Checking On Vulnerable Neighbours This Winter

It can be hard to know what to do if you notice that your vulnerable neighbours are in danger. With the combination of the potential energy crisis and the cost of living crisis about to strike this winter, elderly and/or vulnerable neighbours are even more susceptible and at risk than ever before.

In this article, I’ll give you some tips on how to check on your neighbours this winter. I’ll also provide you with a list of resources that you can use to help you and your neighbour

Below is a handy table of contents. Clicking on any of the article headers below will jump you straight to the place on this page you are interested in.

Prepare Yourself – Information

Before you even think about checking on your vulnerable neighbours, it’s good to be prepared.

This means having some general information about your neighbours at hand.

Your information about your vulnerable neighbours should include their name, address, and any other details about them that would help you identify them, especially if the help they need outweighs the help and support you can give, and you need to reach out to agencies like Age UK that can offer professional help.

Another good idea is to find out if your neighbours have any family members or friends who can help them – and if possible, get their mobile phone number in case you need to contact them in an emergency.

You’ll also want to know the names of any partners or children who live with your vulnerable neighbours.

Hopefully, you’ll already have a good picture of all of this information already, especially if you’ve lived next to them or near to them for any considerable period of time.

In short then, the basic information you should try and get is:

  • Name and approximate age
  • Do they live alone?
  • Do they have any medical conditions?
  • Contact details for family members or close friends

Of course, you’ll want to get this information through natural conversation if possible.

Identify Your Vulnerable Neighbours

So what do I mean by vulnerable?

A vulnerable person can actually be anybody, given the fact that we might not know the full extent of their personal circumstances.

Here’s a few examples of people who could be classed as vulnerable, especially in winter:

  • Elderly persons who either live alone or with another elederly person
  • A person who struggles with mobility
  • A person who struggles with simple day to day tasks, such as going shopping or feeding themselves
  • A person who gets easily confused
  • A person that may not recognise they need help

If your neighbours are willing to talk to you, talk to them about what they need help with.

You can also ask if there’s anyone who can help them, and then make sure that you follow up on that help.

Even if you don’t know your vulnerable neighbours, you’ll probably have a good picture anyway from when you’ve seen them around their home – maybe they have a walking stick or mobility scooter, maybe they walk particularly slow, or maybe you’ve noticed they rarely venture out, even in the warmer months.

All of these little details should give you a good indication of whether they are or could become vulnerable during winter months.

You can ask your neighbours and their family members what kind of assistance your vulnerable neighbours may need.

Check on Them Regularly

It’s important to check in on your vulnerable neighbours regularly.

help elderly neighbours winter

This doesn’t necessarily mean knocking on their door every day, but again, little details can help build a picture.

For example:

  • Have you seen them recently?
  • Have you seen lights on in their home?
  • Are the curtains or blinds open and shut at usual times of the day?
  • Have you seen them getting food deliveries?
  • Is their bin out along with yours on bin collection day

I’ve mentioned the bins because I once noticed that my neighbours bin hadn’t been put out and emptied alongside my own bins at one point in a previous winter. In this instance I did knock on the door to check, and it turned out that everything was fine. However, they hadn’t put the bins out because they had told me they didn’t want to risk pulling a big heavy bin when their had been a frost that morning.

Subsequently, I made sure to pull their bins out on collection day, and return them to the driveway after they had been emptied, especially if it was particularly cold and there was a frost on the ground.

This small gesture just meant that I was 1) reducing the risk of an elderly person pulling a bin out and potentially slipping and injuring themselves, and 2) I was reducing their anxiety over overflowing bins and the potential of rodents or other pests being attracted to rotten food and anything else that had been placed in the bins.

Sometimes small things make big differences in peoples lives.

But if you haven’t noticed anything fromthe list above, it is worth knocking on the door.

Offer Assistance if Necessary

If you notice that your vulnerable neighbours are in need, you can help them out by offering assistance.

This can be as simple as offering to put out their bins, or setting them up with online Tesco shopping for instance (although ONS states that 47% of over 75’s have used the internet recently, which is great news for elderly people accessing services).

winter elderly vulnerable

If you’re popping out for milk and bread one morning, and it’s a particluarly bad day with wind, rain, snow or ice, why not knock on their door and tell them you’re popping out, and ask if they want anything from the shops?

