Family carers can face additional challenges as colder weather and shorter days can affect many medical conditions, according to experts in Norfolk.

Chris Preston from Arthritis Care says:

“Many people with arthritis report that joint and muscle stiffness and aches and pains worsen in colder weather and it can take a bit longer to do everyday tasks and to get out and about. This can mean that people become more dependent on their carer.”  

Family carers looking after someone with COPD, for example, may need to take extra steps to support the person they are looking after, such as, helping them to avoid going out in low temperatures, or windy conditions, that can cause the disease to flare up and by getting a flu or pneumonia vaccination themselves, to avoid spread of winter illnesses.

Dr Daryl Freeman is the respiratory and research lead GP in Norfolk. She says:

Caring for a loved-one with COPD can be exhausting, confusing & stressful as it is a disease which has an enormous impact on patients and their loved ones. Ask your respiratory nurse at the GP to give you advice and talk you through the Norfolk COPD self-management plan which contains a guide to how to recognise worsening disease and what to do.” 

A number of pharmacies in Norfolk are offering flu shots, which are free if you’re 65 or over and you may also be eligible if you are the main carer for an older or disabled person. If you’re 65 or over you may be able to get a vaccine to protect you from pneumonia and other similar diseases. Just speak to your GP or pharmacy.

Mental health can also be affected by seasonal changes; Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), for example, is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. Carers may find that they have to provide more practical and emotional support to their loved-one at this time of year.

Debbie Foster from Norfolk & Suffolk Alzheimer’s Society says that as the temperature dips caring for someone with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia may be more demanding:

“Being cold for any length of time is a serious health risk – particularly for older people and those who are inactive and have poor circulation. For carers looking after someone with dementia, many other challenges can present themselves as we head towards winter. The person you are caring for may feel the cold far more but they may not realise it or may be unable to tell you. Disrupted sleep can also occur especially when the clocks change and regular routines are altered.

People with certain neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s Disease and MS may experience more nerve pain and muscle stiffness or loss of sensation in the colder weather and may need more support from their family carer.

Family carers concerned about the effects that the colder weather may have on a loved-one’s medical condition, should talk to the GP or pharmacy. Carers are also urged  take steps to look after their own health.

Lauren Seamons, from Norfolk’s Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC) says:

“If you’re looking after someone it’s important that you look after yourself too and take advantage of the fact that pharmacies are open extended hours and at weekends for advice that’s free and without the need for an appointment.” 

Norfolk Carers provides practical and emotional support to family carers.  The free advice line is on 0808 808 9876;   Twitter:  @NorfolkCarersUK  Facebook: NorfolkCarersUK