The winter season is in full swing, and across the country people are bundling up. Multiple layers and a warm winter coat are a must for anyone looking to survive the bitter cold.
Younger, more able-minded members of the population usually have the wherewithal to dress appropriately for the toughest season of the year.
But what seems like common sense can escape the elderly, sometimes to grave consequences. If their mental state has deteriorated to a certain extent, some senior citizens can quickly become disoriented in the freezing weather.
Brittney Edginton was driving home from work in Idaho when she saw an elderly woman out in the cold.
Edginton works as an in-home certified nursing assistant. She was on her way home when she decided to stop at a gas station to get something to drink. As she was pulling out, she noticed an elderly woman who was alone.
It was approximately 7:30 am, and the temperature was was in the teens at the time.
“I saw a little lady on the side of the street not wearing a coat, gloves, hat or any winter clothing,” Edginton told the Idaho State Journal.
“She was pushing her walker on the sidewalk but was getting ready to cross the street and was hitting the ice with her walker. She was pushing on it, but she couldn’t move anywhere.”
Edginton was immediately worried. She rolled down her window and asked the old woman where she was headed. The senior said she was going to Pocatello—but she was already there.
The elderly woman was 99 years old and not wearing any winter clothing. Edginton took her into her car while waiting for emergency services.
“She was shaking so bad her teeth were chattering,” Edgington said of 99-year-old Elsa Baker.
“When she couldn’t remember where she lived and could only give me her name and date of birth, and I found out she was almost 100-years-old, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ That’s when I put her in my car and called the police.”
Baker sat in Edginton’s car for 20 minutes with the heat blasting at full capacity, while swaddled in three blankets. Despite this, her temperature was still at a dangerous 94 degrees when first responders arrived.
Mild hypothermia sets in around 96 degrees, and the ideal body temperature is 98.6 degrees. Because of her age, Pocatello Fire Department Assistant Chief of Operations Travis Smith told the Idaho State Journal that Baker was likely hovering between moderate to severe hypothermia.
“Her skin was bright red, and it looked like she had been out there for a while,” Edginton said. “Emergency responders told me that if I wouldn’t have stopped she could have easily died.”
Baker couldn’t remember her address, but responders were able to find the address of her grandson, and Edginton drove her there.
Everything turned out well for Elsa Baker, but Smith warns not to expect a happy ending every time. He says that authorities should be contacted immediately if anyone sees an elderly person wandering around in the cold.
“We want to intervene because we can bring things to the table that ordinary citizens cannot,” Smith said.
“Somebody may be combative and may not want medical attention because the hypothermia has induced an altered mental status, but those should be clues that the person needs more significant medical care.”
Baker’s nephew, Rob Mowry, says she was only about 200 yards away from her home when she was spotted. “She seems to be doing fine now, but it could have been much, much worse.”