The NHS on the Fylde coast has called for people to have a sense of good old-fashioned neighbourliness to ease the chill of loneliness this Christmas period by checking that an elderly friend is eating well, and is safe and warm.
Each winter, thousands of people in England die as a result of cold weather. Many are over 75 and most of these deaths could be avoided. Hundreds of thousands of others spend much of the winter alone.
Older people are particularly vulnerable during the winter as cold weather increases their risk of illnesses such as colds, coughs, flu, heart attacks, strokes, breathing problems and hypothermia. This adds extra pressure to health services which includes longer waits in A&E. By helping our elderly neighbours we can help relieve that pressure and leave emergency services to deal with more life threatening emergencies.
Speaking on behalf of NHS Fylde and Wyre and NHS Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Groups, Dr John Calvert, a Blackpool GP and clinical advisor at NHS Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Winter in notoriously a busy time for the NHS and although we are prepared for it there is lots people can do to help the situation and we need their help.
“There are lots of ways you can do your bit to help lonely or socially isolated elderly people in your community. The person you’re helping will reap health benefits, and you’ll find you will as well. Evidence suggests giving your time in this way could be as valuable to you as the person you support. It’s likely to boost your self-esteem and sense of purpose. And helping others takes your mind off your own problems for a while.”
A good start to help someone is simply to stop and talk to an elderly neighbour if you pass them on the street. A simple “hello” or “good morning” is enough to brighten their day and start a conversation. Ask them if they need any help with tasks such as shopping, posting letters or picking up prescriptions and medicines.
Offer to give them a lift to activities or doctor and hospital appointments, the library, hairdressers or faith services.
Check if they’ve had a free flu jab and, if not offer to make an appointment at the GP surgery.
Look out for signs of serious illness, such as drowsiness, slurred speech and the person not complaining of feeling cold even in a bitterly cold room.
If you’re worried, ask if there’s a relative or close friend you can phone, or call the doctor or NHS 111. You could also contact your local council or ring the Age UK helpline on Freephone 0800 009 966.