Winter can be particularly tough for older and vulnerable people. It’s a sad but probably unsurprising fact that more people die in the winter than at any other time of year and there were more than 7,000 admissions to hospital in 2012/13 as a result of people falling over on snow and ice.
There’s lots of very sound advice available about what people can do to reduce their risks of falling ill or simply falling – we’ve listed some top tips at the bottom of this blog post.
Sometimes however you can do everything in your power and still be vulnerable though, and that’s when a brilliant new scheme really comes into its own.
The ‘Key to Keep You Safe’ scheme is a really simple idea from the Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board. Ten thousand key fobs have been produced which have the 24-hour Norfolk County Council phone number to report adult social services emergencies (0344 800 8020) printed on one side. On the other side, there is space for an ‘in case of emergencies’ number, which could belong to a relative or friend, to be filled in.
The key fobs are targeted at vulnerable adults who may have, for example, decreased mobility, poor memory or who may get easily distracted and confused. They can be attached to a key ring and if people carrying one become ill, distressed or have a fall, the key fob will allow members of the public to quickly get in touch with both a personal contact and professionals who will be able to help.
Nona Hall, 89, who lives at Holly Court retirement housing in Attleborough, now carries a key fob after she had a couple of falls.
Her son Steve Hall, who also lives in Attleborough, said: “My mum’s partially sighted and she’s very active and likes to get out and about. She has had a couple of falls whilst out, one of them I was with her and the other I wasn’t and on that occasion it took a while for people to get hold of the right information so they could make me aware.
“The key fob gives my mum and us peace of mind that if something did happen, hopefully someone would find those contact details much more quickly and we’d get out to her much sooner.
“The ‘in case of emergency’ number on mobile phones is fine until people put lock codes on their mobiles and in an emergency that person won’t always remember how to unlock their phone, or be able to. If someone wants a simplistic system to get hold of help in an emergency, I’d fully recommend the key fob scheme to anyone at risk.”
The ‘Key to Keep You Safe’ was the idea of Linda Naylor who sits on the Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board and is also Safeguarding Adults Coordinator at Norfolk County Council.
She said: “One of the priorities of the Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board is that potentially vulnerable adults are given every opportunity to lead independent lives. Getting older, illness and injury can compromise this but sometimes simple measures, like the Key to Keep You Safe, can help give people the confidence to still get out and about in the community.
“A lot of people aren’t comfortable using a mobile phone or remember to take it out with them even if they do have one, so the Key to Keep You Safe is a low-tech and unobtrusive alternative. We’ve given out a number of the fobs already to people who adult social services, health and police have identified as being potentially vulnerable but we’d be very happy to hear from groups or organisations who work with vulnerable adults and would like some key fobs to distribute.”
People who are interested in finding out more about the scheme or who would like to request some key fobs to distribute to members of a group should telephone 0344 800 8020 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Top tips for keeping safe and well this winter
- Have a flu jab – contact your GP or pharmacist to see if you qualify for a free NHS jab. Its free to anyone over 65 or with certain medical conditions
- Heat your living room at 21’C (70’F), and the rest of your house at 18’C (65’F). Above this you’re wasting your money; below this your health is at risk.
- If you can’t heat all rooms, heat your living room during the day and bedroom before you go to bed
- Eat regular healthy meals and drink hot drinks. Stock up on tins, frozen and dried food
- Keep as active as possible at home
- Wear warm shoes with a good grip and plenty of thin layers
- Get your central heating system serviced and chimneys swept every year
- Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm and fire alarms.
- Get your electric blanket tested every 3 years – and remember never use it with a hot water bottle
- Make sure you have enough oil, LPG, or wood to heat your home
- Draught-proof doors and windows. Insulate lofts, wall cavities, hot water cylinders and pipes. Close doors and curtains to keep heat in. Make sure radiators are not obstructed
- Claim all the financial support you can to help with heating costs.
- Contact your energy supplier to find out what support they provide