Home alone: A visit could save a life

Regardless of your age, it is always good to walk, but certainly not in treacherous weather

Comment and Opinion – By Jimmy Rhatigan

KEEP yourself well wrapped up, stay warm and if at all possible remain indoors for what meteorologists are warning may be a horrific few days of bitterly cold weather.

A Status Yellow warning has already been issued to Kilkenny and several other counties. This outlined a spell of frost and icy conditions.

Another warning reminded that air temperatures of 0 to minus 5 Celsius would prevail, with widespread severe frost.

Daily bulletins will update our people on how bad or worse our weather will be.

Our advice to our senior citizens in particular is to err on the side of caution.

If the much spoken about Beast from the East arrives then we are in for a real skinner, but even if Arctic-like conditions do not attack us, is is vital to safeguard your health, to make sure your home is warm and, particularly if you live alone, that you keep in regular contact with family, friends and neighbour.

Harsh winter weather is nobody’s friend but it is a real enemy for those in their pension years or more and is, to be blunt, a time when our grandparents and their age group, particularly the ill or frail among them, can be more susceptible to heart attacks or strokes.

It is not our wish to be sensational but it is our duty to remind that precautions should be taken and indeed to ask neighbours to call on the ill and elderly to ensure that if they are home alone that they are not in distress and that they have an ample supply of food and vital medication.

ALONE, the charity that supports older people to age at home, is urging our aged to take extra care during the forecast cold weather conditions due to hit most of our country over the next few days.

CEO Seán Moynihan rightly reminds that cold temperatures can have a serious affect on many older people, in particular those living alone, those with health issues, and those with limited mobility.

He has pointed out that 5% or one twentieth of Irish people people aged over 65 who lived alone were unable to keep their homes adequately warm in 2012.

That figure jumped to 9.8% in 2013.

“Given that 50% or half of Excess Winter Deaths (EWDs) experienced in Ireland can be linked to poor thermal efficiency in dwellings, ALONE is urging older people to take extra care and encouraging those who are concerned about their own wellbeing during the cold weather to call for assistance and help if needed,” Seán said in a statement.

He added that following a very serious cold weather forecast by Met Éireann, ALONE was calling on all members of the public to remember their older neighbours living alone and to consider their needs.

“We’re advising older people to stay warm in the cold by ensuring they have adequate home heating, wearing layers of light but warm clothing, eating at least one hot meal a day and staying indoors where possible.

“A visit from a friend, family member or neighbour to check on an older person’s heating levels, food supplies and security, as well as to simply offer some company can make a huge difference,” he continued.

The good news for our elderly is that ALONE has volunteers and staff ready to act on requests for assistance and can advise on issues relating to food, heat or medication.

For those who have concerns about their own wellbeing or the wellbeing of a vulnerable older person in the community, the ALONE hotline is 01-6791032.

It is always good to shower a little bit of tender, loving care on the most vulnerable amongst us, including parents with young children who may be struggling with fuel costs to keep their homes warm or indeed rummaging to find money to purchase food for the hungry.

We have many wonderful people in our community who will dash to the rescue if a red light is displayed, either by a family or by someone who fears for the wellbeing of a mother, father and children.

Our local St Vincent de Paul Society has a wonderful record and our belief is that a family in real distress in particularly harsh weather would always be offered comfort and assistance.

The key is to sound the alarm and not to wait until someone’s health is damaged or worse.

It is up to us all to practise ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ and it is always good to remember that when you reach your senior years you may just be that neighbour who is glad to get help.