Every year, about 20,000 more people aged over 65 die in the winter months compared to at other times of the year. As we get older, it’s no secret that our bodies respond differently to the cold and that this can leave us more vulnerable to the elements. Keeping warm both inside and outside your home can dramatically reduce your risk of serious health problems that are more likely to occur during the colder months, such as chest infections, heart attacks and strokes.
In the 2017/2018 winter period, the UK saw the worst flu outbreak since 2010/2011, and the intense cold snap in late February and early March resulted in the most challenging days for A&E. As well as this, compared to the previous year, 400,000 more people called NHS 111, too.
However, there are several ways you can help with the care of your elderly this winter and to minimise the impact on the NHS.
KEEP HEALTH IN CHECK
All people aged over 65 are eligible for a free flu jab under the NHS. The vaccine greatly reduces the chances of contracting the virus and developing further complications, especially more likely in seniors, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
When visiting your elderly relatives, it’s also important to look out for any signs of illness. Do they seem drowsy? Have they got a hacking cough? Are they experiencing severe aches and decreased mobility? These are all signs that they could have a health problem more prevalent and riskier during the winter.
STAY WARM THIS WINTER
Older people take longer to get warm than younger people, and lose heat more rapidly. They are also more likely to be less active than their younger counterparts and thus it is easy for them to get cold fast without realising it.
Even if it isn’t a severe winter, it’s still important to keep warm indoors and out. The home should be kept at least 18C with 21C recommended for your main living room. They should be wearing enough clothing to keep warm, including overnight, too. Ensure that they are in warm, dry clothes and have a woolly hat to hand should their body temperature dip – a lot of heat is lost through the head.
A hot water bottle can also prove especially useful for those who are less mobile.
If you’re heading outside during the winter, remember to keep your feet warm and choose boots with non-slip soles to minimise the risk of a fall. Several thin layers of clothing will keep you warmer than one thick layer, as well as wrapping a scarf around your face when you go out in the cold weather - this helps to warm up the air you breathe in and minimise the risk of chest infections whilst increasing blood pressure.
FIGHT FEELINGS OF LONELINESS
As well as keeping warm and staying healthy, wellbeing can be especially important during the colder, darker months. Research by Age UK revealed that every month more than one million elderly people don’t get to speak to family, a friend of a neighbour. Popping in on your elderly relatives for a cup of tea and a chat or making the time to regularly call them can make a huge impact on their wellbeing and helping to fight feelings of loneliness. If they can and it’s not too cold, you can suggest a short walk in the middle of the day to go outside whilst there is still daylight.
If those you care for do struggle to get around during the winter months, we have a variety of walking aids to help keep them mobile and active. We work towards bringing products and solutions that are fit for purpose and promote independent living as part of everyday life.
Call the AGA team to find out more about our specialist solutions for every individual who has mobility or disability requirements: 01449 720809