Keeping our homes warm in winter can be a challenge for all of us, but it’s especially the case for older people whose health is more susceptible to changes in temperature. The problems that can arise go far beyond the common cold. They can create or contribute to respiratory issues, causing a greater risk of heart attacks and strokes due to increased blood pressure.
According to the office of national statistics, 78% more people die of respiratory issues in winter compared to the non-winter period. So, with that in mind, there are two questions to answer; what temperature should a person’s home be, and how do you keep it there?
What is the Ideal Room Temperature for an Elderly Person?
According to the NHS website, the temperature inside your home should not reach below 18°C if you are over 65 years old or have a health condition, such as heart or lung disease.
It’s understandable why people would struggle to keep their homes warm during these months though. AGE UK found that 80% aren’t aware what the ideal room temperatures are, and according to a 2018 survey, more than a million elderly people fear they won’t be able to pay their energy bills this winter.
For family members or carers looking after an elderly person, it can be a great cause of anxiety as well. Many carers struggle to know the best way forward when it comes to keeping the person they are caring for both safe and warm.
While we don’t have any kind of magic wand when it comes to energy bills, there are a number of practical things you can do to make things easier. Here’s a quick look at some ways you can keep on top of winter weather:
Know What Temperature it is
We know this sounds simple but having a thermometer available so you’re aware of when the temperature is dipping below dangerous levels is really the first step to ensuring a home remains warm. It’s easy for anyone to not realise just how cold it has gotten, especially if they have been in that environment for a while. So, buy a thermometer or get one free from Age UK, and put it clearly in sight.
Invest in Improving Heat Efficiency
Many people think there’s simply no way to have their heating work better without spending a lot of money, either through double glazing or by simply turning it on more often. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. What’s important is keeping that heat in as much as possible once it's in the room. If that heat gets out, then you’ll need to use more energy to replace it.
There’s a ton of ways to make a home more energy efficient for much less than you might expect. These include things like specially-made foil which is designed to prevent unnecessary heat loss from radiators, which costs less than £10, as well as a £20 chimney balloon, a ‘double glazing’ window film for a fraction of the price of the real thing, thick curtains and carpets, etc.
This, of course, all costs some money. However, considering how much they can reduce heating bills, it’s entirely possible for someone to save money on their usage in the long-run using these tools. On top of that, they will make keeping the house warm a more manageable task and keep the people inside it more comfortable too. This is important because, by using these things to better stabilise the loss of heat, you’re much less likely to see an unexpected drop in temperature. And remember that the cold doesn’t necessarily need very long to start causing issues.
Freeways to help improve heat efficiency
There are also ways of improving heat efficiency without spending any money at all. One age-old method is the DIY draught excluder, often known as the much-loved sausage dog. Essentially, this is anything to put in front of gaps between the doors and the floor to stop heat getting out. These can, of course, be bought for fairly cheap, but they can also be made from things like old tights stuffed with socks, or anything else that is suitable.
Another very simple way of improving heat efficiency is by adjusting the furniture arrangements to avoid any blocking of radiators. Anything blocking them, such as a sofa or cabinet for example, will be absorbing the heat, leaving less available for the rest of the room.
Set Heating Timers to Help With Keeping Warm
This could be something that costs money or does not, depending on whether your thermostat already has a timer. Regardless, utilising a timer to make your heating use as efficient as possible is one of the single best ways to keep a home warm consistently. This is especially the case if you are a carer or family member who cannot be there all the time, and if changing the thermostat is a logistical issue for the person you are caring for.
It Can Be Considered too Warm
In winter, being too warm is often the last thing on people’s minds but do be aware that it is possible to overcompensate and make things too warm. Not only will this waste energy when a more consistent and safe temperature is preferable, but it can also potentially cause health issues. With a thermometer in sight, this should not be a problem but it’s worth remembering that a safe temperature is one that is neither too hot nor too cold.
Getting Help with Heating Costs
If the person you are caring for was born on or before 5th November 1953, then they can get help with their heating costs. The Winter Fuel Payment will give them between £100 to £300, and this is usually paid automatically. You can find out more about the scheme on here.
Depending on their financial situation, the person you care for may also be entitled to a Cold Weather Payment if the average temperature is forecast to be 0°C or less for seven consecutive days.
Communication Saves Lives
It’s vitally important to communicate openly with the person you are caring for when it comes to trying to create a consistently safe temperature. Chances are, as they are there more often than you, they have a better idea of where the problems lie, which rooms are worst affected and what improvements would be suitable for them. This is especially the case when we’re talking about things which cost money or something like moving a room around to avoid blocking radiators.
This will give you the best idea of all the options available to you, as well as make the person you are helping feel more comfortable about any changes that can be made. And after all, this is about making life better, more comfortable and safer for them.