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An elderly personal alarm with automatic fall detection can detect a fall and call for help without you needing to push the button. This is vital is you are unconscious or immobile following a sudden illness or a fall. The call will automatically go through to either your nominated contacts or a SureSafe operator, depending on which service you have chosen. You will be able to get the help you need fast, even if you are unable to press the button.

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Dangers of Cold Weather for the Elderly

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

Nobody enjoys bitterly cold weather in the winter. But for elderly people, cold weather brings significant risks – including ones that many people aren’t aware of.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss some dangers of cold weather, including how many elderly people die from cold in the UK each year, along with how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

Blood pressure and the heart

When you think of older people’s health risks related to the cold, cardiovascular problems might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But in fact, the NHS warns that heart attacks and strokes increase with cold weather. This is related to the fact that blood pressure rises and blood thickens in colder environments.

Breathing

Cold air also makes it harder to breathe, which is dangerous for elderly people with lung or respiratory conditions such as COPD or emphysema. That’s because breathing in cold air makes the airways tighten. In fact, the NHS also warns of the risks of cold temperatures for people with this type of condition.

Falls

Falls are always a risk for seniors, especially those with weaker muscles, poor balance, or stiffness in the legs from conditions like arthritis. However, since cold weather is often accompanied by snow or ice, the danger of a fall increases when the temperature drops.

This is why fall alarms for the elderly are so important, especially in winter. This type of alarm senses when its wearer falls and calls for help automatically, even if the wearer is unconscious or unable to press a button.

Colds and Flu

It’s not the case that you can catch a cold just from being cold. However, during cold snaps people are often indoors together in spaces with little ventilation. This can help cold and flu to spread, especially among the elderly, who may have weaker immune systems. Of course, the negative effects of cold room temperatures on breathing are an even bigger problem for older people who have caught respiratory illnesses and are coughing.

Hypothermia

NICE guidance on the health impacts of cold states that hypothermia isn’t the primary cause of most winter deaths due to cold. In fact, the cardiovascular and respiratory conditions we’ve already mentioned are the two greatest concerns.

However, it’s also true that older people’s bodies are less able to fight low body temperatures for many reasons, including common long-term medical conditions and fuel poverty. As such, the cost-of-living crisis means that hypothermia is still a real risk if a senior’s home is not adequately heated.

Risks of hypothermia are also higher for seniors with dementia if they are unable to recognise that they are too cold or take actions to get warm.

How serious are the risks?

How concerned should we be about the dangers of cold for seniors? Excess winter mortality gives an indication of how many elderly people die of cold in the UK. Put simply, this is the number showing how many more people died in wintertime than in the rest of the year.

In fact, mortality typically increases significantly in winter. However, the difference between winter and summer deaths seems to have been decreasingly slightly as winters have become milder.

Age UK estimates that almost 46,000 more elderly people in the UK died in the winter 2017-2018 than in the rest of the year. That year, excess winter mortality for England and Wales alone was 40,800.

In contrast, the Office for National Statistics’ data on winter mortality says that in the following winter, excess deaths for people aged 75 and up were 18,050 in England and Wales. As you’ll see, that’s a significant drop from the 2017-2018 figures.

This trend of decreasing winter mortality has continued. How many elderly people died of cold in the UK in more recent years? The provisional figure for non-Covid-related excess winter deaths in England in winter 2021-22 is 7,800 for England and Wales. And the End Fuel Poverty Coalition attributes 4,950 excess deaths of all ages in 2022-23 specifically to living in cold homes.

Does this mean winter cold isn’t a concern? Not at all. Cold can cause severe pain and suffering to the elderly without causing death. Falls or other health crises due to cold can cause lengthy hospitalisations and a slow decline in health that doesn’t necessarily show in mortality calculations.

To help reduce the effects of cold temperatures on the cardiovascular system and breathing, as well as preventing hypothermia, seniors should be sure to wrap up warm when going outside and keep their homes heated to a minimum of 18°C. Older people with breathing conditions like asthma may also want to wear a scarf over their nose and mouth to mitigate the effects of cold air on the airways.

What help with heating bills is available from the government?

Fortunately, some help with heating costs for the elderly is available from the government. Generally, these payments should come automatically as long as a senior is signed up for all the benefits they are eligible for.

Most elderly people with a birthday before 23 September 1957 should automatically have received a Winter Fuel Payment in late 2023. However, some seniors who don’t receive State Pension, Pension Credit or any benefits may need to make a claim by the end of March 2024.

Older people who are eligible should have automatically received the Warm Home Discount from their energy bill sometime between October 2023 and March 2024. During extremely cold weather, eligible seniors should also automatically receive a Cold Weather Payment.

How a SureSafe alarm protects elderly people in the winter

It’s clear that an automatic fall detection alarm is a huge asset for an older person in the winter. It ensures help will always be on the way if a senior trips on ice or suffers a heart attack or asthma attack due to cold. It also provides security if an elderly person trips and falls indoors due to chilly, numb feet or a blanket that gets tangled underfoot.

Many fall alarms also offer a one-touch button to call for help. That’s great for non-falling cold-related emergencies like breathlessness or chest pains where an older person is unable to get up and walk to a phone.

In short, a personal alarm for the elderly can really help keep older people safe in the winter. If you’d like to know more about how personal alarms can help in the cold or year-round, we welcome you to get in touch with us at SureSafe. We’re a leading UK provider of affordable, easy-to-use personal alarms, and keeping older people safe is our specialty. You can call us on 0800 112 3201, try our live chat or request a call back.

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