Our partners at Helping Hands provide their expert tips on how to help elderly loved ones get through the winter.
It's well known that as we grow older, our immune systems become weaker, leaving us more vulnerable to developing colds, flu and pneumonia. However, there are some simple things you can do to prepare and support your elderly loved ones during the winter months to keep them warm and healthy.
Free flu vaccinations
For those over the age of 65 or living with an underlying health condition, the NHS offer free annual flu vaccinations to protect against the potential complications of flu. To find out more, it's best to contact your local GP.
Hot food and drinks help us to keep warm. So, try to ensure loved ones eat at least one hot meal a day and have regular hot drinks. It's important to make sure that they eat enough so that they don't become underweight, as this makes it more difficult for the body to keep warm and fight off infections.
Breathing in cold air increases the risk of chest infections, so remind your elderly loved ones to wrap up warm when they head out and to wear a scarf around their neck and mouth. This ensures that the air breathed in is warm. It's better to wear several layers of clothes rather than one chunky layer; clothes made from cotton, wool or fleece fibres are great for maintaining body heat.
It's a good idea to keep the main living room in the house heated to around 21°C/70°F, and the rest of the home heated to at least 18°C/64°F. If there are worries about heating costs, it may be possible to claim financial and practical help from subsidies such as the Winter Fuel Payment and the Cold Weather Payment. Find out more about heating benefits.
When it comes to a healthy lifestyle, keeping active is key; and it becomes even more important in the colder months as it helps with blood flow, which regulates the body temperature. Even moderate exercise such as light housework, a walk and stretches can help keep your loved ones warm.
Winter makes it harder to get out and about and it's easy for the elderly or frail to become isolated, so it's important to help them keep to their usual routine as much as possible. If it's not possible to visit, try video calling or even just a call. Carers can help too; whether that's support with going out to see family or a friendly face to pop in for a cup of tea and a chat.
As the temperature drops, the risk of falling increases due to the wet and cold weather, falling leaves and potentially ice and snow. A fall which a child or young adult might bounce right back from may lead to more significant injuries in an older adult, as well as a great loss of confidence. Here are a few simple tips to help prevent accidents...
Remove any trip hazards around the outside of the home and grit or salt the pathway to reduce the chances of slipping.
The right shoes
Encourage your elders to wear shoes with a strong grip to protect against slipping on an icy surface; shoes with thick rubber soles are a great for this.
If your loved one is less steady - and less confident - on their feet in the colder weather, it might be worth considering a mobility aid such as a walking stick or frame to help with their balance.
Encourage your elders to avoid walking with their hands in their pockets or overloading with bags. Keeping their arms free is key in case they need to react quickly to regain balance while out walking. Gloves with textured fingers and palms can also be good protection for hands.
Doing simple strength and stability exercises at home is fantastic for improving balance; there are a number of simple stretches and poses that can help keep ageing bodies in good condition. Check out the NHS recommendations here.