Call to check on elderly neighbours as heatwave goes on
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Elderly people can find it hard to cope with hot weather. The charity Contact the Elderly is urging people to keep an eye on older neighbours and help them stay safe.
The charity warns that older people are at increased risk of heat-related illnesses, known collectively as hyperthermia, during periods of hot weather. This can include heat stroke, oedema (swelling in the ankles and feet), heat exhaustion and heat cramps.
Contact the Elderly, the national charity dedicated to tackling loneliness and social isolation amongst older people, has already urged its nationwide network of over 11,000 volunteers to check in on the isolated older people they work with, either over the phone or in person, and make sure they are comfortable. The charity is also encouraging people in Suffolk and North Essex to do the same for older neighbours, relatives and friends.
Contact the Elderly’s Deputy CEO, Cliff Rich, said: ““With so many of us enjoying the sun, it can be easy to forget about our isolated older neighbours, who are stuck in their homes unable to get out because of the heat, or because of other health problems.”
Heatwaves in the UK can be lethal, particularly for older people. In 2016, there was a significant spike in preventable deaths on the warmest day of the year, June 19. A 2014 report to Parliament also found that heat contributes to around 2,000 premature deaths each year.
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With 3.6 million older people living alone in the UK, it is vital that communities look out for their older members, particularly those who live alone and are isolated. The heat can pose a significant health risk to older people. Communities must stay vigilant and ensure that no older people are forced to suffer from the heat in silence.
For those stuck at home during times like this, when most people are out enjoying themselves with friends and family, feelings of isolation and loneliness can be severely exacerbated.
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Mr Rich added: “For people already feeling lonely, being able to hear others out enjoying themselves can make them feel so much more isolated. It’s the contrast between themselves, stuck in their home, and others just beyond the glass, enjoying the sun and company. Taking the time to check in on someone not only will help them keep safe, but can be the highlight of their day, and could make such a difference to their wellbeing.”
The charity said that anyone concerned about an older person should go over and share a hydrating drink with them, encourage them to stay cool and out of the sun. If their symptoms persist or worsen, contact a GP or the NHS 111 helpline.
Anyone interested in volunteering with Contact the Elderly can visit the charity’s website. Any older people wanting to make new friends, or get out a bit more, can call the charity free on 0800 716 543.