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Stay warm and well in winter - advice for elderly residents

Choose well

Birmingham Community Healthcare is reminding older residents to start planning for winter as the seasons begin to change.

Winter provides particular challenges for the NHS and this year is no different.  Attendances at A&E are increasing, putting pressure on the NHS.

The West Midlands has an average of 1,408 additional – and in many cases preventable – winter deaths compared to the rest of the year. The rise in the death rate among 65- to 84-year-olds in the region is nearly 17 per cent during the coldest months – significantly higher than the national average (see notes).

Some of the reasons for these deaths include slips and trips on icy ground where fractured and broken bones have led to further complications such as blood clots and pressure sores. Falls are one of the most common reasons for calls to the ambulance services and most can be prevented simply by taking care.

It has been estimated that nationally, for every degree change in the average weather temperature, there is a rise or fall in the number of deaths by approximately 8,000.  Which is why it’s vital people keep warm.

Of these excess winter deaths, a third are attributable to respiratory disease and over half to cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and strokes.

One of the best ways of keeping well during winter is to stay warm. Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust is offering five top tips to keep your home warm, keep on top of your bills, and keep healthy.  Some may seem obvious, but they could help you to stay warmer and maintain good health over the coming weeks.

  1. Heat your home well
    By setting your heating to the right temperature (between 18-21ºC) you can still keep your home warm and lower your bills. If you feel cold at night, use a hot water bottle or electric blanket – but never use both together.  It is especially important if you’re at home all day.
  2. Get financial support
    There are grants, benefits and sources of advice available to make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating or help with bills. It’s worthwhile claiming all of the benefits you are entitled to.  The Government recently announced it was making an extra £10 million available to support existing schemes for those at risk of fuel poverty.  Contact the Warm Front scheme free on 0800 316 2805 or Age UK on 0800 169 6565 for help and advice.
  3. Eat well and have plenty of fluids
    Food and water are vital sources of energy, they help keep your body warm. Try to make sure you and your family have hot meals and drinks regularly throughout the day.
  4. Get a flu jab
    You can get free flu jabs to protect against seasonal flu from your GP if you are over 65, pregnant, or have a long-term health condition.
  5. Look after yourself and others
    On cold days try to avoid going outside - however, if you do need to, remember to wrap up warm and take care on slippy surfaces.  If you have an older neighbour or relative, look out for them during the winter to make sure they are safe and well.

 

Beverly Ingram, director of nursing and therapies, said: “Encouraging people to keep warm and healthy during the winter is one of our key priorities, particularly for older residents and those that spend all day at home.

“The five top tips show that it only takes a few simple measures to protect yourself and your family from winter-related illnesses and incidents.”

There are two free online booklets full of hints and tips –

 

Click here for further information about 'choosing well' if you are injured or unwell this winter.

Notes
  • The West Midlands has an average of 1,408 additional deaths each winter (Dec to Mar) than would be expected from the rate of death in the non-winter months (ie. preceding Aug to Nov and following Apr to Jul in a given 12-month period).

  • An average total of 8,406 deaths would be expected between Dec and Mar if the same rate of death as the non-winter months occurred.

  • The average rise in deaths among 65- to 84-year-olds in the West Midlands during winter is 16.7 per cent – significantly higher than the England average of 15.1 per cent.

 

(Figures for 2002-2009, West Midlands Public Health Observatory.

Excess Winter Deaths in the West Midlands – download report