head Keeping Warm in Winter - Advice for Older People - November 2015

Crocus Homecare provides support to help people, especially older people, to continue to remain independent and to live in their own homes.

As winter approaches, and the temperatures drop, you may want to start thinking ahead on how best to prepare yourself. Crocus Homecare has some suggestions and practical tips that might help local residents during the winter months.

Cold weather can affect everyone, but if you are an older person then you need to take special care to keep warm because you will be more vulnerable to illness. This is especially so if you are seriously underweight, disabled, suffer from bronchitis, emphysema or asthma, or have experienced a stroke or any kind of heart condition.

1      Simple Steps to Follow

  • Use room thermometers and keep your room at a temperature between 21ºC – 24ºC (70ºF – 75ºF). If the temperature falls below 16ºC (61ºF), you may be at risk of hypothermia, a heart attack or stroke.
  • Avoid sitting for long periods. Move around as much as possible – even doing the vacuuming will get your circulation going and warm you up. If you are unable to walk, moving your arms and legs, as well as wiggling your fingers and toes, will help you to keep warm.
  • Wear lots of layers of clothing, preferably natural materials or man-made fibres that breathe. Thermal underwear can also help.
  • If you can afford to do so, you might want to consider heating your bedroom throughout the night.
  • Otherwise, warm the bedroom before going to bed – use a hot water bottle and wear warm nightwear. You may decide to invest in an electric blanket, although this should never be used at the same time as a hot water bottle.
  • Keep the bedroom window closed – evidence suggests that a cold draught to the head can cause your blood pressure to increase.
  • Don’t go outdoors without warm clothing and sturdy boots or shoes.
  • Keep your feet warm by adding insoles to your shoes.
  • Always cover your head, hands and feet (even if you’re indoors) – you’ll stay much warmer that way, especially as a lot of your body heat is lost through your head.

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2      Eating properly means eating healthily

During the winter months, it is very important to eat food that will help you to build up your resistance. Hot meals and hot drinks will give you a feeling of wellbeing:

  • Eat at least three times a day – including at least one hot meal.
  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables – five portions a day if possible (one portion of fruit equals, for example, one apple, orange or banana; two small fruits, such as plums, kiwis or satsumas; one cupful of berries; two to three tablespoonfuls of fresh fruit salad, stewed or canned fruit; or one glass (150ml) of fruit juice. One portion of vegetables equals two tablespoonfuls of raw, cooked, frozen or canned vegetables or one dessert bowl full of salad. Fresh vegetables and fruit are the ‘best buy’ nutritionally, but frozen, tinned, and dried produce count too).
  • Have hot drinks throughout the day – including one before going to bed. In fact, you might want to keep a flask containing a hot drink by your bed in case you are cold during the night.
  • You need protein, energy and vitamins and these can be found in bread (preferably wholemeal), milk, meat, fish, eggs, potatoes and beans (including baked beans).
  • Try to keep in a stock of basic foods (dried, tinned or frozen) in case you have a brief illness or cannot shop because of the bad weather. Even beyond the winter months, a healthy diet can protect our hearts, bones and eyesight, as well as providing some resistance against cancer, degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, obesity and anaemia. Remember to check with your doctor first if you are on a special diet of any kind.

3      Flu – the Winter Bug

Flu is common in winter and everyone over the age of 65 should have a free flu ‘jab’ from their doctor every autumn (from October to November is ideal). Most GPs have stocks from around September onwards, so don’t wait for a flu epidemic before you make enquiries.