Freezing Temperatures Put Older Illinoisans At Risk

Dec 10, 2013, 12:44 ET from AARP Illinois

AARP Provides Quick Tips to Stay Warm – Reminds People to Check in on Elderly Friends and Neighbors

CHICAGO, Dec. 10, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With temperatures in Northern Illinois reaching 18-year lows, AARP is reminding Illinoisans to check in on elderly relatives, friends, and neighbors who may be at particular risk of cold-related health problems, especially hypothermia, or falls on icy steps and sidewalks.

"With temperatures dipping below zero and more snow on the way, it's critical that neighbors, friends and family check on older individuals and make sure they are warm and safe," said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois State Director. "There are many things you can do to help – check on them to make sure they're warm at home, shovel their snow, pick up their groceries or go to the pharmacy for them."

Cold weather brings a potentially deadly danger – hypothermia. Older individuals are at a bigger risk for hypothermia because their body's response to cold weather can be diminished by certain illnesses (such as diabetes) and some medicines (including over-the-counter cold remedies). 

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the symptoms of hypothermia include confusion or sleepiness, slowed or slurred speech, shivering or stiffness in the arms and legs, weak pulse, poor control over body movements or slow reactions.  If you suspect that someone is suffering from the cold and you have a thermometer available, take his or her temperature.  If it's 96 degrees or lower, call 911 for emergency help. 

Here are some additional AARP tips on how to stay warm in this extreme weather:

  • Wear several layers of clothing when you go outside. Layers will trap warm air between them. Tight clothing can keep blood from flowing freely and lead to loss of body heat.
  • To keep warm at home, wear long underwear under your clothes, along with socks and slippers. Use a blanket or afghan to keep legs and shoulders warm and wear a hat or cap indoors.
  • Make sure your home is warm. Set your thermostat to at least 68 to 70 degrees.
  • Check with your doctor to see if any medications (prescription or over the counter) you are taking may increase your risk for hypothermia.

If you need assistance for heating costs, funds are available in Illinois through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP is a federal program that assists low-income households, including families with children and seniors, with their home energy costs, including heating costs in the winter. More information is available, toll-free, at 1-877-411-9276.