NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is urging local residents to spare a thought for others and look out for the elderly and the vulnerable this Christmas. The festive period is a time for celebration with family and friends, but for some Christmas can be a very lonely time.
Many older people may find themselves on their own for the first time this year due to the loss of a loved one or they may have families who do not live nearby.
A national survey from Age UK showed that nearly a million (928,000) older people feel lonelier at Christmas time, two-fifths of whom have been widowed. Based on the survey, the charity estimates that getting on towards a million (873,000) people aged 65 and over don't see or hear from someone for days on end over the festive period. And at Christmas time, on days when older people do not see or hear from anyone, over half (55%) rely on the TV for companionship.
Older people and those with long-term health conditions are particularly susceptible to illness and isolation at this time of year, yet it can sometimes be difficult for those at risk to admit they need help. All too often elderly and vulnerable people end up being treated in hospital for long periods with symptoms that might not have been so serious and could have been managed effectively at home if they had only sought help sooner.
There are a number of ways Sandwell and West Birmingham residents can help elderly relatives, friends and neighbours stay well over Christmas:
- Call in and say “hello” – let elderly neighbours know they are available to help them. Provide them with a telephone number in case of an emergency.
- Check on prescriptions – make sure they have adequate supplies of repeat prescriptions and medications to cover them during the holiday period.
- Food supplies - check that they are adequately stocked with food supplies for the festive period. Fresh milk, bread and butter are staples that will save them leaving the house if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
- Heating – talk to them about the importance of being warm. Check that their heating and other utility supplies are working properly. It’s important to make sure that their home is heated to at least 18°C to 21°C throughout the winter. As well as being at a higher risk of colds and flu older people are more susceptible to strokes and heart problems during the cold weather.
Invite them round for Christmas dinner or another family meal to help them enjoy their Christmas too.
- Encourage them to call 111 if they feel unwell when pharmacies are closed – a trained NHS health care adviser will be able to help them.
- If you can see they’re not looking or acting themselves encourage them to visit their local pharmacist for advice.
Dr Nick Harding, Chair of NHS Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG, said: “The festive season is usually a time for celebration for many families, but for too many older people it can reinforce feelings of loneliness and loss. This can not only make them feel miserable but also have an impact on their physical health too. After having lost a parent this year I’m more aware that this is an issue that can affect any of us.
“Christmas is the perfect time for everyone to be a good neighbour. We can all play an important role in ensuring older people feel valued and included and taking the time to call in and check on them when they possibly most need help can make all the difference. It can also potentially help to prevent serious health issues affecting them."
Age UK also offer lots of advice on looking out for frail and elderly relatives, friends and neighbours this Christmas on their website at www.ageuk.org.uk
For more advice on staying well this winter visit www.nhs.uk/staywell.