How to give a little bit of extra help and advice to older friends, family and neighbours this winter

Care workers can make a difference to elderly people living on their own.
Care workers can make a difference to elderly people living on their own.

WInter can be a difficult time for older friends, relatives and neighbours, especially those on their own.

But we can all do our bit to help by ensuring they are keeping warm, having regular meals and hot drinks, and moving about to keep fit and healthy, body and mind.

Pop in for a chat now and then, to provide a bit of company and help prevent isolation. Staying connected is something older people themselves have highlighted as important.

Mears Care which provides care at home to more than 3500 older and less able people across Scotland to enable them to live independently in their own homes for most of their lives, has produced a series of tips which may help you to support someone you know as it gets colder.

Kayleigh Wilson, service manager for Mears Care Fife, said: “Our team of care workers work diligently all year round ensuring safe and happy lives for older and less able people living independently in their own homes.

“But at this time of year, we would encourage everyone to look out for neighbours and those less able, who may be living alone.

“Ensure they have enough food supplies if getting out becomes more difficult with bad winter weather. Staying connected with other people is also very important for all of us. Many would appreciate a bit of extra help or a bit of company.

“Community support is even more important in the shorter days of daylight we experience through Scottish winters.

“Isolation can be a factor for many people – of all ages. Some regular activities go on hold over the holiday period which can make some people feel even more isolated.”

How to give a little bit of extra help and advice for older friends, family and neighbours.

1. Keep your body warm this winter

It’s very important to stay warm. Encourage friends and older family members to wear clothing in layers, trapping air in layers will keep you warmer. Cotton, wool and fleecy materials are best. When it’s really chilly, wear a hat and scarf indoors too. Think about bed socks and a bed jacket at night in bed to be extra cosy. If your body temperature drops too far you might end up suffering from hypothermia which can be dangerous

2. Just heat your main living area

If it’s hard to heat the whole house, heat just one room that you are mainly living in, plus your bedroom for a short while before bed. Close bedroom windows to keep warm through the night. The best room temperature to aim for is 18 – 21 degrees C. Close off the rooms you are not living in, keep their doors shut. And as soon as it gets dark, close curtains and blinds to help keep the rooms warmer. Some people may be eligible for help with winter heating bills from their

local council.

3. Give a little bit of extra help to those suffering with dementia

Older people with dementia are particularly at risk during very cold spells. They might not be able to communicate that they are feeling the cold. They may struggle to operate the heating system, or to put it on.

4. Eat regularly and drink warm drinks

Very cold temperatures can also cause the brain to become confused. It’s important to eat regular meals and hot drinks regularly throughout the day to keep body temperature up.

5. Keep active to stay warm

Walk around the house – get up and move every hour if you can just for a little bit.

6. Restrict alcohol consumption

Alcohol can make you lose body heat.

7. Be prepared

Make sure you have a torch handy in a place you can always find it, with working batteries in case of a power cut, and spare batteries handy too. If there is a power cut for a lengthy period, can you go and stay with friends or family? Have emergency numbers close to hand, by the phone if there is a power cut and make sure you have essential supplies in the cupboards at this time of year in case you can’t get out easily to stock up.

8. Keep your pecker up!

Daylight is good for our moods, especially in the darker days of winter – so it’s good to go for a walk, even 15 minutes to get out in the daylight, if you are able. Watch out for wind chill, which can reduce body heat very quickly, so wrap up warmly with hat and scarf and gloves. And if your clothes get damp or wet change them as soon as you get in, as wet clothes will also reduce your body heat very quickly. Dark days of winter, shorter days in the UK, can make some of us suffer a kind of depression known as SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – so going out for that walk can help in several ways – moving, being active, can cheer us up as well as the daylight.

9. Keep in touch with friends and relatives

In these dark days it’s important to stay connected with other people – phone a friend, send an email or use social media to keep in touch regularly with friends and family. Mears Belhaven Day Care centre has a natter table in its café where folks can share stories, have a moan or just simply catch up and the older people who use the café have found that’s a great way to keep happy.

10. Keep pathways clear and safe

When it’s frozen paths can be slippy and dangerous for older people or those less mobile. Help keep paths clear with salt and clearing snow. Being stuck at home alone can be very lonely for some. Could you run an errand, go shopping for

an older friend or relative who is struggling to get out in bad weather? Important that they are properly stocked up with the food they need to keep them warm and healthy.