Months of cold freezing temperatures can have a significant impact on the welfare and safety of vulnerable and elderly individuals. Each year we see reports and shocking statistics in the news of harsh weather conditions that leave some in severe difficulties.
Last year for example, national newspapers were highlighting the fact that fuel poverty and the effects of cold temperatures were affecting the elderly in particular with millions of pensioners very concerned that they wouldn’t be able to keep warm during the coldest months (Source: Daily Express).
Being cold can have detrimental effects on a person’s health and be the cause of tightening muscles and loss of dexterity and strength, which can lead to accidents, arthritis, depression, chest infections, pneumonia and even strokes or heart attacks.
In light of the UK’s strongest El Niño – anticipated to bring the longest and snowiest winter since 1950 (Source: The Telegraph) – and to help you, your dear friends and your loved ones Welbeing would like to offer some top tips for the impending cold months ahead:
Prepare for winter
- Have heating systems professionally serviced and chimneys swept (ensuring there’s adequate ventilation for wood and coal burning stoves) and electric blankets tested and serviced at least once every three years. Contact your local council’s trading standards office to find out about electric blanket testing dates near you.
- Check water pipes and know where the main stopcock is should it need turning off to avoid freezing and potentially cracked pipes.
- Clear gutters and drainage areas during persistent wet weather to avoid the risk of falling on icy patches.
- Test smoke alarms every week as well as audible carbon monoxide alarms in rooms with gas appliances.
- Install a personal alarm in case you feel quite unwell or have an accident or fall and can’t reach a telephone.
- Spread grit and sand, salt or cat litter across paths and entrance ways to avoid slipping when freezing temperatures or snow is on the way.
- Charge your laptop, tablet and/or mobile phone every other day and keep a torch, spare batteries and a battery operated radio in an easily accessible place should there be a power cut.
- Keep a list of contact numbers of family, friends, neighbours, utility companies and emergency services by your phone and stuck on your fridge in case you have an accident or your gas or electric cuts out.
- Sign up for free flood warnings from Floodline via their website here if you live in an area prone to flooding.
Get the right support
- You may be eligible for a free smoke alarm so ask your local fire service to check your home for fire safety. For more information about looking after your smoke alarms, visit the Fire Safety Advice Centre website here.
- If you don’t already have roof or cavity wall insulation, ask your energy supplier as to whether you are eligible for free installation and what other support they may be able to provide, such as Priority Services Register.
- Financial support for heating bills is available from the government, such as Winter Fuel Payments or Warm Home Discounts. To find out what you may claim, visit the Citizens Advice website for more information here and the Energy Companies Obligation scheme website here.
- Keep your pets warm and away from draughts. For dog owners worried about going out for a walk, please contact The Cinnamon Trust or People & Pets Advocates (www.cinnamon.org.uk or www.papas.org.uk) who may have a volunteer nearby to help out.
- Be aware of weather conditions by keeping up to date via forecasts on the radio, on TV news channels, in your local newspapers and online via www.accuweather.com.
- Another funding resource worth applying for is the Surviving Winter campaign run by UK Community Foundations. Visit their website here to find your nearest foundation.
- If you have steps at the front or back door please consider having a grab rail fitted.
- Keep in touch with neighbours, social groups, friends and family as much as possible and tell them if you are stranded at home in severe weather.
Keep well and warm
- Protect against chilblains and skin infections by keep heating temperatures stable and set at 64-70ºF (18-21ºC) for living rooms, 64°F (18°C) for bedrooms and 61ºF (16ºC) throughout the rest of the house. Draught proof doors and windows, making sure that windows and curtains are shut tight at night as breathing in cold air can lower body temperatures and may raise the risk of an infection.
- Dressing in thermals and long layers is key when at home and especially when going outside. Wear your warmest socks and shoes or boots with non-slip soles and don’t forget to keep your hands, neck and head wrapped up warm to. When sitting keep your feet up and get cosy with a blanket or shawl.
- When in bed wear thermal clothing and socks and use either an electric blanket or hot water bottle, but never both at the same time for safety reasons. Have a hot drink before going to bed and keep one in a flask should you wake up thirsty in the night.
- Drink plenty of water and eat well with at least one hot meal every day. Keep your freezer and cupboards stocked with a variety of easy to store fresh groceries and healthy tinned food like soups, fish, fruit, bread, cereals, frozen vegetables, ready meals, etc. Consider having your groceries delivered straight to your door via online shopping with supermarkets like Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Tesco, Asda and Ocado.
- Ensure that repeat prescriptions are ordered in advance and support your immune system with a flu jab (and a ‘pneumo’ jab for over 65 year olds) from your GP, supplementary health boosting vitamins and ear, nose and throat remedies when needed. Furthermore, your local pharmacy may be able to offer a prescription collection and delivery service, for example like Kamsons Pharmacy does – click here to order yours now. Always seek advice from your GP if you have an infection or illness.
- To prevent infections and viruses spreading use tissues once and ensure that hands are washed regularly with soap and water, and that handled and work surfaces are wiped clean after use (door handles, kitchen tops, telephone, computer keyboard, etc.).
- When temperatures are mild and when possible do visit local community groups or invite friends to your home for a chat and cup of tea. Ask family members and close friends or neighbours to pop by or call you more frequently via phone or Skype so you may feel less isolated when severe weather prevents visits.
- Try to stay active and keep spirits up by going for a walk or visiting your local library in non-freezing weather during the day or taking part in social and exercise programs at your local leisure and community centres. Take a look at the Royal Voluntary Service website here to find transport services near you. Stopping smoking will also significantly help your overall health and wellbeing.
- If you’re not able to leave your home due to bad weather conditions then try not to sit still for more than an hour and consider gentle sitting or standing aerobic, yoga or Tai Chi regimes from the comfort of your living room. Visit Exercise for the Elderly website or Disabled Information from the Disabled website for more information.
Many accidents and tragic winter losses can easily be prevented amongst vulnerable, elderly and pregnant people with the right support and winter preparation. However, in this day and age not everyone knows everyone in their neighbourhood. So, as a member of your local community and a neighbour, please report any unusual behaviour or lack of activity that you spot, such as mail stuck in letterboxes, milk bottles being left out or curtains drawn all day, as these may be a sign that someone is in need of help. In such instances, please knock on the person’s door and call the emergency services.
To help keep vulnerable and elderly people safe this winter, we offer a vast range of safety and healthcare solutions including smoke, gas and flood detectors, pendants, sensors, alarms and more for individuals who live independently in the comfort and warmth of their own home.
For further information, please call our friendly team in Eastbourne on 01323 644422 or email us.