The nights get longer and darker, the temperature drops and suddenly the world seems even less accessible than before. Worries and anxieties around caring for mum and dad can easily escalate during the winter months, especially if we don’t live around the corner from them. Age Space is helping to raise awareness to the NHS ‘Stay Well This Winter’ Campaign, we’ve taken some of their advice and expanded it into three key sections relating to caring for an older relative.
1) Keeping Healthy
2) Keeping Active & Social
3) Keeping Warm
There are a few simple things which can be done, to get ahead of the game when it comes to helping parents stay well this winter.
1) Get the Flu Jab – it is offered free to everyone aged 65 and over and can be administered at the local GP surgery or any pharmacy offering the service.
It’s important to remember that flu can be more severe in people aged 65 or over and it can lead to serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
Older people can be anxious about having the flu jab, however the side effects (if any) are minimal – a mild fever and aching muscles for a couple of days after having the jab and possibly a bit of discomfort from the injection. Much better than the potential serious complications that can occur if not having one.
To read more about the effectiveness of the flu jab and why it’s important to have one click here.
2) Pre order prescriptions – make sure any medications on repeat prescriptions are ordered well ahead of time in case of bad weather or set up a prescriptions direct service with your pharmacist.
3) Nip illness in the bud – the cold and damp weather, ice, snow and high winds can all aggravate existing health problems and make older people more vulnerable to respiratory winter illnesses.
At the first sign of a winter illness, even if it’s just a cough or cold, the NHS recommend visiting the pharmacist, before it gets more serious. Pharmacists are fully qualified to advise on the best course of action, whether it’s over the counter medication or making an appointment to see the doctor.
To find your nearest pharmacy click here
4) Get a good night’s sleep – go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Night time can often cause confusion for older people. Age Space has partnered with online retailers Spring Chicken who have a wide range of devices to aid a good nights sleep. Knowing your parents are safe and sound, will hopefully aid better sleep for you too!
5) Eat well – food is a vital source of energy that helps keep us warm.
- Start the day with a hearty breakfast – winter is the perfect season for porridge and it’s a delicious and easy breakfast to prepare. It also helps boost starchy foods and fibre intake, giving energy and helping you to feel fuller for longer.
- Season for soups and stews – winter vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, swede and turnips can be roasted, mashed or made into soup for a comforting winter meals. It’s the season for slow cookers – the easy way to cook and a great way to get your 5 a day in virtually one go!
- Stock up – prepare for a really cold or wet spell by stocking up the freezer and larder. Have plenty of non-perishable foods in the cupboard which can be heated up in just in case it’s too cold and icy to go to the shops.
- Warm drinks – keeping hydrated and warm, a thermos is a good way of having warm drinks throughout the day and saves trips to the kitchen.
Our resident food expert and local Executive Chef at the Fur and Feather Woodfordes Brewery Tap – Charlie Hodson has kindly given us one of his tasty soup recipes to try.
” My Tomato and Norfolk Peer Potato soup is simple to make and great for batch cooking and storing. I always champion Norfolk food providers, so recommend where possible buying local as you can be assured of the quality. This soup is full of goodness and warmth – I hope you enjoy it.”
Tomato & Norfolk Peer Potato Soup
- 8 nice ripe Buxton tomatoes, cut into quarters and de-seeded
- Couple of tbsp of good quality tomato puree
- Handful of Norfolk Peer potatoes with season in mind
- Good quality cold pressed rape seed oil (Crush Foods)
- A couple of strands of Norfolk Saffron (Dr Sally Francis). Needs to be ground in a pestle and mortar
- 1 medium sized white and red onion, both peeled and fine diced
- Pinch of Maldon sea salt
- Pinch of ground black pepper
- 150ml of double cream, whipped to stiff consistency
- Pint of good veg stock
- 1 rosemary sprig, roughly chopped
- 1 basil sprig, pick off the stalks and finely(ish) chop
- Nice bunch of thyme, for decoration
Ingredients to make enough for four people or one and then freeze for a quick and easy meal at a later date.
- In a large pan, heat up the rapeseed oil, and gently cook off onions with tomatoes.
- Once softened add Norfolk Peer potatoes (Perfect tatties in flavour and their skins add a subtle delicious texture oh and they’re Norfolk)
- Then add stock and reduce a little.
- Add tomato puree and the saffron strands and then drop in rosemary and basil.
- Cook out for about 10 mins on medium heat.
