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.

This blog contains advice for coping this winter – from supporting your own health and wellbeing to dealing with the financial strain of extra heating.

Remember, if you are struggling or feeling worried about the months ahead, you can call us during office hours on 0800 368 8349.

Financial support

The recent situation with the energy market has meant energy bills have increased by a typical £139/year due to the new price cap. MoneySavingExpert are currently advising there are next to no fixed deals customers can switch to that will give a better rate than a variable tariff. The new cap will last until 1 April 2022, when prices are predicted to rise again.

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.

Ofgem state that energy suppliers won’t disconnect your gas or electric if you miss a payment. If you have a prepay meter that you can’t afford to top up, you can ask for ‘emergency credit’. Suppliers must also offer payment plans that you can afford. See the Ofgem website for further information.

There are a range of grants and support available to help those on certain benefits.

Citizens Advice 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 at gov.uk.

Healthy Homes Dorset can provide energy advice, and access to a wide range of grants for cavity wall, loft insolation and heating.

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue can 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.

The 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 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. Customers on the register will receive additional help, such as priority help in the event of a power cut.

Health

Covid-19 booster

Unpaid carers are being prioritised to receive the Covid-19 booster vaccine, as are care home residents, people aged over 50, those with underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe Covid-19, immune-suppressed patients and adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals. More information can be found here.

Do ensure that your GP Practice know you are an unpaid carer. 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.

Flu vaccine

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.

Vitamin D

A vitamin D supplement is recommended through winter, particularly for those who spend a lot of time indoors.

Live Well Dorset

This a free service for all adults living in Dorset that provides healthy lifestyle advice and coaching. You can register with them through their website.

Wellbeing

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. We also offer a Here to Talk befriending service and a number of online groups where you can meet new people as well as training sessions on Emotional Resilience and coping skills. Find out more on our What’s on page.

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.