In August I sometimes think – must get the boiler serviced – and then forget until about now when an appointment is virtually impossible to arrange until the following spring.
With the clocks going back (or is it forward) and the prospect of a particularly long dark winter should the supply chains seize up etc, it’s definitely time to check up on elderly parents and relatives and make sure they’re ready for the beast from the east or whatever might be coming our way this winter….
1. Arrange for the boiler to be serviced
With any luck your parents and relatives are more organised than I am and maybe even have a contract for an annual service. Be sure also there is enough fuel – oil, wood or coal – to heat the home.
For a more energy efficient winter you could fit foil panels behind the radiators to reflect the heat back into the rooms; have a look in the loft and see how well it is insulated (there may be some funding available for this too). You could also go the whole hog and lag the pipes, and while doing this, check where the stopcock is, just in case we really get a cold snap, cold enough to freeze the pipes.
If fuel bills are of concern, perhaps you could help switch suppliers (although– buyer beware – a number of companies are going out of business – many are those with very alluring introductory tariffs – as a result of the rise in prices; if this happens to your parents then they will be moved automatically to a different supplier, but probably on a different tariff, so worth keeping an eye on).
If your parents are eligible (receiving a state pension and/or other benefits) they may qualify for Winter Fuel Payments (£100 – £300 paid automatically in November and December) – which are not to be confused with the additional Cold Weather Payment – £25 for every 7 day period below or predicted to be 0 degrees Celsius.
2. Covid booster and the Flu Jab
I don’t need to say this but… particularly this year encourage your parents and relatives – and everyone – to have the flu jab. And the covid booster. As we have been out of circulation for so much of the last 18 months, it must make sense, and they’re free..
3. Keeping warm
Mum’s electric blanket stayed on the bed for decades. Suffice to say we never checked it, and I imagine the odd cup of tea was spilled on it …. but it’s probably a good idea to make sure it still works ok, and even get it PAT checked by your local Age UK… and check the caps and seals on hot water bottles…. Particularly if they’ve been kicking around the house for a while.
4. Stocking up
Not in a Brexit or pandemic sort of way obviously, but well worth putting a few things in the cupboards or the freezer for those days when it’s just too miserable to leave the house. I understand there is plenty of loo roll, so really no need to panic on that front.
5. Medication and medical stuff
It may be hard to get a GP appointment (zoom or in person) this winter, so would certainly be worth stocking up on any regular medication, or trying to get anything medical sorted out now. If you haven’t already, then register for online deliveries, via the GP surgery or for example Boots.
6. Keeping warm, part 2
There is lots of useful advice about keeping warm at home during the winter. From closing the curtains in rooms that aren’t used, to moving a sofa away from a radiator; or how about a lovely throw to put over the knees on a dreary afternoon whilst watching Midsomer Murders….
7. 'Tis the season for scammers
And while we are on the subject of afternoon telly – it always seemed to be prime time for the scammers to call. Mum fell for it once and felt so stupid afterwards. Fortunately it wasn’t too serious, but she was very lucky. They are so sophisticated now – so please be sure that your parents and relatives are protected as much as they can be.
8. The Car
A scraper and some de-icer for sure; how about a phone charger? Might also be worth checking that any roadside assistance is uptodate, even though its easy to renew when something happens.
9. Paths and driveways
Falls in and around the home account for millions of people ending up in hospital every year…. And so many are so avoidable both inside and outside the home. In some European countries it is the law that neighbours should ensure that paths and drives of elderly neighbours are also kept clear of snow as well as their own… seems a bit of a no brainer, and maybe we could include clearing leaves in this.
10. 'Tis also the season to be jolly
Most importantly once you’ve done all of this, is to encourage parents and relatives to keep active and busy over the next few months. Dust down the puzzles and boardgames, or go virtual touring museums and galleries – and live performances. And whilst the days of cocktail and zoom may be far behind us, more regular calls just to keep in touch.
It’s the time of year when the Blue Peter hedgehog springs to mind – all ready to curl up in a nice warm cardboard box with extra food until the end of March.
See you on the other side….
Annabel James is the founder of Age Space. Her wardrobe has already been swapped over, but the cupboards themselves could do with a clean…