Last week’s blog talked about the danger of Code Blue weather and preventing hypothermia in extreme cold. Hypothermia means that a person’s body temperature has fallen below 95 degrees and is unable to produce enough energy to stay warm. Seniors are at special risk for developing hypothermia because they can lose body heat fairly quickly. Hypothermia, however, is not the only threat that seniors need to be aware of during the cold winter months.

For instance, many people, including seniors, opt to use portable space heaters to stay warm during the winter. While these heaters are excellent for heating small spaces in the winter, they also come with the increased risk of being fire hazards. It is estimated that portable electric heaters are involved in approximately 1,200 fires per year. Due to the dangers of portable heaters, it is important to be careful if you decide to use them.

Here are some tips to stay safe when using a space heater to keep warm this winter.

  • Never leave the heater on while unattended, or while asleep.
  • Keep combustible material such as beds, sofas, curtains, papers, and clothes at least 3 feet from the front, sides, and rear of the heater.
  • Never plug the heater into an extension cord or power strip.
  • Do not place an electric space heater in a place where it can easily get wet.
  • Make sure that the heater is placed on a stable, level surface, and located where it will not be knocked over.
  • Never place an electric space heater on top of a piece of furniture, such as a table or a sofa. In addition to the furniture being flammable, it is also easier for a heater to be knocked over when placed on an elevated surface.

The easiest way to safely heat your home is by using your home’s pre-installed heating system. Some seniors may be reluctant to turn on the furnace for fear of a high energy bill, but Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services may be able to help. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps families living on low incomes pay their heating bills in the form of a cash grant. LIHEAP grants are one-time payments sent directly to the utility company/fuel provider to be credited toward your bill. These grants range from $200 to $1,000 based on household size, income, and fuel type, and because this is a grant, it does not need to be repaid. For more information about LIHEAP, please visit https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Assistance/Pages/LIHEAP.aspx

Hands From The Heart is Pennsylvania’s premier home care agency. We provide non-medical home health care services to seniors and adults with physical disabilities, enabling those in need to continue to live in the comfort of their own home. If you believe that you or a loved one is in need of home care services, please visit our website at http://www.handsfromtheheart.org/or give us a call at (484)-270-4501 to learn more about how we can help.

We encourage you to stay warm and safe this winter and remember, Hands From The Heart is here when you need us.