- Remove from heat. With stick blender blend until smooth texture. Serve straight from the pan or chill and serve with dollop of double cream and thyme.
Keeping Active & Social
Regular and daily exercise will help keep elderly parents warm and well over the winter.
1) Get outdoors – Simply being in natural sunlight will banish feelings of sluggishness. Warm clothing, grippy shoes and good company will make all the difference.
2) Exercise – regular exercise helps control weight, boosts the immune system and helps with mobility issues. Click here for more information on our site about keeping elderly parents active.
If it’s icy outside then indoor exercise such as the below will help.
- Ankle Rolls – draw a circle with your big toe in the air in both directions.
- Seated marching, start gentle and build up the pace. Swing your arms too if you find this easy.
- Stretch out your chest muscles gently by squeezing your shoulder blades together then relax. Repeat five to six times, morning and night.
3) Banish Stress – destress with exercise or meditation – stress has been shown to make you feel tired. If your parents or relative has an ipad or iphone, download some free guided meditation apps such as Headspace or Calm.
4) Stay Social – research shows that loneliness and social isolation are linked to our physical health and indicate that lack of social connections is as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
It’s important to keep social and encourage relatives to get out of the house and partake in groups and activities. Look at our events calendar to get an idea of the myriad of opportunities available catering for all interests and abilities in Norfolk.
If you don’t live near to mum or dad, perhaps ask a neighbour if they’d mind popping in and checking on them especially if the weathers bad. Age UK Norwich run a scheme called ‘City Friends’ – specifically for older people who don’t have family near by. They match volunteers with an older person who then simply check in on them and assist with simple tasks such as gritting a path or picking up some medication.
1) Be prepared – get things done early and reduce the risk of something going wrong mid winter. All the more important if you don’t live near by.
- Get the boiler serviced earlier in the year if you can – and check the radiators – Engineers will be less busy over the summer and then you don’t have to worry about it.
- Make sure that the house is well insulated to keep the heat in (and save on bills). Draft proofing doors and windows, as well as insulating the loft (and walls if necessary) will help to retain as much heat as possible. Financial help may be available to help with insulation. Check out the Energy Saving Trust who can provide advice.
- If the house is heated by oil or solid fuel make sure there are adequate supplies for the winter.
- If the pipes burst, the water supply will need to be switched off quickly. Where are the stopcocks? Are they easy to access and turn off if needed? Check in advance.
- Make sure the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working and batteries have been replaced.
- Keep a list of local services such as plumbers, electricians, heating engineers, utility companies, GP surgery etc, near the telephone for use in case of emergencies.
2) Be Efficient – below are a few simple ways to save energy.
- Age UK recommends keeping the living room at 21°C, the bedroom at 18°C and the rest of the house at least 16°C. Set the heating to come on just before getting up and switch off after bedtime. If it’s very cold, set the heating to come on earlier and turn off later rather than turning the thermostat up.
- Switch off the heating in any rooms that aren’t used; draw the curtains as it gets dark to help retain the heat.
- Electric blankets are fab – and should be checked regularly (particularly if they were bought some time ago). Find an expert to check them either via the shop/manufacturer or local authority trading standards department – they often have free testing days or Age UK Norwich run a testing service.
- Wrap up warm, encourage relatives to wear thermals and layers, clothes which can be put on and taken off easily.
3) Help with heating costs – the cost of heating is a worry for many but there is some help at hand in terms of Government payments.
- Most people born before 6 May 1953 are entitled to the Winter Fuel Payment to help with heating costs. It’s a tax-free payment of between £100 and £300 paid out between November and December. If a person has received this before they should get the payment automatically, but if it’s the first year contact the Winter Fuel Payment helpline.
- In addition anyone who receives Pension Credit, or certain other benefits, are also automatically paid a Cold Weather Payment when the temperature is at 0°C (32°F) or below for seven days in a row.
- Switch providers for a better deal. Most of us are still reluctant to switch utilities or other suppliers – but it can be really worth it. Contact Age UK Norwich on 0160349633 and ask to speak to their Energy Champion who can guide you through the process.
- Thinking Fuel is a scheme in Norfolk where members get a really low price on their oil because it’s negotiated by a single expert supplier, who buys in bulk, and then passes on the savings to the members. Everyone pays the same price regardless of how much they order. A partnership between Community Action Norfolk and AF Affinity, Anglia Farmers’ bulk buying group, it already has more than 3,000 members. For more detailed information visit Community Action Norfolk.
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