It’s a sad fact, but more people aged over 65 die in the winter months than at other times of the year. Whether it’s COVID-19 or something else, elderly people are simply more vulnerable to infection. This is because the cold weather weakens the immune system and increases the risk of catching flu and serious colds. Poor weather conditions can also contribute to cases of hypothermia, breathing problems and cardiovascular conditions such as heart attacks.
But, there are lots of ways we can take care of our elderly friends and relatives during the colder months to reduce their chances of getting ill. We've pulled together a short guide on things you can do to look after the elderly this winter.
Make time to visit an elderly neighbour
By going to see your elderly friends or relatives often, you'll be able to spot signs of ill health, and help get the right medical care quickly, too.
Look out for any signs of illness. Do they seem drowsy? Is their home cold, but they don't seem to notice? Have they got a bad cough? These are all signs that they may have some kind of of health problem (including complications such as bronchitis or pneumonia) that can be especially risky in winter.
Keeping warm in the winter
Older people take longer to warm up than younger people, and they tend to lose heat more quickly, too. This is because they tend to be less active, so it's easy for them to get cold without realising. That's why it's important to keep them warm.
You can help by:
- Making sure their home is kept at a temperature of at least 18 degrees celcius.
- Provide hot water bottles when they're sitting down for long periods of time.
- Check they're in warm, dry clothes. A lot of heat is lost through the head so a woolly hat will help.
Be careful to not rub an elderly person's body or use heat pads on their skin because it will open up blood vessels near the skin's surface. They can lose a lot of heat very quickly this way. And, as they become colder, they're more likely to suffer severe hypothermia. Losing body heat quickly can also lead to heart attacks and other health complications.
Help with the chores
Quite often, older people are reluctant to ask for help. They'll continue to struggle, even when things are getting too much. This can lead to them restricting their lifestyle as they might worry about being unable to cope, which could lead to them becoming isolated and depressed.
If you know an elderly person who lives alone or has poor health, ask if you can do something for them this winter. Sometimes something as simple as picking up prescriptions, helping with shopping or putting out the rubbish is enough. Not only will you be doing something practical to make their life easier, but they'll know that someone is looking out for them.
A friendly chat can go a long way
Caring for the elderly doesn't need to involve much effort at all. Older people don't always need practical help, but many would like someone to talk to. So, make sure you check in with them-even if circumstances mean you have to hold off on that cup of tea, take the time to call and ask how they are. The important thing is just to be there and listen.
Winter can be a tough time for many people, but older people often struggle the most during this season. Everyone can help with taking care of the elderly.
It's important to keep up to date with the latest Covid-19 guidance (link will open in a new window).
Age UK offers great advice for those who lend a hand, even if it's only the odd shopping run (link will open in a new window).