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Why nursing home residents may find it hard to stay warm

Nursing homes should pay special attention to keeping their residents warm during Seattle’s cold weather months. Older people find it harder to stay warm than younger people, and the infirm nature of many nursing home residents makes it that much harder. The National Institutes of Health points out a number of problems that seniors face in retaining their body heat.

One of the issues has to do with the health of many seniors. Nursing home residents may suffer from any number of medical problems that makes it hard for them to properly regulate body temperature and retain warmth. Anemia, thyroid problems, and diabetes are a few examples. Additionally, the loss of fat below the skin or reduced blood pressure can make it harder to maintain a healthy body temperature.

Some nursing home residents may be aware of the need to stay warm, but suffer physical problems that makes it hard to perform necessary tasks to insulate their bodies, like putting on sweaters or coats. These problems can be caused by arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, anything that makes it painful to move one’s arms and legs. In these cases, residents will need help from the nursing home staff to don their clothing.

Cognitive problems can also cause serious problems for nursing home residents. Sometimes a senior may forget to don winter wear before going outside. Some seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s may go outside not aware that they need supervision, perhaps thinking that they are going to work or back to an old home. If a nursing home does not keep tabs on memory impaired seniors, they may wander outside and suffer injury by slipping on ice or catching hypothermia.

However, care must be taken so that seniors are not put at risk while keeping them warm. Agingcare.com cautions that space heaters and electric blankets may pose risks to seniors. It is important to keep certain heaters away from seniors to prevent the risk of carbon monoxide or fire. Similarly, electric blankets should be inspected for frayed wires to cut down on fire or burn risks, and old electric blankets may need to be swapped for new ones.

If you have concerns about your loved one staying warm, bring up these issues with the staff of the nursing home that houses your relative. If you feel your senior might not be well served there, consider moving your senior to a different facility.

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