Winter Is Coming…
Don’t worry I’m not about to start reciting Game Of Thrones, instead I’m going to explain why it’s so important older adults take precautions in cold weather. If you didn’t notice today was pretty chilly, temperatures hit -14 in some parts of the UK last night and even London saw snow on Monday!
Now I’m well aware that December is, traditionally, a cold month but the onset of winter can cause huge problems for the elderly, those with mobility issues and people with underlying health conditions. You certainly won’t be feeling full of Christmas spirit if you’re dealing with a nasty chest infection or recovering from a stroke!
Remember, when the mercury drops our blood pressure takes longer to recover, it’s harder to walk long distances without getting out of breath and ice covered paths make easy walks treacherous. You’re also much more likely to get flu, bronchitis or pneumonia during winter which is why, if you’re eligible, you need to book your annual flu jab.
Mind you, no matter how tempting it is to stay wrapped up in a blanket you still need to get out and about. Why? Because regular exercise keeps you fit, healthy and active while lowering the risk of stroke, heart-attack and dementia. Even just a short fifteen minute stroll to the corner shop and back is better than nothing. Make sure you wrap up warm and wear a scarf, gloves and fluffy hat because you lose heat from your head.
If in any doubt consider the route you’re about to undertake. Firstly, is it icy? If so, it may be better to wait until later in the day when the sun’s a bit stronger. Is there much shelter? You might only be going down the road but sudden sleet storms can spring up from nowhere so it’s always good to have somewhere to duck into. Are you wearing the right footwear? Not all shoes have non-slip soles, so it may be worth salting / sanding your front drive / paths. If all else fails go for a little walk in the garden, or spend a few minutes in the greenhouse as just stretching your arms and legs will help.
Don’t forget to stock food cupboards just in case bad weather means you can’t get out for a few days. Better still, speak to a friend, neighbour or family member who can give you a lift or do the food shop for you. Eat good, hearty meals too- think nourishing bowls of soup, crusty bread and delicious pies stuffed with veg instead of salad and rice. Up your fluid intake too- both glasses of water and hot drinks like tea, coffee, and hot chocolate.
Try to follow the 5X5 rule i.e aim to have five portions of fruit and veg per day and if you’re wondering about what to eat in winter don’t be afraid to book a doctor’s appointment. It may also be worth asking about the ‘pneumo jab’ too which protects you from pneumonia, meningitis and septicemia. It’ll be free if you’re over sixty five, like the flu jab, and should stop you catching the worst of those nasty winter bugs!
Speaking of which make sure you practice good hand washing hygiene, use anti bacterial wipes and tissues and spray those surfaces ie door knobs you use the most. If you know you struggle come winter it may also be worth to keep your medications topped up, ask about ordering repeat prescriptions line and that you’ve got cold, cough and sore throat medicine at home just in case you become unwell.
It can be difficult to get out to regular activities during winter because it’s dark by 3.30pm, so in the last weeks before Christmas you may feel slightly uncomfortable venturing out. Now’s the time to ask a few visitors over for tea and cake, or spend a few evenings skyping / phoning friends and family so that you feel less isolated. No one really enjoys waking up, and going to sleep when it’s dark so it’s important to practice self-care and do something you love every day.
Why not embrace the concept of ‘Hygge?’ It’s Danish and basically stands for anything that’s warm, cosy and makes you feel good inside. Stay toasty by wearing lots of layers as it’s easier to peel one off than add more when you’re already shivering. Don’t forget to use a hot-water bottle, electric blanket or microwavable ‘cosy’ bag if you need to and change your cotton bed sheets for flannel ones at the same time as switching to a higher tog duvet.
Close your curtains at night, keep windows shut and make sure draught-proof excluders are fitted. Many people wonder what temperature they should heat their house at, after all there’s a difference between feeling snug and wiping sweat from your face! A good guide is to have your main room, where you spend most of your time, at 21°C while the bedroom should be slightly cooler at around 18°C to promote good sleep health. Of course, these are just guidelines so you should pay attention to what you personally find most comfortable.
Speaking of which you may be eligible for what’s known as the ‘winter fuel allowance’, which is a government scheme that allows people to have extra heating help. According to Age UK’s website:
“Most people born on or before 6 August 1953 are entitled to the Winter Fuel Payment in 2017-18 to help with heating costs. This is a tax-free payment of between £100 and £300 paid to you between November and December.
If you receive Pension Credit, or certain other benefits, you’re automatically paid a Cold Weather Payment when the temperature is 0°C (32°F) or below for seven days in a row.”
Hopefully, by following these simple, easily adaptable guidelines you’ll enjoy a safe, comfortable and warm winter. If you’re someone who’s worried about an elderly friend, neighbour or family member coping this winter there’s nothing stopping you calling or popping round to check they’re alright.
After all, Christmas really is all about putting others before ourselves.