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Protecting the elderly during the cold, winter months

With cold temperatures and lots of snow falling in Central New York, doctors say seniors and elderly are more at risk in this extreme weather.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- With cold temperatures and lots of snow falling in CNY, doctors say seniors and elderly are more at risk in this extreme weather.

Andrea Perretta took care of her 90-year-old father for years. He had dementia, and she says keeping him safe and warm was a tough job.

"It's frightening because they can't go out, they don't realize they can't go out, it's slippery, it's icy. It's like having a 4-year-old whose never going to be five," said Andrea Perretta.

While everyone is certainly feeling the cold, some say the winter months are the hardest for the senior community.

Family members and even doctors say concerns double when it comes to seniors walking outside, slipping and falling on snowy sidewalks and ramps, or just wandering away from their homes.

"You simply don't know what they're going to do, or why they're going to fall, they forget to put one foot in front of the other, they forget to use their cane," says Perretta.

"People with dementia might wander outside in the summer and it's not a big deal. With these cold temperatures, that can be very serious," says Dr. Jeremy Joslin, Upstate University Hospital emergency physician.

Dr. Joslin says those with memory loss aren't the only people we should be worried about.

"Kids as well...they fall into the class of people that can't take care of themselves as well as they need to. Keep a special eye on kids. I've seen kids with frost-bite and hypothermia in these types of temperatures," says Dr. Joslin.

When the wind chill reaches 10 to 20 below like its been recently, Dr. Joslin says you can get frost-bite within just 15 minutes.

"If the skin starts to hurt or burn, that can be a warning sign and then it can actually go numb," says Dr. Joslin.

Dr. Joslin says don't be afraid of the cold. Just know your limits, bundle up, and be aware.
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