The Dunkirk spirit, that keep calm and carry on approach so evident among our elderly parents, relatives and neighbours is likely to go well beyond ‘another sweater’ this winter. For many it won’t be a conversation about WHEN the heating goes on, but IF it goes on.
The current cost of living crisis and the price of energy are at the heart of such decisions but are not the only concerns for anyone caring about or supporting elderly parents and relatives. The consequences for their general health and wellbeing living in an underheated home are potentially catastrophic.
The Anthropos/Age Space Guide to Keeping Warm this Winter 2022
But as the saying goes, knowledge is power, and through some smart technology and practical assistance, there are ways for you to know how elderly parents may be coping this winter, and to help inform what help they may need.
Action can be taken on a number of fronts to conserve energy, save money, and prevent cold related illness. Connected care platform Anthropos and Age Space have teamed up to provide a three step plan to help you to help elderly parents and relatives keep warm and well this winter.
- Practical ways to keep the home energy efficient and warm
- Technology to keep warm this winter
- Keeping elderly parents active and healthy
Health concerns for the elderly in winter
According to Care England living in an under-heated home significantly increases the chance of serious illness or death. Older vulnerable people are at a higher risk of heart attack or stroke, breathing problems, flu, depression and falls. This doesn’t only occur with extreme winter weather either, but also in moderate conditions when the outdoor temperature drops below 6 ℃.
Being housebound or not very mobile increases both the exposure to an underheated home and its consequences; and the cost of heating it. Nor does this end with illness itself; admission to hospital is another major concern with the pressures on the NHS and social care this winter which can mean an extended stay and delayed discharge, both very damaging in themselves to both health and well-being.
Step 1 – Practical Guide to Keeping the House Efficiently Warm
Age UK suggests that the temperature in the home of an older person should be kept between 18 – 21 ℃ during winter; the sitting room or room most often used in the daytime maintained at 21℃, and a bedroom at 18 ℃ minimum.
There are practical things you can do for parents and relatives to help them conserve energy and save money. The Energy Saving Trust suggests that a whopping £145 can be saved per year by turning down the thermostat by just one degree. They also suggest that upto £500 a year in savings can be made by practical changes from bleeding the radiators and lagging the boiler, to only keeping particular rooms warm.
There is of course the option to wear an extra sweater, and this can be supplemented with a hot water bottle or heated blankets for use in the daytime, along with microwaveable wheat pouches and handwarmers. Thermal underwear, layered clothing, even thermal slippers will all help on a daily basis.
Technology to keep warm this winter
It can be difficult or nigh on impossible to know how elderly parents and relatives may be coping on a day to day basis. Even with a regular phone call or visit it can be hard to determine if they are warm enough and keeping active.
Technology in the form of smart home monitoring could be your biggest ally in helping to ensure parents and relatives are safe and warm at home.
Systems that use discreet sensors (no video or camera) to track a range of information will give you real-time understanding about their everyday well-being – without feeling that they’re being a bother, or possibly worse, that you’re constantly on the phone or popping round (checking up).
Installing a set of discreet motion and temperature sensors around their home, along with door sensors and smart plug-ins for kettles or microwaves will enable you to be informed about their daily routines – and alerted should specific changes occur – without physically being there and certainly not by watching their every move on a camera installation.
Home monitoring systems such those developed by Anthropos with Taking Care are fully flexible to individual needs. Sensors can be installed around the home to detect temperature changes in different rooms.
You will know with certainty if the temperature gets too low – or in the case of a fire – too high – as you can receive both regular status updates as well as emergency alerts when necessary.
Armed with actual information such as the ambient temperature in the living room and kitchen may enable you to have conversations about their health and well-being and to encourage changes, keeping the home warm whilst conserving energy, and helping to prevent illness or worse.
Keeping active, staying well
Fear of falls increases exponentially in the winter which has a huge impact on mobility, general health and loneliness. There are practical ways to help reduce falls such as sweeping the pathways and ensuring outside lights work, but encouraging parents and relatives to remain active and healthy during the winter months may still be difficult.
The use of motion sensors around the home may give them some peace of mind that should they fall in the home it will trigger an emergency alert either to you or a contact centre. Conversely for your peace of mind, such motion sensors track movements over time so you will be able to establish whether or not parents and relatives are sitting in one chair all day or are infact continuing with their daily lives.
Motion sensors help you to be informed of the reality of their day to day living, and also will help prepare you to act should changes to their regular routines become obvious. For example, remaining static in a chair all day for days at a time will have an impact on someone’s mobility; it could also signal for example that they’re not drinking enough fluid, the consequences of which can be dire.
Having the confidence to continue with daily life at home and also outside it whatever the weather could be boosted with a personal falls alarm – a pendant round the neck or wrist – which will trigger an alert should it detect the wearer has fallen. It will pinpoint their location so you or the contact centre can arrange for help immediately. A pendant won’t stop a fall, but it should inspire confidence to carry on safe in the knowledge that should one occur Mum or Dad won’t be lying in the garden or on the kitchen floor waiting for help for hours.
Winter is coming
Knowing what’s actually going on at home behind that Dunkirk spirit could be a real life-saver particularly this winter. Some discreet technology will go a long way to helping keep them safe and well and give you peace of mind.
Anthropos is the leading connected care platform with a track record in delivering tech solutions to the care sector and other providers. The Anthropos system provides insights and evidence to support families and care providers to refine care plans and make better care decisions.