Winter can bring unique challenges when you are caring for someone, but planning ahead can make us feel more in control and relieve some of the inevitable stress this time of year can bring.
In the colder months, it is important that you are able to adequately heat at the very least one room of your home, especially if you are caring for someone with limited or no mobility or who is older.
There are a range of grants and support available to help those on certain benefits. The Ofgem website has information on what to do if you are struggling to heat your home (https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/information-consumers/energy-advice-households/getting-help-if-you-cant-afford-your-energy-bills).
Citizens Advice (https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/energy/energy-supply/get-help-paying-your-bills/grants-and-benefits-to-help-you-pay-your-energy-bills/) have information on their website on all things winter weather related.
The Warm Home Discount Scheme can give you £140 off your energy bill, between October and March. Your energy provider should be able to offer more information and it’s best to apply as soon as possible. You can find more information here; https://www.gov.uk/the-warm-home-discount-scheme.
Warm & Safe Wiltshire (https://www.warmandsafewiltshire.org.uk/) can provide energy saving advice, help and information relating to insulation, heating, draught proofing, damp and condensation and advice on managing fuel bills and switching tariffs.
Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue are able to provide advice and support with winter warmth packs. They offer a free Safe & Well visit, during which they can advise on heating as well as home fire safety advice. Request a visit here; https://www.dwfire.org.uk/safe-and-well-visits/safe-and-well-referrals/.
The Winter Fuel Payment (https://www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment) is an annual one-off payment to help your pay for heating during the winter. You can usually get this if you were born on or before 26 September 1955.
Cold Weather Payments (https://www.gov.uk/cold-weather-payment) are one-off payments to help you pay for extra heating costs when it’s very cold, available to those in receipt of certain benefits.
SSE offer a Priority Services Register that you can ask to be added to here; https://sse.co.uk/help/accessibility/priority-services-register. Customers on the register will receive additional help, such as priority help in the event of a power cut.
Information on the Covid-19 booster vaccination can be found on the NHS website here; https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/coronavirus-booster-vaccine/. Make sure that your GP Practice know you are an unpaid carer so that you are prioritised for this vaccine. They should keep a register and being on this register may give you access to other services, such as flexible appointments, annual health checks and invitations to any carer clinics they are running.
The flu vaccine is encouraged for all over 50s and – if you are aged under 50 – is available for free to unpaid carers. You can get the vaccine from your GP surgery or at many pharmacies.
A vitamin D supplement is recommended through winter, particularly for those who spend a lot of time indoors (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d/)
Health Improvement Coaches
Wiltshire Council Health Improvement Coaches can assist you in improving your health and mental wellbeing. This includes help with giving up smoking and losing weight. The service is for people aged 18+ and is free. You can make an appointment by clicking here; https://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/public-health-improvement-coaches. The appointment will be delivered via phone or video call, and they will help to create a personal health plan.
Your mental health and wellbeing as an unpaid carer are hugely important. It’s not selfish to put yourself first – if your health suffers, then you may not be able to continue caring.
We are always here to talk with if you feel you are struggling to keep going. You can call us on 0800 181 4118. Professional counselling may help, you can get in touch with Rethink Mental Illness here; https://www.rethink.org/ or visit Wiltshire’s Mind website by clicking here; https://www.wiltshiremind.co.uk/. We also offer a Here to Talk befriending service and a number of online and in-person groups where you can meet new people (https://carersupportwiltshire.co.uk/whats-on/).
It may not seem like much, but just taking half an hour a day to read a book or go for a walk can lift the mood. Having a hobby for yourself or a few things in the diary to look forward to – even if it’s just coffee with a friend – is also really important.
We run a Creative Carers group (find out more here; https://carersupportwiltshire.co.uk/whats-on/). But there are also many activities you can do at home, such as journaling, photography or making cards. Artcare (https://artcaresalisbury.uk/resources/activities/) have some good ideas on their website.