As the clocks go back and thoughts turn to short days, dark nights and maybe some wintry weather, here is our checklist for making the winter months better for elderly parents.
Keeping the house warm
- Get the boiler serviced earlier in the year if you can – and check the radiators – Engineers will be less busy over the summer and then you don’t have to worry about it
- Age UK recommends keeping the living room at 21°C, the bedroom at 18°C and the rest of the house at least 16°C. Set the heating to come on just before getting up and switch off after bedtime. If it’s very cold, set the heating to come on earlier and turn off later rather than turning the thermostat up.
- Make sure that the house is well insulated to keep the heat in (and save on bills). Draft proofing doors and windows, as well as insulating the loft (and walls if necessary) will help to retain as much heat as possible. Financial help may be available to help with insulation. Check out the Energy Saving Trust who can provide advice.
- Switch off the heating in any rooms that aren’t used; draw the curtains as it gets dark to help retain the heat.
- If the house is heated by oil or solid fuel make sure there are adequate supplies for the winter.
- Electric blankets are fab – and should be checked regularly (particularly if they were bought some time ago). Find an expert to check them either via the shop/manufacturer or local authority trading standards department – they often have free testing days.
Help with heating costs
The cost of heating is a worry for many but there is some help at hand in terms of UK Government payments.
- Most people born before 6 May 1953 are entitled to the Winter Fuel Payment in 2016–17 to help with heating costs. It’s a tax-free payment of between £100 and £300 paid out between November and December. If a person has received this before they should get the payment automatically, but if it’s the first year contact the Winter Fuel Payment helpline.
- In addition anyone who receives Pension Credit, or certain other benefits, are also automatically paid a Cold Weather Payment when the temperature is at 0°C (32°F) or below for seven days in a row.
- Switch providers for a better deal. Most of us are still reluctant to switch utilities or other suppliers – but it can be really worth it.
Other things to do around the house
- If the pipes burst, the water supply will need to be switched off quickly. Where are the stopcocks? Are they easy to access and turn off if needed? Check in advance.
- Make sure the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working and batteries have been replaced.
- Keep a list of local services such as plumbers, electricians, heating engineers, utility companies, GP surgery etc, near the telephone for use in case of emergencies.
Keeping warm and well
- Regular and daily exercise will help keep elderly parents warm and well over the winter; if its icy outside then encourage them to do exercises indoors.
- Layers of clothing will keep them warmer – vests, thermals etc.
- A thermos is a good way of having warm drinks throughout the day – saves trips to the kitchen.
- A hot water bottle, or a back/hand warmer which you put in the microwave.
- Renewing a flu jab annually is important as the flu virus changes every year – it is free for anyone over the age of 65. Flu is not only unpleasant but can lead to pneumonia. A one-off jab pneumo jab for those over 65 to prevent pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia is also recommended by GPs.
- Make sure any medications on repeat prescriptions are ordered well ahead of time in case of bad weather, so never without vital drugs. Or set up a prescriptions direct service.
- Prepare for a really cold or wet spell by stocking up the freezer and larder.
Looking after pets
- Make sure there is enough food in case there is a cold snap.
- Make alternative arrangements in advance for dog walking for when it is cold or icy weather.
Age UK has written a guide full of information, advice and contact numbers for relevant organisations. Check here to download Staying Warm and Well in the Winter.
If you have any tips on preparing for winter – let us know via the forum.