States across America recently experienced what many experts are calling the “Polar Vortex,” an unusual and frigid cold that diverted south from the North Pole. This extreme cold has had an effect on millions of Americans and nearly 20 persons have been reported dead due to these conditions. While many middle aged persons were able to handle the cold safely, experts warn that the elderly are at a high risk when they are faced with these severe weather conditions. And more surprisingly, temperatures do not need to be below 0 degrees for the elderly to be at risk. So what is it that the elderly are so at risk for? The answer is hypothermia, also known as a “silent killer”—and a condition that can sneak up on victims with barley any warning signs. The elderly abuse attorneys at Malman Law ask that you and your elderly loved ones take the time to learn about some of the precautionary steps that you can take this winter to prevent any unfortunate accidents from occurring.
First, you may be wondering, what is hypothermia?
Hypothermia is a condition that occurs when more body heat is lost to a cool or cold environment faster than it can be replaced, thus causing rapid heat loss and an unusually low body temperature in an individual. Hypothermia can cause serious illness and even death.
What puts the elderly at a higher risk for hypothermia?
- Elderly persons who live alone are usually at a higher risk because they do not have another person around to watch for the major signs of hypothermia.
- Persons whose bodies do not react to cold properly, such as lack of shivering.
- Persons who take certain medications that prevent the body from regulating its temperature as it is supposed to. The most common medications that can alter a person’s body to not react normally to cold are: anti-depressants, sedatives, tranquilizers, and cardiovascular drugs. The most accurate way to learn if your medication can increase your susceptibility to hypothermia is to check with your doctor or pharmacist.
What you can do—
- Although the most severe temperatures have passed, it is still important to exercise all safety precautions that can prevent hypothermia to occur in an individual, as hypothermia does not only occur in below freezing temperatures.
- If your elderly loved one is cared for by a facility or a personal care-taker, make sure to check in with them during these times to ensure that they are being properly cared for.
- Take the steps to ensure that your home is well insulated and that your home’s thermostat is properly set for the outdoor weather conditions. Hypothermia has been known to occur even when a home’s thermostat is set in the 60’s.
- Wear extra layers of warm clothing that fits loosely.
- Use extra blankets at night, as hypothermia has been known to occur during sleep.
- Eat nutritious foods and stay hydrated.
- If you live alone or know of an elderly person who does, make arrangements to have regular check-ins.
- If you suspect that you or someone you know have fallen victim to hypothermia, contact an emergency service immediately. Hypothermia can cause sudden death and severe illness.
If you or a loved one fell victim to neglect or abuse while being care for by a facility, call Malman Law, today for a free consultation and to learn about your rights.