Of course, there is always the chance of offending people in this sort of situation, but a little bit of diplomacy can go a long way in these situations.

For example, you could knock on the door and ask an unrelated question, in an attempt to strike up a conversation, such as asking if they had received a letter you were expecting.

From here, it’s the perfect ice breaker, because you can then start to guage if everything is alright through natural conversation. You can also check things like their physical condition, as well as feeling if their home feels warm and looks in a reasonable state whilst standing at the door.

Of course, a lot of this depends on your relationship with your neighbour, if you’re on friendlier terms, they might even invite you in for a drink, where you can then properly guage the situation that they are in.

Follow Up After the Check-in

When you visit your vulnerable neighbours in winter, you should follow up on your visit.

This means making sure that your vulnerable neighbours have what they need and that they’re okay.

Again, striking up general conversation will allow you to glean crucial details from them, and using leading questions cn often give you the most information, such as these examples:

  • “It’s so cold today, I’ve had my heating on all day, what about you?”
  • “I’ve just come back from tesco, it was really quiet, have you been recently?”
  • “I’ve just picked up my prescription from the chemist, it was quiet in there today”.

I don’t want to teach you to suck eggs so I’ll leave it at three examples, but nevertheless, these are good examples of leading questions that appear on the surface as conversational, but will allow you to get information on the status of their heating, eating and medical circumstances.

If your vulnerable neighbours have a family member or friend who can help them, make sure that you contact them as well, so that they know what’s going on especially if you have any concerns or doubts.

What To Look For

Usually, vulnerable or elderly neighbours will struggle in winter months with one or more of the following three things:

  • Keeping warm through appropriate clothing and heating of their home. This is especially pertinent this winter, with energy bills rising rapidly, some people might decide to use their heating sparingly.
  • Not getting enough nutrition through lack of access to food and water supplies. Again, access to food and shops could be restricted due to weather conditions.
  • Not keeping on top of medical conditions through limited access to Doctors and chemists due to weather.

If they are struggling with any one of these three, then they need your help, or the expert help of professionals.

Your Relatives

Don’t forget your relatives!

Especially those who are vulnerable, elderly or live alone.

It’s of course, slightly easier with relatives, because you can usually give them a call and have a conversation, and you can usually ask them direct questions without the chance of offence being taken. So you can go ahead and ask if their home is warm, you can ask what they’ve eaten today, and you can ask them about their health.

Do pick up the phone, even if you’ve not spoken to them for a while.

Who To Ask For Help

There are many agencies that can help vulnerable or elderly persons in the UK, whether it’s winter or not.

If the help they need outweighs your ability to give help, please do get in touch with one of the agencies I’ve outlined below.

However, I can’t list them all here, simply because each local authority does it slightly different, and have different ways of actioning help.

The best way to find help is to type into Google ‘elderly help + your location” or “vulnerable person help + your location”.

There are lots of agencies and charities that can help and offer assistance.

For instance, in my local area, there is a council run scheme that will provide support for elderly or vulnerable people, like providing someone to help with shopping, or offering impartial advice on energy bills.

You could also try phoning your local council offices, and seeing what help is available in your locality.

Summary

Love thy neighbour.

Whether you’re religious or not, this phrase should resonate with all of us, especially if your neighbour is vulnerable or elderly.

Winter can be a daunting time for this group of people. The days are shorter, it’s often bitterly cold, and weather conditions can often be unfavourable.

So do your bit with your neighbours and relatives, and even if they don’t need help, often a small conversation with a neighbour or relative can help make their day – and perhaps even your day too.

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Questions & Comments

If you have a question or a comment on this article, please use the comments box below. I’ll try my best to reply to each and every one of your questions, comments and suggestions.

Stay Safe. Stay Secure. And Love They Neighbour.

Richard

My name is Richard.

I'm 40 years old. And I have nearly 20 years experience in various safety and security industries.

I'm here for you, sharing all my knowledge and experience to help you create a safe and secure home for you and your family.

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