Visiting is not just for Christmas

Winter has taken a while to reach us this year but the cold weather has definitely arrived! Winter can be a difficult time for all carers, particularly those who are elderly or care for an older or physically disabled person. Some older people and those they care for can find moving around very difficult and for some people any movement without help is impossible. It is this group of people who are at the highest risk in winter – not just from the cold itself, which can be devastating, but from isolation, loneliness and depression.

We are always being encouraged to visit older relatives and neighbours over the Christmas period, but during the cold and dark months of January and February things too often go quiet for older friends and relatives. It can be a long slog until we once again feel the sun on our faces and see the daffodils coming through.

In winter, neighbours, postmen, and milkmen are less likely to stop and chat on the door step, carers are less likely to venture out, if friends are elderly themselves they are also less likely to visit. It can be difficult to get someone with a disability ready to go out at any time, and when you have to ensure they are wrapped up against the cold and wet it is even harder. Once you do get out, older people have the added worry of slipping on ice or getting soaked by a sudden, freezing downpour. It is harder to run for cover when you are elderly yourself and helping a disabled person.
It would be lovely to see the campaigns we have in the lead up to Christmas running the whole of the winter months and for it to specifically include carers who maybe isolated.

There’s also an urgent need to launch a more visible campaign around keeping warm in winter, ensuring carers and those they care for are receiving all the financial and practical support they are entitled to heat their homes.

The cold can be a dangerous thing. We have all had the experience of sitting in a cold environment, the longer you sit the colder you feel, you begin not to want to move, then you don’t want to talk, and then you start to feel ill and miserable. It becomes hard to muster the energy to get up and make a hot drink or food. For people unable to afford the heating bills or living in inadequate housing, this is a daily reality.

We have been hearing for a number of years now how the NHS is under extra pressure in the winter. Well, prevention is always better than cure preventing people from suffering the ill effects of the cold would be a massive step forwards in protecting the health of all generations but in particular older people and their carers.

Louise Marks is Dementia Policy and Development Officer at Carers Trust



February 1, 2016 - Posted by | Health, Isolation, Mental Health, Older carers

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