emergency where the body cannot warm up fast enough for the conditions its in. As a result, the body temperature dips lower than the norm of 98.6 F and continues to fall below 95 F. Once it's this cold, the organs struggle to work. It can lead to death.

Say your mom goes outside to shovel and slips on ice. She can't get up without help, but now she's on the ground in the snow. Her body temperature will decline until someone finds her. Once she's found, careful medical treatment is essential.

How is Hypothermia Treated?

Don't try to treat it on your own in your mom's home. Remove wet clothing. Wrap her in blankets and call 911. Doctors need to see how cold the body is and slowly warm it back up.

If it turns out the hypothermia is mild, she may be okay staying home, wrapped up in blankets and warm towels on the chest, inner thighs, and neck, and sipping a warm beverage. It's advised to avoid warming the extremities first. Focus on the areas closest to the brain, lungs, and heart.

Always make sure you get the professional opinion first. Follow the doctor's advice and call if you're uncertain or have questions.

Prevent Hypothermia

Make sure your mom has heating oil or fuel when you stop by. If she can't afford it, she needs to speak up. Some programs may help her afford it. Get a smart thermostat that allows you to check the temperature of her home remotely. Finally, get her a medical alert system so that if she falls, she can push a button when she's outside and call for help.

Have you thought about having caregivers at your mom's or dad's house this winter? On the coldest days, someone can check-in, make sure the heating system is working, and take steps if anything is amiss. Call a home care agency to discuss these and other services caregivers offer.