Do you need a 'Winter Buddy'?
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With winter 2014 set to be the coldest for more than a century it's time to think about the safety of vulnerable people in the community.
We all have a role to play in helping to keep vulnerable people safe - if only to keep an eye out for anything that may be out of the ordinary.
There are a number of tell-tale signs that someone may have had an accident - some examples of these may be milk being left on the doorstep, bins not taken out, newspapers sticking out of the letterbox and curtains drawn or lights left on.
In the winter of 2012/13 it’s estimated that 31,100 winter deaths occurred in England and Wales with over 25,500 of these deaths occurred among those aged 75 and over.
It is a sad, but common, fact that more people will die during the winter months than in the summer- in 2012/13, nearly 20% more people died in the winter months compared with the non-winter months.
It is these excessive winter deaths (EWD) that services such as the Winter Buddies scheme currently being implemented in Lichfield, Staffordshire are looking to reduce. By connecting socially isolated and frail older people to volunteer ‘buddies’ the scheme aims to prevent accidental injuries, avoidable hospital admissions and excessive winter deaths.
By giving a little time to show that someone cares there is a chance that the number of accidents that older people have can be reduced. Winter Buddies are not there to just prevent accidents though - something as simple as sharing a pot of tea, helping with the shopping or changing a light bulb can make a massive difference to the life of someone who is lonely.
Social enterprise, Bromford, working in partnership with St Giles Hospice and South East Staffordshire & Seisdon Peninsula CCG will offer the service to older people who are living alone or have existing chronic health conditions such as respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease during the winter months.
The project is part of the wider Lichfield District’s approach to EWD and will connect into existing fuel poverty and warm home initiatives established last year. Although only funded for the winter months, the aims are to leave a positive and lasting legacy by connecting people and building a caring community around those most vulnerable.
The Winter Buddies service aims to increase social inclusion whilst reducing the numbers of accidental injuries, illness or accidents. Not only will this have a social benefit, it would also help to save money from the public purse when we consider that the cost to treat a simple hip fracture is around £5,000.
Winter Buddies are looking to recruit ten volunteers who will receive full training to enable them to help and support a number of older people identified as being vulnerable - could you help?
If you’re interested in becoming a ‘Winter Buddy’ who can offer support to vulnerable older people living in the Lichfield area you should contact Marie Williams on 07734 159244 or Tracy Turner on 07747 693232. Alternatively you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information.
You can also follow on Twitter @Winter_Buddies
It's important for us all to keep warm over the winter months - take a look at our tips here...