Red weather warnings are in place across the UK, meaning there’s a risk to life from extreme conditions. While it’s tempting to batten down the hatches and stay indoors for a couple of days, it’s also important to consider those who are vulnerable - particularly elderly family members, friends and neighbours.
Severe weather will stretch from the north of Cardiff to south Exeter between 3pm on Thursday and 2am on Friday, with blizzards, severe thunderstorms and coastal flooding expected.
Age UK’s charity director Caroline Abrahams said the cold conditions will be extremely challenging for many older people, especially those with pre-existing health conditions or who are living in housing that’s difficult and expensive to heat.
“Now is the time to check in on older family members, friends and neighbours,” she told HuffPost UK. “Picking up some shopping for them or just popping in to check they’re okay can be a big help in these conditions.”
Ways you can help
:: Offer to do their shopping or drive them to an appointment if they have trouble getting about.
:: Pop around to their house to have a chat and a cuppa. Make sure they’ve got the heating on and are aware of the weather warnings. Age UK says 18°C (64°F) is the ideal temperature for a bedroom and 21°C (70°F) is the ideal temperature for a living room. Encourage them to keep windows shut, especially at night.
:: If they’re thinking about heading outside, make them aware of the risk to health. Breathing in cold air can increase the risk of chest infections, so if they go out they should wear a scarf around their mouth. This warms the air up before it’s breathed in.
:: Talk to them about staying active when indoors. They should avoid sitting still for more than one hour, if possible.
:: Encourage them to eat. They should have at least one hot meal a day and plenty of regular hot drinks to keep warm.
Other people who may need help
Mik Scarlet, who is a wheelchair user, is currently trapped in his own home because the pavements outside his flat haven’t been cleared of snow and ice. If you know someone who uses a wheelchair, stick or crutches - regardless of age - and who will likely find it difficult to get around in the snow, it’s important to lend a hand.
You could help by clearing their driveway and path so they can access their car or the street; calling them to see if you can take any supplies to tide them over until the worst of the weather has passed; or offering to drive them to the shops or to any appointments.
Pregnant women and new parents can also be affected. Siobhan Freegard, founder of ChannelMum.com said: “They may not be able to get out easily or their GP may not recommend it, so they could well be reliant on the kindness of friends and neighbours.”
A fall in the snow can have serious complications for mums-to-be. To help prevent this, see if you can clear their path or de-ice their steps. Likewise, mums with pushchairs may not be able to get out at all, so it might be nice to pop in and spend some time with them. If all else fails, offer to do a quick shop for them while they stay home and keep an eye on the kids.
It goes without saying that people sleeping on the streets will be incredibly vulnerable to the cold weather. Read more about helping the homeless in freezing conditions here.
HumanKind is HuffPost’s celebration of kindness, featuring people who do incredible things for others or the planet – transforming lives through small but significant acts. Get involved by joining us on Facebook or telling us about the people who you think deserve recognition for their kind works. You can nominate them here or share your personal story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.