Five surprising ways to help seniors in extreme cold weather

Before Christmas, our blog featured tips for seniors on dealing with our usual Canadian winter weather and snowy conditions. Little did we know at that point just how extreme the weather was to turn first in Ontario, and now in Calgary.


-20C and below

When temperatures drop below -20C, as it is forecast to do most of this week, our Canadian weather becomes much less forgiving on our bodies. This was shown by the sad story of an elderly but active Ontario couple who died outside their home in the snow, he of a heart attack, and his wife of hypothermia after she ventured out to find him in bitterly cold winds.


“I don’t feel cold”

As we age we become less able to sense cold. Seniors may therefore be at a higher risk of hypothermia, where the body temperature falls dangerously low. Almost half the hypothermia deaths in the US are as a result of hypothermia. Symptoms include slurred speech, confusion, shallow breathing. dizziness, and an irregular heart beat. If you notice yourself of an older relative with these symptoms, get to a warm place and seek medical attention.


So, here are five ways you can help keep senior members of your family and your community warmer and safer in extreme weather.



No.1 – Reduce slips and falls in snow

The usual hazards of clearing a driveway or path during extreme conditions become potentially life-threatening for the older generation during extreme weather. A slip or a fall on soft snow may not always cause injury, but reduced mobility will restrict their ability to get up again and get inside before hypothermia sets in. So, be a good neighbour and help seniors either by clearing their paths, or better still, getting a contractor to do it. Do check that your own parents are not even considering doing any snow clearing themselves. (We all know how stubborn parents can be!)


At every Manor Village senior living community here in Calgary and in London Ontario, we have a dedicated team who work hard to keep our paths, drives and access points as clear of snow as possible. It’s one of the many winter jobs we do, and certainly one of the top chores our Residents are more than happy to leave behind when they move from their old home to our warm, comfortable community, along with furnace maintenance!


To experience a Manor Village for yourself, call us to arrange a Personalized Visit. We’ll make sure there’s a clear path to our door, a fire burning in our lounge to warm your hand, and a welcome cup of coffee just waiting for you.



No.2 – Take frostbite seriously

Cold temperatures can damage our skin and tissues, with exposed areas such as hands, feet, ears, nose and lips most vulnerable. Frostbite can occur when the temperature is just below freezing (-0.5C), so make sure seniors are covered up as much as possible even in a short walk from car to front door.


Frostbite happens because the body slows down the blood flow to your extremities in order to preserve flow to your vital organs. As your extremities get colder, and fluids in the tissues can freeze. Frostbite starts with the affected area feeling cold, then going numb.


If you or anyone experiences these frostbite symptoms, move to a warm environment as soon as possible, and call a medical professional. Don’t put any pressure on the affected area, and certainly don’t warm up and then go straight out again – this can cause more damage.



No.3 – Change furnace filters frequently

One of the simplest ways to keep seniors safe and warm is to set the home heating thermostat to at least 65 degrees – and keep it there 24/7. This will inevitably involve the heating running almost constantly, and that in turn will clog up furnace filters more rapidly. Changing the filter monthly is a job that can be combined with a social visit to senior parents and relatives, and will definitely earn you a cup of coffee and a cookie! (Check out YouTube for How to videos – here’s just one example:)


No.4 – Stock up on pet food

Many of us will think to help senior parents and relatives stock up with non-perishable foods during severe weather. We might also help with ordering store-to-door grocery deliveries online. However, we might forget about the pets. During cold weather, most pets who venture outside will burn more energy and eat more, and therefore work their way through food supplies more quickly. So, remember to add pet food to the shopping list and make sure it’s accessible too, not stuck in a store behind a snow drift.



No.5 – Consider respite care

Even the most dedicated of family carers need a break, but during extreme weather you may be concerned about taking a break when the reliability of external carers coming in every day can be weather-affected. This is where respite care can really help. Your loved one can come and join the community at a Manor Village community here in Calgary on a temporary basis, and be looked after by our expert care team. You can then take a well-earned break, knowing that your parent, spouse or relative is safe, warm and enjoying every moment.


Remember, couples can also enjoy respite care together, with our team providing the care, and without the need to be apart (subject to room availability). The Manor Village senior living has to offer, from delicious meals to movie nights! Contact us to arrange respite care, and click for a list of our communities that offer respite care in Calgary.