Caregivers to older adults may find themselves constantly turning up the thermostat in response to the oft-heard complaint, "I'm cold." The truth is that there's a scientific reason why many seniors are colder than the rest of us. Let's take a closer look at the issue, along with ways caregivers can keep aging loved ones warm, comfortable and safe.
Need to warm up a senior? Try a hug.
As our bodies age, they grow increasingly susceptible to the cold because of a natural decrease in metabolic rate. This means that senior bodies may be unable to generate enough heat to maintain "normal" body temperatures of 98.6 degrees. Factor in a combination of slowing circulation and thinner skin which is less able to conserve heat, and it's no surprise that while a heated room or warm spring day may feel temperate -- or even hot -- to you, it may feel downright chilly to your aging loved one.
However, increased susceptibility to the cold is not always age-related. It can also be caused by other factors, such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, all of which can impact body temperature. Other conditions and the medications used to treat them can also lead to reduced blood flow, increased heat loss, and the inability to regulate body temperature.
Keep blankets handy for senior comfort.
If you've noticed a change in your loved one's ability to tolerate cooler temperatures, check in with his physician to determine whether there may be underlying factors at work.
Whatever the cause of sensitivity to the cold in older adults, hypothermia is a very real threat for seniors. This dangerous condition occurs when body temperatures dip below 95 degrees.
And while most people think hypothermia occurs only in frigid conditions, seniors with slower metabolism can actually get hypothermia in temperatures in the mid-70s!
Considering that just under half of seniors who get hypothermia die from it, understanding its causes and taking preventive measures is critical for caregivers.
Tips for Keeping Seniors Warm
The leading cause of hypothermia? Poorly heated homes. The easiest way to keep seniors warm is by setting thermostats to no lower than 65 or 70 degrees.
It's also important to encourage seniors to dress appropriately for the weather. Layers are ideal as they can be removed if your aging loved one starts to overheat. When going outside into the cold, scarves and hats are particularly important for keeping cold at bay.
Warm beverages can warm bodies.
Other tips to help keep seniors warm? Eating large meals generates heat by amping up the digestive process, while drinking warm beverages is also warming. Alcohol, meanwhile, is a no-no as it triggers heat loss.
While increased vulnerability to cold is a natural part of aging, it can also signify the need for medical attention. Caregivers should be aware of the importance of looking out for any changes in how their aging loved ones react to temperature, along with best practices for managing the cold when it sets in. Mmlearn.org offers a large library of free videos for caregivers of older adults, covering topics pertaining to senior care. Whether you are a healthcare professional or a family caregiver, if you are caring for an older adult we know that you will find mmlearn.org an essential learning and guidance tool for all of your caregiver training needs." Access our free online caregiver videos today for more valuable content for caregivers.