It is a stark statistic that hundreds of elderly people die each winter in Kent due to potentially preventable issues such as flu and poor health, cold homes and malnutrition.
Kent County Council (KCC) is raising awareness of this public health issue with some basic safety tips for residents to protect themselves, older and vulnerable family, friends and neighbours.
As part of its “Keep Warm, Keep Well” scheme – and in support of the NHS winter campaign “Feeling under the weather this winter?” – people are being urged to contact key professionals and services who can help.
Using a special thermometer card – available at GP surgeries, medical centres, libraries and other locations across the county – residents can see how cold their homes are and seek advice from a special phone hotline. People over 65 and those with long-term medical conditions are also eligible for the free flu vaccine and are advised to book an appointment with their GP.
KCC Interim Director of Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark said: “In Kent, each year there are approximately 865 more deaths during winter months*. When the temperature drops, this causes your blood vessels – your veins and arteries – to narrow, which in turn increases your blood pressure. In an older or already ill person this can cause a higher risk of a stroke and heart attack. Even a short time in the cold, outdoors or indoors, can have a lasting effect and some simple steps can help to keep you warm and keep well.”
- Regular hot meals to help keep your body warm.
- Keep your home heated – set the heating to the right temperature (18-21C).
- If trying to save fuel, it is advisable to heat the living room during the day, the bathroom when needed and the bedroom, just before going to bed.
- Have your flu vaccine to protect yourself and others.
- Have your heating and cooking appliances checked regularly and make sure the chimney has been swept recently.
For more advice, go to www.kent.gov.uk/health
As part of the NHS “Feeling under the weather this winter?” campaign, older people are also urged to seek early advice from their pharmacist for minor winter illnesses. It is targeted at the over 60s, and also at those aged 45 and above who often look after an older friend, neighbour or relative.
If you’re over the age of 60, a minor illness can get worse quickly. The campaign encourages people with a bad cough, trouble breathing, a cold or sore throat, to visit their local pharmacy for quick health advice. It also asks those caring for or visiting an older friend or relative to get early advice from their local pharmacist or from www.nhs.uk/asap if they are feeling under the weather.
Dr Tarlochan Gill, from the Kent Local Pharmaceutical Committee, said: “Sometimes coughs and colds can develop into something more serious, particularly for people over 60 years of age, so getting early advice will improve your chances of getting well quickly. There’s no such thing as wasting your pharmacist’s time when you have a health concern.
“Your pharmacist wants to help and early advice is the best advice. You won’t need to make an appointment – many pharmacies are open from first thing in the morning until late in the evening. You can also order your repeat prescriptions there which will save you precious time. You can find your local pharmacy on the NHS choices website.”
Note to editors:
*Figures from the Kent and Medway Public Health Observatory from 2007 to 2011.
Kent County Council became responsible for key areas of Public Health following changes to the Health and Social Care Act in 2013. Its overriding aims are to improve and protect the health of the Kent population, and improve the quality, effectiveness and access to, health and social care services.