Winter is here, and with it the increased likelihood of a cold snap and freezing temperatures. We can all play our part to be good neighbours and help keep loved ones safe, warm and comfortable.
Getting older can leave us more vulnerable in the colder months as our bodies respond differently to temperature changes. When we start to feel cold, this usually triggers us to do something to warm up; adding more layers or turning up the heating. But if our body temperature drops below 37ºC, dangerous problems can arise, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, liver damage and even heart attacks. Hypothermia can set in if our core temperature drops below 35ºC. Left untreated, hypothermia shuts down the body’s heart and respiratory systems – a real risk in the winter, especially among older people.
Registered care manager Bailey Harrison says “We do see some people making decisions during the winter months which can have an adverse impact on their health & wellbeing. This includes turning the heating down, or off, to save money; not wearing the right clothing for the weather; or being unaware of the temperature drop outside.
“For people living with dementia, there can be extra challenges in the winter, such as forgetting how to operate the heating or fire, placing something too close to a fire so it becomes a risk, or leaving the house not properly wrapped up.” We thought we’d share some of our top tips…
1. If you have vulnerable members in your family or friendship circle, create a rota of people who can regularly call in to check your loved one is warm and safe. Check they have appropriate clothing. Check the cupboards are stocked with the right kind of food. Check room temperatures and make sure there are extra blankets to hand. Be ready to organise your loved one’s medication, so they don’t run out.
2. Diet and hydration is always important, but especially in winter. Encourage your loved ones to eat warming food such as stews and chunky soups and to keep hydrated with warm drinks. If they may be alone for long periods, why not invest in a flask to keep drinks warm for longer? Also, an offer to pop to the shops to refresh their groceries so they have plenty to eat and drink would be lovely.
3. Pop in to neighbours and loved ones for a quick “hello”. As well as alleviating loneliness, it allows you to check temperatures and to ensure there’s no fire hazard. It’s also worth investing in a carbon monoxide alarm, especially if you notice the heater is old.