by Char Brooks, J.D.
Adults who are frail or ill are particularly susceptible to hypothermia, a condition where body heat is lost faster than it can be replaced. Since hypothermia can set in quickly and cause serious illness, here are some practical ways you can take care of yourself, your home and those you care about:
Here are five free ways to be sure you and your loved ones stay warm:
1. Stay in Touch: If you know an older person who lives alone and is frail, it is important for you, a neighbor or a friend to check in on this person daily to be sure they are safe and warm.
2. Layer Wisely: Its common knowledge that dressing in layers helps to protect against the cold. However, did you know that if you get overheated or become wet from the snow, you will actually get colder quicker? Remember, as you bundle up, to remove layers if you get hot or wet.
3. Cover Your Head: This is especially true if you have short hair or are bald. A thermal cap will keep your head warm. If you’re really cold, put a blanket over your head and take some deep breaths. Your own breath will heat you up quickly if you’re freezing!
4. Snuggle: Whether it’s with your loved one or your favorite pet, the body heat we share while we cuddle up keeps us warmer.
5. Exercise: Moderate exercise improves your circulation. Along with lifting your mood, more blood will reach your hands and feet and raise your body temperature
Keeping your home wam can be really challenging as the temperatures continue to plummet and the winter drags on.
Here are five low cost ways to make sure the heat stays in and goes to the rooms in your home that you’re using most often:
6. Double Check That Your Windows Are Tightly Shut: Undoubtedly,your windows have been closed for several months. Have you checked to be sure that they are latched? If the latch isn’t tight, you can use removable caulk or plastic to make sure the heat stays inside. If that feels like too much work, roll up a towel and use it to make it less drafty.
7. Make Sure Your Doors Are Draft Free: You can inexpensively install a door sweep which will keep the heat in. You could also use adraft stopper which is movable. In a pinch, you can roll up an old t-shirt and stuff it underneath the door to keep some of the cold air out.
8. Close off the Rooms You Don’t Use: You can close the doors and putmagnetic register vent covers on the vents you don’t use to cut your heating costs. There’s no sense heating rooms you don’t use.
9. Prevent heat loss from the floor: Rugs will keep your feet warm and also prevent the heat from escaping through the floors. Tile and wood floors are particularly susceptible to being very cold. Check to be sure your rugs aren’t covering any of your vents so that the heat flow is not blocked.
10. Bake: What a wonderful way to stay warm in the kitchen by baking your favorite things. It heats up the kitchen while it’s good for the soul! There’s nothing like a warm yummy pot roast to enjoy while staying cozy inside.
Resources to help you find assistance with weatherization services and utility bills:
- 2-1-1 is a “one stop shop” for finding resources that can help with heating fuel payment assistance, utility bill payment assistance, in addition to several other services.
- DTE Energy has a Low-Income Self Sufficiency Plan for low income eligible families. This program allows you to make affordable monthly payments based on your income. The remaining portion of your bill is paid monthly with your energy assistance funds.
- The Michigan Community Action Agency Association offers weatherization assistance in the form of the Michigan’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). WAP is a federally funded, low-income residential energy conservation program. The program provides free home energy conservation services to low-income Michigan homeowners and renters. These services reduce energy use and lower utility bills, thus creating more self-sufficient households. Community Action Agencies provide weatherization services statewide. Both homeowners and renters may apply, eligibility is based on federal poverty guidelines.
- The Department of Human Services offers a portal of Weatherization Operators listed by county to help you find the appropriate organization to contact for weatherization assistance. Resources are also offered for finding assistance with home heating credit.
- Michigan Gas Utilities offers a Winter Protection Plan that protects eligible senior and low-income customers from service shutoff and high utility bill payments during the winter months (November 1 through March 31). You may enroll in the Winter Protection Plan anytime between November 1 and March 31.
Char Brooks is a Hotline Attorney at Elder Law of Michigan and a regular contributor to this blog.