Looking after older and vulnerable people this winter
Winter can be a very isolating time of year for many older and vulnerable people, which is why it’s so important to ensure that they are kept warm and safe. For the elderly and most vulnerable, minor respiratory illnesses such as the common cold can have an impact on their frailty and those with existing chronic respiratory conditions, including asthma or COPD are particularly at risk.
The cold weather can lead to more viral infections and can have a detrimental effect on health, leading to the elderly and vulnerable requiring additional care.
Every winter sees an increase in hospital admissions, which means that the capacity for bed spaces are continually stretched to their fullest, especially during the winter months, so if you know someone who is frail, elderly or has an existing health condition and they are feeling unwell, please do make sure that they seek health advice immediately.
Many over-the-counter medicines (including paracetamol and ibuprofen) are available to relieve symptoms of common winter ailments such as a cold, sore throat, cough, sinusitis, or painful middle ear infection (earache). If someone you know starts to develop these symptoms, please ensure that they receive medical advice immediately. It is also advisable to ask your local chemist what medicines should be kept in medicine cabinets to keep coughs and colds at bay.
It is important to ensure that homes are kept warm during these winter months, with a house being warmed to an ideal temperature of 18C (65F). Living rooms can be kept slightly warmer if necessary, but it’s important to make sure that bedroom windows are kept closed at night – breathing cold air can increase the risk of chest infections. As well as helping to prevent colds and flu, staying warm can also help to prevent more serious illnesses such as heart attacks, strokes, pneumonia, and depression.
It is also important to encourage your clients to participate in short bursts of activity to make sure that they remain warm and mobile, even if it’s just moving their arms and legs to get their circulation going, and to ensure that they eat well (at least one hot meal a day) and stay hydrated throughout the day.
As a carer, there are things that you can also do to make sure that you keep germs at bay and prevent any potential ones being spread. Simple things such as washing your hands thoroughly and having your flu injection (which you are eligible for and it’s also free for carers!) can definitely help.
As part of the NHS campaign to reduce the risk of spreading cold and flu, it’s important to Catch it. Bin it. Kill it by doing the following:
- use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
- wash your hands often with warm water and soap
- bin used tissues as quickly as possible
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