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Food or heat? Local seniors face difficult decision during freezing weather

Seniors questioning food or heat during winter freezes.
Posted at 5:27 PM, Jan 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-16 18:27:46-05

WACO, Texas — Food or heat? It's a difficult decision that many older Central Texans face as freezing temperatures continue to linger.

Dr. Randy Hartman, Associate Medial Director for Baylor Scott and White Hillcrest Medical Center weighed in on the ethical dilemma.

“Their house temperatures go down to 50, 60 degrees very quickly, and because of lack of central heating and air or gas, propane, or the fact they don’t want to turn their heat on because of budget and money reasons, their homes will get cold," Dr. Hartman said.

"A lot of the hypothermia issues that we see are not really frostbite, but they’re elderly hypothermia.”

Dustin Rauch PT, DPT is with Caring Senior Service of Waco.

He says they serve the six counties around Waco and have about 25 clients.

“I’ve had one client say that they were going to cut down on their groceries to ensure that they could run their heater," Rauch said.

"Then we have to talk about, you don’t want to give up food for energy — which can be a whole separate set of issues."

Many seniors use a space heater to stay warm in the winter.

It’s recommended to keep extension cords out of walk ways and don’t tuck them under rugs.

"Then they might think 'Well it’s better for me to put it under a rug, so then I don’t trip on it', but if they’re in a wheelchair or walker going back and forth across that rug, it could compress the electrical cord then causing it to potentially have a short or get overpowered with a space heater," Rauch said.

For space heaters, it’s recommended to keep them at least three feet away from anything that might catch fire.

Also don’t forget about carbon monoxide poisoning — Rauch says open flames like the one in your chimney need a way to vent.

If you haven’t had your chimney inspected and cleaned in awhile, now might be the time to do it.

Rauch and his wife specialize in home safety assessments for seniors and offer them for free.

They can be reached at 254-277-2735 or at 1227 N Valley Mills Drive in Waco in Suite 233.