Common ailments

Keeping warm

I’m concerned about my elderly neighbour keeping warm this winter. When I have visited her on chilly evenings, her home has always been quite cold as she is worried about high fuel bills. What advice can I give her on keeping warm?

You are right to be concerned about your neighbour keeping warm as cold temperatures can have serious health implications for older people. Not only can the cold increase the likelihood and severity of flu and respiratory problems but it can also lead to raised blood pressure, putting the elderly at greater risk of a heart attack, stroke and even death.

Your neighbour’s living room should be kept between 18-21C and the rest of the house at a minimum of 16C. If your neighbour is concerned about high fuel bills, you could check that she is wearing enough layers to keep warm and ensure she is getting regular hot meals and drinks. At bedtime, she could use either a hot water bottle or an electric blanket to warm her bed.

Your neighbour may be able to claim financial help with heating her home. Winter payments of up to £300 are available for people born on or before 5 July 1952 so she may qualify for assistance. More information is available online at www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment or by calling 08459 151515. Some local councils also have schemes to help those on low incomes to obtain free or reduced cost home insulation or a more energy efficient boiler.

I would also advise you check with your neighbour whether she has had a flu jab this year as flu can lead to serious complications in the elderly. If she is aged over 65, she can receive this free on the NHS.

If you are still worried about your neighbour, you can contact your local council or call the Age UK helpline on freephone 0800 00 99 66 for further advice.

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