This winter an estimated 18514 old people will die from the cold weather. It is important for us as a community and as a nation to recognise the drastic effects winter is having on our older generation.
Here are the 7 things that can help to reduce that number:
1, Check on them regularly
Checking on the elderly only takes 5 minutes and could potentially save their lives. Some elderly people do not have regular contact from family and friends so a daily 5 minute visit doesn’t harm. If an old person has collapsed or even died then they wouldn’t have been found until someone visits them, which can be up to a month in some cases. Make sure you visit them regularly whether it is everyday, every other day or once a week.
2, Ask if they need any errands running
When it’s cold, old people tend to stay inside where they feel safe and warm. For this reason, it’s important to ask them if they need any errands running when you visit them. The errand could be as simple as going to the shop and getting them some milk and bread. Simple things like this can really help an elderly person.
3, Make sure they have their required medicine
In conjunction with running errands it’s important to check that the elderly have all the medication they need. Some of our older family members and neighbours rely on their medication to keep them healthy and strong so we need to make sure they have all the medicine they need.
When going into the local chemist make sure you take in the old person’s previous medication packets so they know exactly what medication they need. Whilst at the chemists you can also ask them to deliver future medication directly to the person’s home. Once you have explained the situation to them most chemists are more than happy to deliver it.
4, Check that their home is sufficiently heated
One of the biggest killers in winter is the cold weather itself. A large majority of elderly people’s homes aren’t heated to the recommended level, which could be down to incorrect temperature settings or a faulty heating system. As a result, the elderly tend to freeze to death either from collapsing or just not being warm enough.
When you visit your neighbours or family members make sure you check all the rooms in the house to make sure they are heated correctly. It is recommended that you heat their main room (typically the living room) to 21°C and subsequent rooms to 18°C.
If their heating isn’t working, make sure you get them wrapped up in warm clothing such as jumpers and dressing gowns. You can also put blankets over them. If they haven’t done so already call a heating company to come out and fix it for them. If they are entitled to certain benefits they should get this fixed for free.
5, Clean their home if it’s untidy
Old people, due to loneliness, tend to hoard materials such as clothes, CD’s, boxes and anything else they feel attached to. In most cases they have more items than they do space which can quite easily become a tripping hazard. The chance of tripping increases when it’s cold as we lose alertness and our muscles are less flexible. The combination of being cold and having a cluttered home has the potential to severely injure and sometimes even kill our older neighbour’s/family members.
If the person you’re helping is a hoarder it’s imperative that you clean their home so that they can move freely without tripping. Although they may put up resistance you need to make sure that you convey the importance of cleaning their home and that you’re actually trying to help them.
6, Evaluate their mental state
As we get older our mental state tends to decay; this becomes even more apparent in the cold weather. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a disorder that negatively affects us and is caused by our brain releasing chemicals as it gets cold.
In this colder climate if you notice that the person (people) you are checking on isn’t acting like themselves this could be down to the weather and you may need to provide them with help. The local council and NHS can send a carer out to their home if a family member is unable to provide help.
7, Clear their paths
Some old people are impatient and independent so they don’t like to sit around all day. If they are proactive and able to go outside it’s best if you clear their paths for them. Regular paths (the ones next to the roads) are typically gritted and salted by the council as it’s for public use; however, the paths on our property are private and are therefore not gritted. If the person wants to go out you should try to clear as much ice and snow off the path as possible and put down salt and grit to give them a better grip.
It’s recommended that old stay indoors during the colder weather but if they wish to go out it’s advised they use a mobility scooter so they don’t fall over.
To summarise: A lot of elderly people tend to be creatures of habit, so if you notice a change in behaviour it’s worth checking they are OK. If you haven’t seen them about for a few days, or you’ve noticed the curtains are still drawn after they would normally be, just knock on the door and see if they need any help with things such as: washing, cleaning and any other errands like picking up their medicine or getting them food. It is especially important to Look Out For Your Elderly Neighbours In Cold Weather as they are more vulnerable. If you think that your elderly neighbour might need medical help, see if you can contact a family member or even emergency services if there’s been a fall or they are ill.
If you think that your elderly neighbour might be struggling and could be in need of longer term help, the best thing to do is ask them how they are getting on. Although most people won’t admit they are in trouble, you may be able to judge this for yourself and if so, try contacting your local council and asking if there’s anyone who could visit. Your neighbours may be entitled to help with staying in their own home, home care and assistance with bills and benefits.
2 things not to do:
The worst thing you can do is to ignore your elderly neighbour or family member. Although they may appear to be fine they could be hiding any pain and trouble they’re in. If you ignore them, you could be responsible for them hurting themselves.
If you have any concerns and are unable to give them attention ring your local council and ask for someone to look after them.
Being impolite to old people can upset them greatly. Most old people are by themselves and have nobody to talk to so being rude and impolite can really alter their mental state.
Treat others like you’d want to be treated yourself, it’s a simple rule and applies to all people not just old people.