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Interview: Keeping The Elderly and Vulnerable Safe This Winter

We interviewed Alison Hetherington, who specialises in wellbeing work in the Carnforth area of North Lancashire, on how best to keep the Elderly and Vulnerable safe this winter.

Taking averages from the last 130 years, February 13th-20th is the coldest week of the year. Do you have any advice on keeping the elderly and vulnerable keep warm this winter?

Take advantage of any affordable warmth schemes offered locally, the CAB have specialist advisors that can look at bills and suppliers to ensure the most affordable tariff being used. Also the HIA will look at a grant for a new boiler.

Winter brings with it lots of colds and bugs. Is there anything you recommend to help maintain good health this season?

Make sure you’re eating well; plenty of veggies and fruit to keep up the vitamin C levels, which will help support the immune system. If you get a cold, stay warm and well hydrated.

From your experience, what is the greatest danger Winter brings to the elderly and/or vulnerable?

Not being able to get out. ‘The weather is cited as the most common reason that people will not get out for a walk. If someone is at risk of falls, then they will naturally avoid putting themselves at risk by going out on a cold, wet, windy or icy day.

Mental health is as important as physical health. It is often difficult in the colder months to get out and socialise. Do you have any advice on how to maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle?

There are groups and luncheons clubs running in most areas run by the parish council or local charities. Take advantage of these, it’s a great way to stay in touch with and meet people from your community. Once you have established yourself in the group the leader will recognise when you’re not there and often give you a little phone call to just check you’re ok. This is a great comfort to isolated people. The trick is to access these groups in the first place; if you feel reluctant to go along for the first time then the wellbeing service could offer to go along with you.

The cold weather often brings frost and slippery pavements. How would you avoid slips and falls?

If you’ve had experience of falls then if would be wise to avoid the very icy days. Think about other hazards and how you avoid them. Perhaps the HIA could come and complete an assessment in and around your home, looking at grab rails to make the stairs easier and offer advice of how to keep your home safe of trip hazards.

Any other tips or advice you’d give in order to keep the elderly and vulnerable safe?

Find out about and access as many activities in your area as you can, if you really can’t get out then join a telephone befriending service. Keep your network of contact and support up (groups, phone calls to friends and family). Consider offering your support to others living on your street or immediate neighbourhood. There are often two or more lonely and isolated people living in the same street, but they just don’t know it. Make a point of getting to know your neighbours.

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