It’s been impossible to escape the news about the energy crisis and with bills increasing, this can be a cause of anxiety for many elderly and vulnerable people.
They might fear their energy supplier will go bust and not know what this means for them, they may also worry about the cost of their energy and reduce the amount they put the heating on. They could’ve received an expensive energy bill and don’t know how they’ll pay it or worse, they could fall victim to scammers who are using the crisis as an opportunity to defraud the vulnerable.
All of these scenarios are very real and can have a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of the people we care about.
Here are some tips on the best ways to support vulnerable people this winter:
1. Help them understand
The news can often be overwhelming, there are dramatic headlines about rising costs, suppliers going bust and “the lights being switched off.” It can be enough to make anyone feel anxious. Helping them to understand the facts and how it might affect them will provide them with reassurance. Some key things to reassure them about include:
Although household bills will go up this winter, the energy price cap means consumers have some protection against the rising energy prices because there’s a maximum figure that suppliers can charge.
Average increases are expected to be around £139 for the year or £153 annually for those using prepayment meters. Putting this into context for the year feels less scary and allows them to consider ways they could save this money elsewhere if needed.
Reassuring them that their lights will never be switched off. If their supplier goes bust, they’ll automatically be transferred to another energy provider so they’ll never find themselves sat alone in the dark (unless there’s a power cut).
2. Practical tips
As we get older our skin thins and our bones become more brittle so it’s not a myth that elderly people do in fact feel the cold more. For a vulnerable person, living in a cold home increases their chance of serious illness or death. They are at higher risk of a heart attack or stroke, breathing problems, flu, depression and falls. However there are some practical steps you can take to help them stay warm and safe this winter.
Close any vents in the house to keep the warmth in
Shut doors in rooms that aren’t used very often
Invest in insulation if possible
Create a list of emergency contacts should they need them including their insurance company should their heating break at any point
Encourage them to stay hydrated and to eat regularly - dry air temperatures inside and outside can cause dehydration and fueling their bodies will help them stay warm naturally
Ensure they have lots of layers including hats, gloves, blankets etc that they can add or remove
Checking in on them regularly.
3. Seek out help if needed
If your loved one is struggling to pay their energy bills, there is support available. Schemes such as The Warm Home Discount and The Winter Fuel Payment are set up to help elderly people who require support. Depending on their circumstances they could be entitled to up to £300 support.
It is also worth noting that all energy suppliers have a duty of care to their customers. There are a range of measures they can take to help alleviate anxiety and pressure around payment including providing additional time to make those payments and access to a hardship fund if necessary.
For people over State Pension age or those who live with a disability or health condition they can ask to be placed on the Priority Service Register. This gives them access to a range of support, including priority assistance in an emergency, advance notice of planned power cuts and help with prepayment meter access.
If you’re not sure what support, if any they might be entitled to, here’s a handy benefits calculator.
The health and wellbeing of vulnerable people is important all year round but it’s particularly challenging during the winter months.
Planning in advance, encouraging them to stay as active and healthy as possible will all help to protect their immune systems and keep them as strong as possible through the colder times.
There’s a huge amount of advice and support online, but don’t be afraid to reach out if you or your loved one require additional support.
As a well established local agency, operating since 1994, our reputation is built on trust and excellent standards of service.
Our Homecare division is experienced in providing a sensitive and caring service when organising care at home for people with varying needs.
To find out more about the services we offer visit our website.