Stay safe in the winter with these safety tips for the elderly

Every winter, elderly people across the UK face illness and health complications due to problems associated with the cold weather.

The biggest problem for many elderly people is not managing to stay warm enough in their homes – but there are other issues that can affect their safety during the winter.

Here are some of the most important tips to keep in mind if you care for an elderly friend or relative to keep them comfortable during the coldest months of the year.

Ways you can ensure the elderly stay warm this winter

Keeping elderly people warm is the most important thing to do during the winter months. Head around to their home regularly and make sure their heating is in good working order and that they have blankets to hand. You might also need to help them to set their central heating timer to come on at the right times.

Some elderly people are worried about using too much energy, especially if they think they cannot afford it. Make sure they are getting their Winter Fuel Payment, which provides between £100 and £300 tax free to help pay for heating.

Also check whether they qualify for the Cold Weather Payment. This provides them with £25 for a period of seven days of cold weather between the start of November and the end of March.

Help to ensure your elderly relative gets out and about

Just because the weather is grim, you can still get out and about. In fact, staying in all the time can be boring, de-moralising and may even lead to further health issues such as depression.

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Unless the weather is really bad, help them to stay active by going for walks, accompanying them to the shops or popping out for lunch. Even just getting out into the garden can be enough. Activity is crucial for circulation and motivation.

Also consider helping them to go to the doctor, to their clubs or to see friends. You could walk with them or offer to take give them a lifts.

Wearing plenty of clothing is very important

Make sure the elderly wear appropriate clothing both inside and out. Help them to get dressed if you feel clothing might be inappropriate, this will be good interaction to have and act as a guide rather than a dictator on what to wear.  Remember layers are more effective because they can be taken off when it becomes too warm, and also regulate temperature when the body starts to cool down.

In some instances, an updated wardrobe might be in order.

Ensure a good diet of warming nutritious food

A good diet is always important, but it is even more important during the winter months. Regular meals for the elderly help to keep energy levels up, so make sure they get at least one hot meal a day. Provide plenty of warming style snacks to be taken with appropriate fruit, fibre in a diet assists with keeping warm. On top of a hot meal, during the day or for breakfasts small items such as wholemeal toast, fruit and veg (served as crudités), easy-open tins of soup, cuppa-soups, low-sugar cereal bars and some dried fruit are all good ways of keeping energy levels up and thus the energy to deal with the cold.

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Their care worker may also be able to help them cook a meal as well as assist with purchasing the snack items mentioned above. Your care worker will also be able to be a bit of company for your relative, prepare their meal as well as any needed for that day or the future meal times.

Avoid slips and falls during cold weather

Slips can be even more problematic in the winter due to the icy ground outside. Even minor falls can cause serious injuries in elderly people with subsequent complications.

Assist them on slippery surfaces, make sure they wear suitable footwear, and spread some grit on their pathways and their driveway during cold snaps.

Provide company during cold weather

Sometimes the weather will be too bad to go out, and dark short winter days can be lonely for elderly people on their own. Pay a visit and make sure they are OK. Spend some time together, even just watching TV or playing a game. If you cannot visit them as much as you want to, a care worker could provide the human company required to get through the winter.

Ensure the Car is in an appropriate condition to drive

If your elderly relative drives a car, offer to check it over for them. Make sure they are comfortable driving in wintery weather, and let them know that they do not have to drive if they are uncomfortable doing so.

Check the tyres for low pressure and wear-and-tear, check oil levels, antifreeze levels and wiper blades, ensure they carry a mobile phone with them when they go out driving so they can contact the emergency services or you if they need help.

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Importantly, ensure there is a first aid kit in the vehicle as well as a blanket, a small bottle of water and a snack should they break down in cold conditions.

Stay safe this winter

These are some of the most important things that you can do to keep your elderly friend or relative safe this winter. So make sure they stay warm, keep them company and stop the winter blues getting to them.