In winter time, it can be difficult to stay warm, especially for the elderly who often suffer from the cold and inactivity more than younger people. However, with nearly 120,000 Britons dying as a result of the cold weather over the past four years, it is vital that you help the elderly stay warm in winter and encourage mobility where possible.
Grainne McCarthy, Clinical Lead at Elder, an online platform providing high quality live-in care across the UK, provides her best tips.
1. Moving around
Even if your elderly relatives are at home and can’t really do much exercise, they shouldn’t sit still and get cold.
“They should aim to move around every hour at least, whether it is to get a cup of tea or a snack, or even better – doing some house chores if possible. Doing housework will help them stay active and warm, while also preparing the home for Christmas.”
2. Dressing warm
Whether the elderly are staying at home or going outside for a walk it is important that they are dressed properly.
“Outdoor clothes should allow for a thermal layer underneath, such as a top or leggings, while the outerwear should be lightweight and wind and waterproof. Additionally, while the core might be warm it is the extremities like hands and feet that get very cold, so make sure they always have warm gloves, socks, hats and scarves to stay warm.”
3. Warm feet
As mentioned above, the extremities get colder in the winter and this is especially true for the feet.
“When it comes to keeping your elderly relative warm in the cold months, make sure that when they are seating down that their feet are elevated, as the floor will be colder than the room temperature, unless they are heated. Choose their footwear wisely, so that the outdoor shoes will prevent them from slipping on ice, whereas indoor shoes don’t cause them to trip.”
4. Getting involved
Another way of helping the elderly to stay warm and active during the winter is to get them involved in their local community as much as possible.
“If they are able to, encourage them to help out at a local soup kitchen, provide some treats for a bake sale, or organise a charity event. Active volunteering opportunities will help them stay warm and active, while also expanding their social circle.”
5. Keeping the mind active
In the winter, it can be more difficult for the elderly to stick with their social engagements, especially if the roads are slippery or the cold is particularly biting.
“This is a good opportunity to keep their mind sharp in their free time – find an activity that they enjoy and suggest that they do it for at least an hour each day. This will keep their mind sharp and prevent them from boredom.”
6. Eating well
A great part of staying warm and active in the winter is making sure that your loved one is sticking to a good and healthy diet.
“Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables in the day will keep their energy levels up, allowing them to keep moving throughout the day. Similarly, eating at least one hot meal a day and drinking plenty of fluids are equally as important.”
Tip: adding a dash of ginger to tea will help to improve the blood circulation and promote warmth.
As it can get very cold in winter, you should make sure that your elderly friend or loved one’s home is properly functional.
“This involves servicing the heating system on a yearly basis to make sure that everything is in working order, keeping all ventilation in good working order, especially if there are gas or wood heaters. You should also make sure that they know the location of the water switches and can turn them easily, in case the pipes freeze.”
Last but not least, make sure that their home is fitted with a fire alarm.