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Keep Warm in Winter

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Updated: September 30, 2006

Advice for caregivers and people with Alzheimer's

As we get older the things we once took for granted can let us down and become more complex and difficult. Running, which once seemed so fluid and easy, becomes less graceful and automatic, joints are less reliable and breathing becomes more labored.

Keeping warm in cold weather also becomes more important because as we get older and our body temperature drops there is an increased risk of strokes, heart attacks and breathing difficulties, whether or not we already suffer from a chronic health or physical disability. Follow the advice and you'll stay well.

Keep your home warm
Try to keep the temperature of your home at about 21C (70F). If you cannot afford to heat all your rooms do keep your living room dry and warm. Heat your bedroom and your bed before you go to bed. An electric blanket is great but a hot water bottle can be nearly as effective. Make sure you never use both together, you do not want to electrocute yourself! Keep the bedroom window closed at night during the winter months.

If you have central heating set the thermostat at 21C (70F) and set the timer to come on before you get up and then off as you go to bed at night. Individual thermostats on radiators give you much more control during the cold weather. If you use solid fuel make sure you have good supplies that will see you through unforeseen severe weather conditions.

Keep yourself healthy
Eat a balanced diet of at least one hot meal a day. Keeping a stock of food, cans, frozen, dried and fresh food stuffs means that you will always have enough so that you do not risk going out in icy conditions unless you feel confident.

Bathroom Trips
Wear several layers of thin clothes rather than one thick layer. Wear bed socks and even consider wearing a fleecy hat in bed to keep you warm. If you have to use the bathroom two or more times during the night keep your dressing gown and slippers or shoes by the bed and wrap up warm for the nocturnal toilet trips.

Exercise regularly.
In winter the weather conspires to keep us inside and often less active. It is important you take regular exercise. Remember that moving around generates body heat.
Spread your chores and activities out through the day
Do not sit around for long periods
Try to get out for a walk each day.

Looking after the vulnerable in our our communities
Hypothermia kills many older people each year. Hypothermia is a very dangerous condition. It can affect us even after a short time of extreme cold or a prolonged exposure to mild cold. You must act quickly if you find someone suffering from what you suspect may be hypothermia.

The danger signs of hypothermia

  • Very cold skin even under clothes

  • Drowsiness and slurred speech

  • Not feeling cold even when it obviously is

  • Acting in a bizarre way or out of character.
  • Emergency response to hypothermia
    Call an ambulance
    Do not try to warm the person up too quickly
    Wrap the person up in blankets or a duvet and give them a warm drink
    Never give alcohol as this reduces the body temperature even more.

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