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Family carers face extra challenges as temperatures dip

PUBLISHED: 13:25 18 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:25 18 September 2017

Social care experts in Norfolk have warned of the additional challenges faced by family carers as the weather gets colder and the days get shorter.

There are an estimated 95,000 carers in Norfolk, who provide unpaid support for a friend or family member.

The cold weather can affect a number of medical conditions, including arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

Chris Preston from Arthritis Care said: “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.”

Dr Daryl Freeman, respiratory and research lead GP in Norfolk, added: “Caring for a loved-one with COPD can be exhausting, confusing and 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.”

The weather can also affect mental health, with conditions such as seasonal affective disorder - a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern.

Carers may therefore have to provide more practical and emotional support to their loved ones as the temperature begins to fall this winter. And they are being advised to avoid going out in cold or windy weather with the person they are looking after, as these surroundings could cause a flare up in some conditions.

Debbie Foster from Norfolk and Suffolk Alzheimer’s Society added: “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- 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.”

Carers are also being urged to look after their own health as the weather worsens.

Norfolk Carers provides practical and emotional support to family carers. The free advice line is on 0808 808 9876, or visit www.norfolkcarers.org.uk

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