As the seasons of fall and winter progress, there are rituals and celebrations that dominate our lives. For the many aging in place professionals that we train, their clients have family members who will fuss over them, include them in dinners and outings, spend time in their homes and add joy to their lives. And for some, none of those experiences will happen.
Caregivers are often the family members all year long but find the work especially poignant this time of year. So what are some great ways to support your client or loved one through the winter season?
Keeping them safe and positioned to thrive is the best gift! We can suggest these helpful tips to family members looking to find the best way to help professional caregivers provide quality care.
Certainly, the gift of time and communication is always the most appreciated. Setting a regular time or day of the week for a phone call, Skype or Facetime visit for non-local family members can be invigorating and improve our overall wellbeing.
There are also some practical safety tips for your client or family member during this time of year. The first is home maintenance; cleaning gutters, clearing pathways of leaves, debris or snow, checking fireplaces, dryer vents and furnace filters – even de-cluttering, taking magazines and papers off the stairs, and checking batteries in motion-sensor or dusk to dawn lights. Doing these activities safely often involves the right equipment and tools. Getting help with these tasks for your client or loved one may be the most important gift this year!
Remember, too, that the changes from daylight savings time to standard time means we need to check the lighting inside the house because it is dark earlier.
We should also check the outside lighting, too. If solar lights are the primary path lights, check the batteries and the placement to ensure that the lights can collect as much sunlight as possible to work effectively.
The longer, darker hours can create a greater sense of isolation so plan for additional activities or again, this may be a good time to embrace the technology of communication to help your clients stay connected to others. We can wrap our care around clients and family members with a personal emergency response system (PERS) too. This will improve peace of mind for your client or loved one as the weather gets colder and more challenging.
Increased awareness can prevent clothes dryer fires in your home or senior community. The leading cause of home clothes dryer fires is failure to clean them. It is important for everyone to know how to keep themselves safe from fire.
More home clothes dryer fires occur in the fall and winter months, peaking in January.
Clothes dryer do’s
Have your clothes dryer installed by a professional.
Make sure the correct electrical plug and outlet are used and that the dryer is connected properly.
Read manufacturers’ instructions and warnings in use and care manuals that come with new dryers.
Clean the lint filter before and after each load of laundry. Don’t forget to clean the back of the dryer where lint can build up. In addition, clean the lint filter with a nylon brush at least every six months or more often if it becomes clogged.
Clean lint out of the vent pipe every three months.
Have your dryer cleaned regularly by a professional, especially if it is taking longer than normal for clothes to dry.
Inspect the venting system behind the dryer to ensure it is not damaged or restricted.
Put a covering on outside wall dampers to keep out rain, snow and dirt.
Make sure the outdoor vent covering opens when the dryer is on.
Replace coiled-wire foil or plastic venting with rigid, non-ribbed metal duct.
Have gas-powered dryers inspected every year by a professional to ensure that the gas line and connection are together and free of leaks.
Check regularly to make sure nests of small animals and insects are not blocking the outside vent.
Keep the area around the clothes dryer free of items that can burn.
If you will be away from home for an extended time, unplug or disconnect the dryer.
Clothes dryer don’t’s
Don’t use a clothes dryer without a lint filter or with a lint filter that is loose, damaged or clogged.
Don’t overload the dryer.
Don’t use a wire screen or cloth to cover the wall damper. They can collect lint and clog the dryer vent.
Don’t dry anything containing foam, rubber or plastic. An example of an item not to place in a dryer is a bathroom rug with a rubber backing.
Don’t dry any item for which manufacturers’ instructions state “dry away from heat.”
Don’t dry items that have come into contact with anything flammable like alcohol, cooking oils or gasoline. Dry them outdoors or in a well-ventilated room, away from heat.
Don’t leave a clothes dryer running if you leave home or when you go to bed.
5 Warning Signs it’s Time to Clean Your Clothes Dryer Vent.
1. Drying time for clothes takes longer and longer.
When a dryer vent is clogged, the drying cycle can double or triple in time. You’ll notice that clothes are not completely dry at the end of a regular cycle. A dryer is designed to push out the hot moist air for clothing to dry. If your vent is blocked by lint, the air will stay in your dryer keeping your clothes hot and moist. And when it takes twice as long to dry clothes, your dryer runs longer, putting more wear and tear on it and therefore cutting the machine’s life in half.
2. Your clothing and the outside of the dryer are very hot.
Do you notice that your clothing is very hot at the end of a cycle or the dryer is hot to touch? This warning sign means the vent is not exhausting properly. If your system is clogged, it not only wastes energy, but can cause the heating element and blower in the dryer to wear out faster.
3. You notice a burning smell.
When you run your dryer do you smell a burning odor? Lint, which is very flammable, can build up in the exhaust tube, lint trap and even in the drum casing. If it gets too hot, it can catch on fire, causing a burning smell. (Remember to empty the lint trap often). Discontinue use of your dryer and have it inspected as soon as possible.
