Take care of vulnerable residents as temperatures plunge

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The Met Office has issued the second highest cold weather warning for Sussex this weekend, as it warns people to take extra care of elderly, young and vulnerable residents.

A Level 3 cold weather alert is in place, with a 90 per cent probability of severe cold weather, icy conditions and heavy snow in the county from now (Saturday, January 16) to midday on Tuesday, January 19.

The amber notice is issued by the Met Office when it is experiencing weather which breaches any of the thresholds. This stage requires social and healthcare services to target specific actions at high-risk groups.

The weather warning states: “This weather could increase the health risks to vulnerable patients and disrupt the delivery of services. Please refer to the national Cold Weather Plan and your Trust’s emergency plan for appropriate preventive action.”

Following on from the Met Office’s advice, an older people’s charity has also issued a warning to the elderly, their families and carers to take extra care as temperatures drop.

Independent Age is also providing a free advice leaflet on how to stay well in winter, called Being Winter Wise.

Last year, the ONS found that an estimated 36,300 excess winter deaths occurred in England and Wales in 2014/15 among people aged 75 and over.

In addition to this, according to a poll published by Independent Age last month, an estimated 752,000 older people have had to choose between paying for food and paying for heating and almost half (43 per cent) of those aged 65 and over say they have gone to bed early to stay warm at least once.

Many people don’t realise that low temperatures can not only increase the risk of flu, but also the risk of heart attack or stroke. The Independent Age survey also found that just over one-third (36 per cent) of over-65s do not heat their home adequately some, most, or all of the time in winter because of worry about paying fuel bills, and one in 17 (6 per cent) heat only one room or no rooms at all in winter. This equates to an estimated 700,000 people who are putting themselves at greater risk of these health problems.

Older people can be more susceptible to fuel poverty as they may find they have to heat their homes for longer due to health and mobility problems and the need to stay indoors for longer.

To help older people, their families and carers navigate the cold snap, Independent Age has brought out a free advice leaflet called Being Winter Wise. It provides practical advice and tips on how to look after yourself during the coldest months. The advice spans from eating well and staying healthy to keeping your home warm and making winter more affordable.

Lucy Harmer, director of services at Independent Age, said: “Winter can be a testing time for many elderly people if they don’t have enough social, financial or emotional support in place.

“We would urge older people, their families and carers to take extra care during the cold snap. The government, councils and individuals all need to take more responsibility for ensuring older people are getting the support they need in winter. “However, there are also some practical actions that can be taken to help keep your home warm and stay healthy during the winter months. More advice on how to cope during the winter months is available in our free Being Winter Wise leaflet.”

Being Winter Wise is free to order and download from independentage.org or call 0800 319 6789 to order a leaflet.

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