Its so cold here at the moment my local pet shop is selling gerbils, hamsters and penguins! I jest of course but it seems here in Britain, we love to talk about the weather; even we at TeleCare24 seem obsessed by it! Our recent blog “How the Weather Affects the Elderly” highlighted some of the physiological issues that temperature fluctuations cause in elderly people.
Well, our friends at the Strategic Society have compiled a report that delves a little further into this issue, specifically with regard to the cold weather, excess winter deaths and winter fuel payments. When we talk about excess deaths, we are really referring to the increase in the death rate during winter. The report succinctly titled “Excess Winter Deaths, Winter Fuel Payments and the UK’s Problem with the Cold” made some interesting findings:
- For England and Wales the number of excess deaths during periods of cold weather was 24,000 during 2011-12, peaking in February 2012.
- 10,700 were males, 13,300 were females with 19,000 occurring in the over 75 age group.
- In 2008-09, the number of excess deaths was 36,450.
- The report estimates that many of these deaths are preventable and costs the NHS £1.36 billion each year – that’s 1.5% of its budget.
The cost of an older person staying in hospital is estimated to be £1750-£2100.
One of the most interesting findings of the report highlighted that the increased risk of having a heart attack and a stroke in cold weather was not common knowledge amongst both the elderly and their carers.
In the Government paper, “Healthy Lives, Healthy People”, it was suggested that many of the deaths can be prevented through a full take up of seasonal flu vaccination, maintaining the winter fuel allowance and free bus travel. The winter fuel payments cost the treasury a cool £2.15 billion each year, but it’s clear that it can go some way to helping the vulnerable to keep warm at home during cold snaps. The report states that there is a credible link between the winter fuel payment and the reduction in excess winter deaths.
There is talk of making the WFP means tested, which could mean that the government would save around 50% of its expenditure on the WFP. However, the report states that if this were the case, the money should be reinvested to tackle the issue of cold winters and their effect on older people.
As we stated in our earlier blog, a careline alarm is a great way to monitor older people who want to remain in their own home. When we have periods of cold weather, it tends to be our busiest time of the year for taking emergency calls from clients who use our pendant alarms.
Especially helpful are the sensors that can be wirelessly connected to a careline alarm, particularly temperature sensors would be particularly helpful for monitoring the homes of older people. Therefore, if for whatever reason the ambient temperature fell below the minimum, an alert would be triggered through to our call centre via the careline alarm installed in the home. Our Operator can then discuss with the householder the best way of warming up the home to a safe temperature.
So yes us Brits are obsessed with the cold weather, its what we like to talk about. But in relation to this new report its for good reason. It would appear excess deaths in winter are largely preventable – its awareness of the problem that’s the key. Awareness of technology too seems to be a real issue; many just don’t know what a careline alarm is and how it can help older people. I suppose that’s the point of this blog!