6 tips for helping the elderly stay warm in winter

Winter can be a challenging season for many older adults. Colder weather, icy roads and seasonal illnesses such as the flu present greater risks to our health as we age. As we get older, the body’s ability to regulate its own temperature is reduced, placing older adults at greater risk for cold-related health problems and illnesses.

With this in mind, we’re sharing some tips on how you can help your older family or friends stay safe and warm during the cold, winter months.

THE DANGERS OF COLD WEATHER FOR OLDER ADULTS

Compared to younger people, older adults are more susceptible to feeling cold (and hot). As we age, our metabolic rate naturally decreases, which lowers the amount of heat the body can produce. This places older people at greater risk for several cold-related health conditions such as pneumonia and hypothermia.

There are several factors that make older people particularly vulnerable to the cold, including:

  • Our body’s ability to naturally regulate its temperature is reduced as we age.
  • Older adults who have chronic illnesses and take multiple medications may be more susceptible to the cold.
  • Inadequate nutrition can make older individuals more vulnerable to the cold.
  • Some older adults may not drink enough water and can become dehydrated even during the winter.
  • Some people choose to heat their homes less to save on heating costs, which can increase their risk of cold-related health problems.

If a person’s body temperature drops below the normal 35°C, they may experience hypothermia. This can increase the risk of heart disease and damage the kidneys or liver, particularly if they have a history of low body temperature or have experienced hypothermia in the past.

If your loved one ever starts to feel unwell due to the cold, it is important to seek help right away. Contact your loved one’s GP or pharmacist or call the NHS helpline – 111. Don’t wait until their condition worsens to take action.

HOW TO HELP OLDER ADULTS STAY WARM DURING WINTER

ENSURE THEY DRESS FOR COLD WEATHER

In the winter months, it’s important for older adults to dress appropriately for the cold weather to help them stay warm and comfortable. Make sure your loved ones are sufficiently dressed by ensuring they have a warm coat, a fleece or wool sweater and sturdy boots. Remember, much of our body heat escapes through our heads and necks, so don’t forget to add a cosy scarf and hat.

Rather than relying on one thick layer to keep warm, it’s more effective to wear multiple layers. The warm air becomes trapped between the layers and acts as insulation. Consider layering thermal underwear or long-sleeved cotton shirts under a cosy fleece or sweater.

Slips and falls are common during wintertime. You can help your loved ones stay safe by ensuring they have comfortable and safe winter footwear with plenty of grip. If your loved one enjoys spending time outdoors, you may also want to consider ensuring their footwear is waterproof.

Remind your loved ones to change out of any damp or wet clothing right away. You may also want to keep an eye on the weather and encourage your loved ones to stay indoors during particularly cold or windy days.

ENCOURAGE THEM TO GET THE FLU JAB

Flu vaccines are an easy and effective way for older people to avoid getting the flu during autumn and winter. Since the flu virus changes every year, it’s important to renew the flu jab annually. While the flu is already an unpleasant illness, it can also lead to serious health conditions like pneumonia.

The NHS offers free flu vaccines to some people aged 50 or over. Have your loved one visit their GP or local pharmacy to get their routine vaccine.

In addition to the annual flu vaccination, it is recommended that people over 65 receive a one-time pneumococcal vaccination. This vaccine can prevent pneumonia, meningitis and septicemia.

HELP THEM TO STAY WARM AT HOME

Cold temperatures can be dangerous for older adults even in their own homes. Many people are unaware that you can get hypothermia even indoors.

Here are some tips for helping your loved ones keep warm inside their home:

  • Keep the home adequately heated with a minimum temperature between 20°C to 21°C
  • Ensure the boiler has been serviced before winter and that radiators are in good working order
  • Reseal doors and windows to prevent drafts
  • Open curtains while the sun is out and close them before nightfall
  • Electric blankets and warm water bottles can provide heat and comfort during the night
  • Cover cold floors with rugs and ensure your loved one has a pair of warm slippers
  • Shut doors to any unused areas to keep heat in priority areas of the home
HELP WITH HEATING COSTS

Many people are concerned about the cost of heating their homes but there are some government payments available to assist.

Individuals born before September 26, 1953, may be eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment. This is a tax-free payment between £150 and £300 paid out during November and December to help with heating costs.

If the person has received this payment before, they should receive it automatically. If you believe your loved one is eligible but they have not received their first payment, contact the Winter Fuel Payment Centre.

Other payments that can help cover the cost of heating include the Cold Weather Payment, the Warm Home Discount and help from your local council’s Household Support Fund.

It can also be advantageous to switch providers for better deals. Many people are reluctant to switch utilities or other suppliers, but doing so can be highly beneficial and help reduce heating costs.

CHECK THAT THEY ARE EATING WELL AND STAYING HYDRATED

To help fuel the body’s natural thermostat, it’s important to maintain a hearty diet and stay well-hydrated. Encourage your loved ones to consume regular, nutritious meals rich in carbohydrates, which can provide the body with the energy it needs to keep warm. In particular, incorporating warming foods like soups, stews, and curries can help boost their internal body heat and keep them warm from the inside out.

Staying hydrated is also crucial for retaining warmth, so ensure your loved one drinks plenty of water and avoids excessive alcohol consumption. Winter’s dry air temperatures, coupled with excessive alcohol consumption, can lead to dehydration and trigger heat loss, particularly in older individuals.

CONSIDER PROFESSIONAL HELP

If your loved one could use a helping hand to continue living independently during the winter months, our competent and compassionate carers are here to help.

For over 75 years, Prestige Nursing & Care has provided bespoke and highly-personalised home care designed to empower people to continue living safely and independently in their own homes, for all of life.

Our regulated and fully-managed home care service can be provided as hourly care, 24-hour care or live-in care, enabling your loved ones to enjoy a fulfilled life. We can ensure your loved one stays warm and well during the winter months while still enjoying all their favourite hobbies and activities that make life meaningful.

Find out why our clients choose Prestige Nursing & Care for a high-quality, responsive home care service.

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We are here to take your call and will provide impartial support and guidance – contact our friendly care experts today to discuss your care needs.


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