Caring for the elderly in winter weather

As the temperature drops and we are getting closer to Christmas, here’s how you can help keep an eye on elderly neighbours and relatives over the period.

During the winter, elderly people are more susceptible to illnesses including colds, flu, breathing and cardiovascular problems as the cold weather suppresses the immune system.

These illnesses can be much more serious for vulnerable or frail people than younger, healthier people. Sadly, around 20,000 more people aged over 65 die in the winter months than at other times of the year.

As the winter freeze hits, keeping an eye on elderly relatives and neighbours can go the extra mile at this time of year. Here’s how you can lend a hand:

1. Pop round regularly

Visiting someone often makes it easier to spot any signs of illness, and get medical care quickly, especially if they live alone. Age UK says one million elderly people per month don’t regularly speak to family, friends or a neighbour, so at the very least dropping in for a cup of tea can provide companionship and help reduce depression.

2. Make sure their home is warm

Older people lose body heat more quickly and take longer to warm up than younger people. Try to make sure their home is at least 18°C, and encourage keeping doors between rooms closed to help retain heat. Other things you can do include providing them with a hot water bottle, a warm drink and a throw or blanket.

3. Pop to the shops

Simple errands can be a huge undertaking for elderly or frail people, especially if they are less mobile. Helping out with physical chores such as fetching shopping or putting the rubbish out can be a huge help, preventing fatigue, slips and trips, and overexposure to cold weather.

4. Prepare for the weather

Spending a few minutes clearing an elderly person’s walkways of snow and ice could make all the difference. When venturing outside in icy weather, shoes should have non-slip soles which aren’t worn through. You can also check for worn rubber tips on canes or walking frames.

5. Check their entitlements

Everyone over the age of 65 is eligible for a free NHS flu jab, which reduces the chances of contracting flu as well as complications including bronchitis and pneumonia. People born on or before 5 August 1953 are also entitled to a Winter Fuel Payment to help with heating bills.

It’s estimated, 10% of  Kent’s elderly population (over 65) are lonely all or most of the time. Let’s do what we can to make a difference.