Looking Out for Elderly Neighbours in Cold Weather
The last few winters in the UK have been particularly cold, and while we all shiver and turn up the heating, we should also spare a thought for some of the more vulnerable members of the neighbourhood – elderly people.
When it gets colder outside, it tends to spur us on to look out for those in need, and it’s really important to make sure that your elderly neighbours are OK when temperatures start to drop, especially those who are house-bound, or who may not have family to pay them regular visits. It’s estimated that more than a million elderly people will spend winter alone in the UK.
It’s particularly important to Look Out For Elderly Neighbours if you live in a rural neighbourhood where access to amenities, shops and services could be limited or cut off to those who find it hard to walk, or drive.
Loneliness can KillIt’s not just the obvious things such as heating and food that people feel in need of when the weather becomes inclement. If elderly people rely on visits from friends, family or even services such as meals on wheels, bad weather can restrict the amount of company they get, and conditions may make it difficult or impossible for elderly neighbours to see anyone. So, if you know a neighbour lives alone, make a point of popping in and seeing if they need anything. You might find that they need a little company, and knowing that someone cares can really make all the difference. If they know you are nearby and can be called on in an emergency, it really can make a great deal of difference.
Who to ContactSome elderly people resist help from neighbours, seeing them as ‘strangers’, or simply because they feel too proud to accept help. If this is the case and you have concerns about an elderly neighbour, don’t be afraid to contact your local social services team and ask for someone to visit. They may already have home help or a carer that calls in, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you haven’t seen an elderly neighbour for a while and the weather has been bad, it doesn’t hurt to call round and make sure that everything is OK. Reporting any concerns may seem a little over the top, but in some cases could save someone’s life.
If you pay an elderly neighbour a visit and find them a little confused, or not their usual self, it could be that the cold is affecting them so call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 for medical advice if necessary.
Ways to Help your Elderly Neighbours in Cold WeatherIf you’re visiting an elderly neighbour and their house feels cold, make sure that they have a blanket or rug they can use to keep warm if they are frightened of using too much fuel. If not, try to encourage them to wear a dressing gown, or a ‘slanket’ style all-in-one to keep warm while they are sitting around the house.
Be a good neighbour and clear their paths. Many older people are very frightened about walking on icy pavements – after all, it’s hard enough for the younger generation. You could also ask if they have enough milk, bread and supplies to last them.
Make sure that they have adequate heating, and if necessary see if you can source or lend them a portable heater for when the weather is really cold.
Find out if they need regular medication, and if they have enough supplies to last a cold snap. Offer to pick up prescriptions if necessary, or make arrangements with a local pharmacy.