Pensioner who died from hypothermia ‘told don’t worry about the bills’

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A pensioner died from hypothermia because she was too worried to turn on the heating, despite assurances from her son that he would cover the cost.

Barbara Bolton was rushed to hospital on December 11, 2022, after telling relatives she “felt cold”.

Despite the best efforts of medical professionals at Fairfield Hospital, the 87-year-old from Bury, Greater Manchester, died several weeks later after her condition deteriorated, Rochdale Coroner’s Court heard last week.

The Manchester Evening News understands hospital notes indicate her illness was linked to the fact she could not afford to turn on her heating.

Her son, Mark Bolton, 61, said his “proud” mum had refused his offer to help pay her power bills.

She had a single gas fire in her living room and used portable electric heaters to warm the rest of her two-bedroom house, he said.

The great-grandmother had worked as a pharmacy assistant at her local Tesco branch until the age of 82.

Neighbours said she had lived at her home for several decades.

Mark said he spoke to his mum every night and that she worried about her heating bills, despite assurances he would cover the costs.

“She was concerned about all her bills because she was a pensioner. She was careful, she was mindful of the prices and worried about them going up,” he said.

Mark said he always told her ‘just keep your heating on’ and ‘don’t worry about the bills mum.’ “But she was very stubborn and proud about paying her own way,” he said.

He said his mum had ‘felt cold’ when she was found sitting at her kitchen table by one of her grandchildren, who had gone around after the family had not been able to contact her.

Police coroner’s officer Jane Scullion told the hearing: “Barbara was admitted to hospital on December 11, 2022, with hypothermia and a chest infection.

“During that time she continued to deteriorate. After a discussion, she was placed on end-of-life care and passed away.”

Assistant coroner for Manchester North Julie Mitchel adjourned the inquest and requested statements from her doctor and asked for a medical cause of death to be provided.

“Her death was particularly accelerated by hypothermia and there is a possibility of self-neglect due to the lack of heating so her death has been referred to the coroner,” she said.

Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposure to very cold temperatures and requires immediate medical intervention.

Causes include not wearing warm clothes in winter, falling into cold water and living in a cold house.

Neighbours of Ms Bolton, who live on Dawson Street in Bury, said they were shocked and saddened to hear of Ms Bolton’s death, and said she had lived there for several decades.

One man said: “I think Barbara must have lived here about 50 years. I know that she was working at the chemist in Tesco until fairly recently. It’s so sad.”

Another woman said: “I hadn’t seen her in a few weeks. It’s so sad. She was a really nice woman and lived here for years but more recently kept herself to herself.”

A full inquest, which will explore the circumstances which led to Ms Bolton’s death, will take place at Rochdale Coroners’ Court later this year.

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