Press-Republican

January 8, 2014

Cold to the bone

By ROBIN CAUDELL
Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — John Richard White walked gingerly in the roadway along South Catherine Street.

Many areas of the sidewalk were uncleared or remained too treacherous for him, even with the assistance of his cane.

“It’s wicked,” said White, 63, of the weather and road conditions.

He was returning from paying his rent for his Plattsburgh residence, which he shares with his wife, Linda, who has a disability.

“There’s no way I could bring my wife out here in this,” White said.

LESS BODY HEAT

As the polar vortex’s distortion snaps temps back into the frigid range, common sense can go a long way in keeping one warm and healthy.

“Older people may be at risk for being affected by cold temperatures because their body’s response to cold can be diminished by certain illnesses, such as diabetes and some medicines,” according to Laurie Williams, coordinator for Health Education at the Clinton County Health Department.

“In addition, older adults may be less active and therefore generate less body heat. This can increase an older person’s risk for developing hypothermia.”

ADVICE FROM EXPERTS

To avoid being harmed by hypothermia, here is some practical advice for the elderly from the National Institutes for Health:

▶ Wear several layers of loose clothing when it is cold. The layers will trap warm air between them. Tight clothing can keep blood from flowing freely and lead to loss of body heat.

▶ Wear a hat, scarf, gloves or mittens and warm clothes when you go outside in cold weather. A significant amount of your body heat can be lost through your head, and hands and feet are the first body parts to get cold.

▶ 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 enough. Set your thermostat to at least 68 to 70 degrees. Even mildly cool homes with temperatures from 60 to 65 degrees can trigger hypothermia in older people.

▶ Check with your doctor to see if any medications (prescription or over the counter) you are taking may increase your risk for hypothermia.

HEATING HOMES

If your fuel-oil levels are entering the danger zone, help from the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) is offered at the Clinton County Office for the Aging.

“We’re sending the info out to the Department of Social Services,” said Sally Garvey, coordinator of Aging Services.

“They look at assets you have. It may require a call from them, and they will look at those things. We’re helping people get their emergency HEAP if they’re eligible.”

If no one in a household is 60 or older, the asset cutoff is less than $2,000.

“Money in the bank, things considered assets are a life-insurance plan, something you can cash in,” Garvey said. “A burial plan, they have to be irrevocable or they are considered an asset.”

If a household contains a member 60 or older, there is a $3,000 asset limit.

SHOVELING HELP

Garvey said her agency has received calls from seniors looking for someone to clear away snow and ice.

“Some people have been stuck,” she said. “There is the Senior Care, Senior Repair Program at JCEO, a program putting together people who want to do work in the community. Some want to be paid and some volunteer their time.”

“It’s a listing of individuals that will do a service for seniors, such as housekeeping, snow removal, minor repairs, companionship, shopping assistance,” said Julie Stalker, senior outreach director for JCEO.

 “There is a variety of things. Seniors can contact us, and we can give them some names of individuals that may be able to help.”

Email Robin Caudell:rcaudell@pressrepublican.com

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FOR MORE INFO

WHAT: Senior Care, Senior Repair Program.

PHONE: JCEO at 561-6310.