Caring for vulnerable neighbours and keeping warm this winter
We all need to work together to ensure that everyone is kept safe and warm in winter. Please check on friends and neighbours who may be struggling in the cold.
If you have an elderly, vulnerable neighbour or relative, look out for them in the winter months.
Icy roads and snow means they may not be able to get out and about. They may need help with shopping, clearing paths, getting a repeat prescription, walking the dog – or they may just need to see a friendly face.
Keeping warm in winter advice
During winter more people get ill and the number of deaths rises. There is a direct link between cold weather and the higher death rate, especially amongst older people and others in at-risk groups. But winter needn’t be dangerous if you take the right steps.
- Be a good neighbour
- If someone has had an accident in their home, fallen and injured themselves or been taken ill, they may not be able to attract attention of neighbours, passers-by or people who call at the door. Always be on the look-out for signs that something might be wrong, especially when the weather is cold.
There are many signs to look out for:
- Milk not taken in late in the day.
- Newspapers stuck in the letterbox.
- Curtains drawn during the day.
- Lights burning during the day.
- Home in darkness when there should be someone at home.
- Dog barking all day or the cat scratching to be let in.
Clearly, it is important to prevent people from becoming cold in the first place. Family, friends and neighbours in the community can look out for those who might be at risk from the cold. Prevention is always easier than cure.
Hypothermia is a lowered deep-core body temperature of 35C/95F or below. It is the lowered temperature of the organs inside the body which is important – an ordinary thermometer cannot measure this. You may not actually feel cold but if you sit in a cold room and do little or nothing to keep warm then you may run the risk of becoming hypothermic or becoming ill with bronchitis or pneumonia. Both are cold-related illnesses.
Watch out for danger signs:
- Very cold skin on parts of the body normally covered, for example the stomach or armpits.
- Slurred speech.
- Person not complaining of feeling cold, even in a bitterly cold room.
If you are in doubt:
- Move the person into warmer surroundings if possible.
- Wrap the person in a light layer of blankets or a duvet to avoid further loss of body heat.
- Give them warm, nourishing drinks.
- Call the doctor or nurse.
- Do not subject the person to any sudden extreme change of temperature – so do not put them next to a fire or give them hot water bottles or heavy layers of clothes or blankets.
- Do not give them alcohol, as it will stimulate further heat loss through the skin.
How can you help keep yourself warm?
Safety is important in all aspects of keeping yourself warm. Care should be taken when using electric blankets or filling hot water bottles. Never use a hot water bottle and an electric blanket together, as this is extremely dangerous and could give you an electric shock.
Advice about keeping warm
- Set your thermostat to around 21ºC (70ºF) and heat all the rooms you use in the day.
- If you can’t heat all your rooms make sure you keep your living room warm throughout the day and heat your bedroom before going to bed.
- Set the timer on your heating to come on before you get up and switch off when you go to bed.
- In very cold weather, rather than turn the thermostat up, set the heating to come on earlier so you won’t be cold while you wait for your home to heat up.
- Try to keep a temperature of above 18°C (65°F) in your bedroom overnight.
- If you use a fire or heater in your bedroom during winter, open the window or door a little at night for ventilation.
- Wear plenty of thin layers, rather than one thick one.
- Wear clothes made of wool, cotton, or fleecy synthetic fibres.
- Stay warm in bed with bed socks, thermal underwear and a nightcap or headscarf.
- Stock up on essentials, such as food, water, de-icer, warm spare clothes and a blanket.
- Be a good neighbour and pass on warnings to those who may have missed the warnings, and check on the elderly and infirm.