With the colder months rapidly approaching, there’s plenty to think about in terms of your health, happiness and safety – so where do you start? Check out our top tips for a wonderful winter…
Picturesque, Christmas card-worthy scenery, bright, cold days and cosy afternoons round the fireplace fuelled by hot chocolate… Whether you’re a Christmas fanatic, cosy jumper enthusiast or snowman-building supremo, the prospect of winter being on the horizon is pretty exciting.
However, it’s not all wintry cheer. Disabled and elderly people are the most vulnerable at this time of year, at risk because of the cold, having to do more to keep on top of their health and being stranded when the weather makes it difficult to venture outside. Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to make sure that you don’t end up in a difficult situation.
One of the most important things to think of in winter is keeping warm – and we don’t just mean wearing your biggest jumper, heading to bed with a hot water bottle and donning a hat when outdoors. While this is a good start, making sure your home is warm is even more important – each year, 25,000 to 30,000 deaths are linked to the cold. It’s recommended that your main living room should be 21ºC, your bedroom at 18ºC and other rooms in your house at 16ºC. Heating your home, however, can be costly – last year, according to uSwitch, Brits spent an average of £1,300 on their energy bills. When you’re in a low-income job or claiming benefits, the temptation to turn off the heating is huge.
Thankfully, help is available. People born before 5 January 1952 are eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment, a government-issued grant for older people to help them pay their fuel bills over the winter. This one-off payment, made between November and December, ranges from £100 to £300, and is a huge help for lots of older people. The Cold Weather Payment of £25 is made to people receiving pension credit, income support, income-based jobseekers’ allowance, ESA or universal credit when temperatures in the local area average at below 0ºC for seven consecutive days.
If you are struggling to pay your energy bills, get in touch with the British Gas Energy Trust – this is a charitable organisation which helps people affected by poverty, particularly fuel poverty, awarding grants to clear debt and pay for essential household items. Head to www.britishgasenergytrust.org.uk or call 01733 421 060. Speak with your energy provider too to make sure that you’re on the most affordable tariff and getting the best deal, or consult a website like uSwitch.com to compare prices from other providers. Switching energy companies isn’t as much of a headache as you might think, and it can save you a lot of money.
A more energy efficient home is cheaper to run too, and you might be eligible for grants or even free services to make changes to your home. Organisations like the Energy Saving Trust, Energy Saving Scotland and Nest in Wales are all able to offer support and advice on saving energy and may be able to help you with a range of tasks, such as draught-proofing, installing cavity wall and loft insulation or installing central heating. Getting your loft insulated can save you as much as £180 a year.
Your health is another consideration for the coming months – winter is prime time for the common cold and cases of flu. The flu jab is available free of charge on the NHS to people in the ‘at risk’ groups – that’s people over 65, pregnant women, those with certain medical conditions, people living in long-stay residential care homes or other long-stay care facilities, carers and healthcare workers. If you qualify, get in touch with your GP to see when they’ll be holding a vaccination clinic.
What you eat has a huge impact on your wellbeing. While it’s tempting to stick to stodgy food during the winter months, it is important to make sure you continue eating a balanced diet with lots of fruit and veg. Make sure you keep up your fluid intake too –dehydration is just as much of a risk in winter, and severe dehydration can kill. Cold sets in more easily when you’re dehydrated too.
OUT AND ABOUT
One of the biggest barriers that winter presents is getting out and about. Look into snow tires for your chair, ice grips for shoes and winter-friendly walking aids to make getting out a bit easier. If conditions underfoot make your usual walk into town seem impossible, check out public transport options. Use Traveline’s journey planner (www.traveline.info) to plan out your route, and talk to local providers about access. Many local authorities run door-to-door community transport services too, complete with accessible vehicles – a real lifeline for people who have difficulty using standard public transport. Get in touch with your local authority now.
For days where you find yourself unable to go anywhere, look into the home delivery services offered by major supermarkets like Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Tesco, or specialist companies like Wiltshire Farm Foods and Ocado. Stock up on non-perishables too and fill your freezer just in case you find yourself stuck.
Likewise, ice and snow can make it harder for people to get to you. If you have carers or family members who help you out at home, think about what to do if they can’t make it – speak with your neighbours and let them know your situation, and ask if they’d be willing to help. If you have prescriptions that you collect regularly, ask your pharmacy about delivery services or enquire about getting extra medication to keep at home in case they can’t get to you either.
The forecast for this winter is still uncertain, but just in case we do get hit with another cold snap of 2010 proportions, make sure you have your plan of action ready. When the snow starts to fall and Jack Frost puts in an appearance, community spirit becomes more important than ever. Don’t be left out in the cold this winter – start thinking about what you can do to ensure a healthier, happier season for all…
Winter Fuel Payment
08459 15 15 15
Cold Weather Payment
British Gas Energy Trust
01733 421 060
Energy Saving Trust
0300 123 1234
Energy Saving Trust Scotland
0808 808 2282
0808 808 224
Enable, November/December 2014