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Carers are vital in helping elderly to stay well this winter

16 January 2017


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Bedfordshire resident and carer Angela Banister blogs on caring for her mum over the winter period.

It’s January, cold and dreary, with wintry blizzards and snow. Christmas and New Year is now just a distant memory. We have moved on from keeping an eye out for Santa to watching Michael Fish’s weather forecasts.

As carer for my 96 year old mum I know how this time of the year can be critical for the elderly. Due to the risk of ice, slips and trips is a major concern, as well as common winter illnesses such as Cold, Flu, Norovirus and Sore throats. 

She is in reasonably good health for her age, but has had a few health issues over the last few years and has severe arthritis of the spine.

The biggest issue is that she can no longer stand or walk for long periods of time and struggles with every day activities that require strength. I take her shopping twice a week, which ensures she gets out of the house and I do harder housework tasks such as vacuuming, changing her bed covers and cooking the Sunday roast.

Mum wants to be able to live independently for as long as she possibly can, it’s very important to her mental health and wellbeing, so I support her to do this, so therefore, It’s vital for me to stay well.

I felt it was really important for me and for mum to make sure we got the flu jab. The last thing mum needs is for me to get sick. If I catch flu it could mean that I can’t look out for her, or worse, she gets flu from me and ends up in hospital or worse.

I’m lucky that I have a supportive family network, but if I got sick it would have a huge impact on my ability to look after mum, so here are a few tips that I have picked up from my experience.

1. Keep the home at about 18°C at this time of year, and 21°C in the main living room.
Make sure, where possible, that your loved one knows where the thermostat is and how to use it. If not, make sure the timer is set so that the house stays at a constant temperature. The NHS recommends a home should be at least 18 degrees.

2. Wear suitable footwear.
Take extra care when going shopping. Ensure both of you are wearing boots or shoes with good grip on the soles.

3. Wear several thin layers of clothing to help keep warm made from materials like cotton and wool.
It also means those you care for can take a layer off if they feel too hot.

4. Winter fuel allowance.
Learn how to make homes energy efficient, improve heating and keep up with energy bills at www.gov.uk/phe/keep-warm 

5. Have a hearty breakfast.
Winter is the perfect season for porridge.

There is a lot we can do to help our older relatives over the winter. One other thing to remember and is really important is to keep in contact, check on them once in a while to see if everything is okay, if there is anything they need.

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