On December 26, Dusty Bellinger warned his mom to stay inside. Temperatures in Wheatfield, Indiana, had been freezing and it was icy out.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Bellinger said he had been staying with his mother, Marian, 71, until she could get medical care for a balance issue. Bellinger’s father, Charles Bellinger, had passed away two years ago from cancer. Aware of the dangerous conditions outside, Bellinger told his mother to stay indoors before leaving for work. She didn’t listen.
As he told the Chicago Tribune:
“I told her to not go outside because it was slick out. Apparently she wanted to take out the kitchen trash. She didn’t even put on her coat.”
When Bellinger arrived home from work the following day, he found his mother outside in the snow.
As the Chicago Tribune reports, Marian lost her balance, slipped, and fell face first into the snow. Bellinger’s mother had no intention of staying outside for long—but the decision cost her her life. Bellinger said:
“This was only a short trip outside. It looks like she had only meant to go outside and come right back in. But she never made it back. A freak accident took her life in the blink of an eye.”
According to Jasper County Coroner Andy Boersma, Marian died of hypothermia. Bellinger described the moment he found his mother:
“I ran to her, dropped to my knees, and tried to roll her over. That’s when I pulled my hands back. She was frozen solid, frozen to the ground.”
Police reportedly called the woman’s death tragic, as many deaths and injuries occur this time of year due to the inclement weather. Bellinger told the Chicago Tribune he wishes he could’ve done more to help his mother that day, which he believes may have prevented her death:
“I’m looking at all the things I could have done different. I could have taken out the trash before I left that day.”
He added that he shared his mother’s story to make sure the elderly have extra attention and support during harsh weather even if it’s for the “little things.” He said:
“All those little things that could potentially help them, you know. Making sure there’s someone to check on them on a regular basis, especially in this kind of weather.
Living here in Northwest Indiana, we kind of take it for granted when this kind of weather hits. I think we’re so used to it, just how dangerous it is. But there are people who don’t get looked in on or watched over during this time of year”
According to the National Institute on Aging, older people lose body heat faster, therefore, it’s important to pay attention to colder surroundings, as hypothermia is possible both inside and outdoors. The institute recommends elderly people stay inside on cold and windy days to avoid lowering the body’s temperature. The thermometer should be set no lower than 68 degrees.
Dr. Stanley Wang, a physician at Stanford Hospital, told Care.com falls due to slippery roads and sidewalks are common among the elderly during winter months. Wang said complications associated with injuries due to falling are the leading cause of death for men and women over the age of 65.
Care.com advises older people wear shoes with good traction and non-skid soles, and to take shoes off while indoors to prevent slipping from melted snow and ice that can accumulate on the bottom. Older people should stay inside until roads are clear, the website reports.
As for Bellinger, he stresses the importance of giving extra care to senior citizens during cold weather: “Nobody should have to find their mom, dad or loved one like I did. If sharing my story can open anyone’s eyes, or get people to be more cautious about their elderly loved ones, then it’s worth it.”