The NHS is currently extremely busy looking after some very sick patients, and supporting family and friends to look after their health is one way you can help reduce the risk of minor illnesses and injuries developing into something more serious.
This spring, be sure to check in on older family and friends that may be lonely or isolated as frequently as you can.
Ask after their health and check if they need any practical support. Don’t underestimate the power of a phone call or doorstep chat. Your contact, concern, and conversation can be a lifeline to someone who’s lonely or feeling isolated.
Here is a handy checklist of topics to run through when you’re checking in on older family and friends:
- Check their medicine cabinet. Are their prescriptions filled, or do they need filling before any planned pharmacy closures over the bank holidays? Also check they are stocked with home remedies for cold, flu, hay fever and upset stomachs to help stop minor ailments developing into something more serious.
- Check their kitchen cupboards. Food is a vital source of energy and it’s important they have enough food to see them through any bank holiday supermarket closures. Encourage them to eat a healthy balanced diet, which can be made easier if they have a stock of tinned or frozen foods including vegetables. If they would benefit from a grocery delivery service offer to help them sign up for one, or let them know you’d be willing to collect groceries for them if they need.
- Remind them to stay hydrated. With the weather beginning to warm up, remind them of the importance of drinking enough water to prevent them becoming dehydrated. Keeping a lidded plastic cup with a straw near their chair or bedside is a good way to keep water close by, easy to drink, and reduce the risk of spillages.
- Check for trip hazards. Clear clutter and trailing wires, and encourage them to wear slip resistant shoes indoors. Check their slippers or house shoes – if they are worn through they can increase the risk of slips and falls. Offer to replace them if you can, or encourage them to do so.
- Ask about their contacts and if they’re able to get out and about. Are they part of any local groups that are meeting in person or online? Have they got activities to keep them busy and connected with others? If not, this highlights the importance of your contact and concern, and the value of checking in. If you suspect a friend or loved one is feeling lonely and needs additional support, the Silver Line on 0800 470 8090 offers a free and confidential helpline providing information, friendship and support to older people.
- Remind them to ask for help if they need it. Often, friends and family can be reluctant to ask for help as they don’t want to burden others. Remind them that help and support for their health is available through many local services, including their community pharmacy, by calling 111, or through their GP practice. Encourage them to use these health services early on before any health concerns become bigger problems.
Carolyn Fowler, Director of Nursing & Quality from Norfolk Community Health and Care (NCH&C) said: "While enjoyable for many of us, the upcoming long weekends this Spring can be difficult for some of the more vulnerable members of our community. With supermarkets, pharmacies, and GP surgeries operating on altered schedules, it becomes trickier to access routine support.
"Things like dehydration, malnutrition, or running out of medicine can transform a manageable health condition into an emergency. If you're able to, please consider checking in on your vulnerable or elderly family members and neighbours before and even during the upcoming Bank Holidays. Ensuring they have everything they need is important, but a friendly face and words of support can also make a big difference to their overall wellbeing.
"If you are concerned about the long weekend, please reach out to someone who can help. Remember, while GP surgeries and some pharmacies may be closed, there are many other ways you can access healthcare support, such as calling 111. The NHS is always open, and you can contact them for help whenever you need it."
As the local NHS face continues to face heightened pressures this Spring, health leaders are encouraging people to look after their health and their loved ones to help reduce pressure on local hospitals.
Cath Byford, Chief Nurse of NHS Norfolk and Waveney CCG, said “Our local health teams are incredibly busy caring for some very sick patients, and to help reduce the numbers of people that are attending our emergency departments I would urge everyone to do what they can to look after their health and that of loved ones to stop any health problems from deteriorating. This is especially important for anyone who’s isolated or may need extra help and support over the upcoming bank holiday weekend.
“In addition to self-care at home, remember that other NHS services are available to support you if you do fall ill or get injured, including NHS 111 online, or the Minor Injuries Unit at Cromer Hospital and the Walk-in Centre in Norwich, which are both open and able to provide care for a wide range of illnesses and injuries.”
For more advice and information on local health services, or to find out more resources to support loneliness and mental health, be sure to visit www.springintohealth.co.uk