While most people are looking forward to warm and hectic family celebrations, plenty of elderly and frail people may be dreading a bleak and lonely festive season.
Health chiefs at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group are urging people to spare a thought and some time for any vulnerable friends and neighbours this winter, to help them overcome loneliness and stay well and perhaps even help them avoid a trip to hospital.
Dr Gary Howsam, lead GP for the CCG, said “Many elderly people never, or only occasionally, socialise with family or friends. As a result, they can be slow to seek help and once ill, often get so unwell that they end up being admitted to hospital.
“So please find some time to check in on elderly and frail friends and neighbours over the coming weeks. We all lead busy lives, but checking on elderly and vulnerable friends and neighbours can make a world of difference to them. Loneliness can be miserable, especially around Christmas time.
“And remember, your support can help prevent vulnerable people from having accidents and stop common winter illnesses from developing into something more serious that would require a hospital stay.”
Sometimes it’s not always easy to know who or how to help, but here are some tips:
· Start a conversation – a simple hello can start a conversation, and make time to stop and chat if you pass an elderly neighbour on the street.
· Offer practical help – easy tasks for some, might be harder for someone else. Perhaps helping with posting letters, picking up medications, a lift to the hairdressers or taking their dog for a walk.
· Help with household tasks – basic chores might need assistance, such as taking the bins out, changing light bulbs, or clearing snow off their path.
· Share a meal – older, isolated people often need a hand cooking for themselves and might not feel like cooking for one, so why not take round an extra plate of hot home-cooked food, or a frozen portion they can heat up or microwave? As well as being practical, it’s a nice way to share time with a neighbour.
· Watch for signs of winter illness – 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 (a dangerous fall in body temperature).
Anyone who needs advice, friendship or information and are over 65 can call Silverline on 0800 4 70 80 90. They offer a free and confidential helpline for older people across the UK, that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can also offer telephone and letter friendship schemes where they match volunteers with older people based on their interests; facilitated group calls; and help to connect people with local services in their area.