In the final week before Christmas staff from the Local Authority’s Social Care team are now starting work to contact around 4,000 older and vulnerable residents in a huge co-ordinated ‘ring-round’. The callers are checking that people’s heating is working, for example, and that each has food and medicines they need to get them through this time.
Oldham Council is also today issuing a call to action. All residents are being asked to keep an eye out for their neighbours in the light of new fears that pensioners will suffer this winter.
Age UK is estimating that as many as 25,000 older people could die needlessly due to cold weather this year nationwide as the drop in temperature increases the risk of health problems like heart attacks, strokes, respiratory problems and depression.
Councillor Sue Dearden, Assistant Cabinet Member for Social Services and Community Health, said, “These targeted calls by our Social Care team are hugely important and we know they are appreciated by the people that we speak to.
“The kind of issues we help out with vary from call to call. A typical example from last year was a gentleman who was distressed because he couldn’t get to the chemist to collect a prescription due to the snow. Staff collected the prescription and arranged with his GP and chemist to have the medication delivered in future.
“When we rang one lady we could hear a smoke detector bleeping in the background. She said she had nobody who could change the battery and couldn’t cope with the noise all through Christmas. Our team visited her home and did it for her, a simple quick task, but one that she was very grateful for. Another lady told us she had no heating. The weather was extremely cold so we contacted the housing department, raised the concerns and had her heating repaired the next day.”
As half of the over-60s in the UK now live by themselves, isolation and loneliness is a major problem for elderly people at Christmas.
A new report from the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) this week says hundreds of thousands of people are isolated because their grown-up children live far away. They often depend on phone calls from children for social contact and, even though a large majority of over-75s say they are lonely, they wouldn’t admit that to their sons and daughters. The study also says almost 250,000 older people will spend Christmas Day on their own with many depending on television as their main form of company.
Councillor Sue Dearden said: “Whilst many people we call say they have relatives or friends who will drop in to check on them, some simply have nobody to help them with chores like shopping when shorter days and snowbound or slippery pavements make this a huge problem.”
“As a Co-operative Council we and partners like Age UK Oldham and NHS Oldham do as much as possible at this time but we are asking all other residents to help us out and ‘do your bit’. Please consider your neighbours, especially the elderly, at this time and spare them a few minutes. Just a quick knock at the door to chat or stopping by for a cuppa can make a huge difference. Simply knowing that someone is looking out for them can be a great thing and be a huge boost in itself to someone’s morale at this time of year.”