GPs in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are urging people to look out for their elderly and vulnerable relatives and neighbours this winter – and make sure they don’t ‘soldier on’ in silence as winter starts to bite.
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.
Dr Peter Cannon, Leicestershire GP, says winter is a time when communities should come together to support people in need – and encourage them to seek medical assistance before illness becomes so serious they need to be admitted to hospital: “All too often we see elderly and vulnerable people having to be treated in hospital for lengthy periods with symptoms that might not have become so serious and could have been managed effectively at home if they’d only sought help sooner.
“This is often the result of people trying to ‘soldier on’ through adversity because they don’t want to cause inconvenience to their families or bother their GP or pharmacist with something they feel is insignificant.
“If you are aged over 75 or you are living with a long-term medical condition such as a respiratory illness, don’t wait when you’re feeling ill – get help straight away. Speak to your local pharmacist first and they’ll either recommend an over-the-counter medicine to alleviate your symptoms, or tell you if you need to see your GP.
“If you have a friend, neighbour or relative who is vulnerable then you can do your bit to help by checking in on them regularly and making sure they have everything they need to stay well this winter.”
Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland’s CCGs have the following top tips for how to help elderly and vulnerable people you may know:
• Drop in to see them and check if they are well at least once a week – and more often if the weather turns very cold.
• Check if they are feeling well and don’t let them brush off your questions if you’re concerned they’re trying to hide an illness, particularly if they don’t seem their usual self or they look unwell.
• If they are feeling ill, encourage them to visit their local pharmacist without delay – and give them a lift if you can.
• Ask if you can collect any prescriptions they need or take them to their GP for any appointments.
• Tell them to call 111 if they feel unwell when pharmacies are closed – a trained NHS health care adviser will be able to help them.
• Make sure their home is heated to at least 18°C to 21°C throughout the winter.
• Ensure they are eating well and have a good supply of essential and store-cupboard food to keep them going – and offer to help them with shopping if they struggle with mobility.
• Encourage them to get heating and cooking appliances safety checked – and recommend a trustworthy gas and heating engineer or electrician if you know one.
• If it snows, clear their path, front steps or doorway areas for them – or better still, encourage them to stay in.
For more information on staying well this winter visit www.nhs.uk/staywell