4. The vent hood flap doesn’t open properly.
Another visual red flag that you’re due for a cleaning: You can see lint or debris around the dryer hose or outside vent opening: or the duct hood flap does not open as it is designed to do. An outside vent that doesn’t open when the dryer is running means air flow has been restricted due to lint buildup.
5. It’s been longer than a year since your last inspection.
Dryer vent ducts should be inspected at least once a year to reduce the risk of fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. If you hire a professional to clean your vent, expect to pay between $75 to $150, depending on the length and location of the vent. If the exterior exhaust vent is easily accessible, you can try cleaning it yourself with a brush kit. Some of the DIY cleaning kits do not always properly clean the vent duct. One advantage to hiring an experienced professional is he or she has likely seen just about every make and model of dryer and has the appropriate brush and equipment to effectively do the job.
Fall is here, which means, like it or not, cold weather is just around the corner. While most of us would prefer not to think about turning on our heat just yet, this is actually the best time to check your heating to ensure everything is operating as it should. Neglecting to winterize your home and letting small issues pile up can have big repercussions. Ahead of the winter season, make sure you’re aware of three major things that may go wrong if you don’t winterize your house or neglect your heating system.
Your utility bills may skyrocket. Utility bills often jump up in the winter due to the increased hours of darkness and the cost to heat your home. But if your heater is on the fritz or your filters are clogged, you could be in for an even bigger surprise. Dirty filters cause your furnace to work harder, which leads to inefficiency and a shortened lifespan for your heating system. Replacing filters is often an easy task for homeowners. A yearly tune-up is an inexpensive way to help prevent a costly system breakdown in the coming months. Also, keep in mind that some warranties require annual tune-ups, so don’t let your warranty go invalid by skipping this year’s tune-up.
The threat of carbon monoxide is very real. Do you know how old your furnace is? Do you know how long it’s been since a professional checked it over? Carbon monoxide poses a health threat when the heating system flue, vent or chimney becomes blocked from debris or other material. During a heating system tune-up, a professional service technician can check to make sure all your vents are not blocked and are working properly. Drains and traps also need to be checked and combustion gases should be analyzed and compared to the specifications of your furnace or boiler to make sure everything is running safely. Installing a carbon monoxide detector in your home is another smart way to help with early detection.
Water pipes can burst. It’s not just your heating system that needs to be winterized. All too often it happens – we wake up to realize our pipes are frozen, or even worse, leaking. Before the cold sets in, make sure outside hoses are put away and water is turned off. Evaluate which pipes are at the greatest risk for freezing during cold weather. For example, if your water pipes come up from an un-insulated crawl space, or if they are in or close to an uninsulated outside wall or vent, they are more likely to freeze and burst in low temperatures. Inside pipes should be covered in insulation to keep pipes warmer longer. Pipe insulation is easy to apply and available at most hardware stores and home centers.
By having an annual tune-up in the fall, you can catch small issues now, instead of experiencing bigger problems in the dead of winter. A tune-up with a reputable local company can also save energy, reduce heating costs and prevent a system breakdown in the coming months.
Lets consider the Impact of falls on Caregivers and Employers. One of the most staggering statistics for companies is the lost productivity by employees acting as caregivers. Over one-quarter of employed Canadians provide care and assistance to an elderly family member. Caregiving costs the Canadian economy as much as $5.5 billion in lost productivity annually. The losses range from lack of attention to current job tasks, more time away from work for appointments and caregiving to the increased levels of stress and health-related issues for the employees themselves.
Canadian workers must make the most out of their situation when life happens while performing at an optimum level. That’s the corporate ideal, but on a personal level, the burden of caregiving can exceed a worker’s mental fortitude and earning potential. A new report from the Harvard Business School Project on Managing the Future of Work shows companies lose too when workers must decide when to care for a loved one or to keep on working.
“The Caring Company,” from co-authors Joseph B. Fuller and Manjari Raman, suggests companies are ignoring the “silent crisis of caregiving” as it pertains to today’s workers. A rapidly aging population, more women in the labor force and misalignment of benefits are contributing to pressures on work-life balance. For companies that espouse a culture of caring, many are unprepared to expand their conception of caregiving and benefits beyond family leave or more flexible work options.
In the authors’ estimation, companies do not calculate or understand the costs their workers incur when absent from the job or working when distracted or fatigued. High turnover and training costs are hidden from companies’ bottom lines while parents and elder caregivers are acutely aware of what they sacrifice in pay, time and mental strength. The rising cost of child and elder care is eating into earnings, leading workers — mainly women, who still shoulder the majority of caregiving responsibilities — to restrict their careers.
Workers’ expertise leaves with them when they suspend their careers, and many companies aren’t offering a pathway back to pick up where they left off. The result is a miscommunication between the two parties. According to the report, workers suffer in silence and do not utilize their benefits to ease their caregiving burden in fear of negative consequences while companies could look at this underutilization and say that there isn’t a problem. “The Caring Company” illustrates how companies operate in ignorance and pay lip service to caring, while not accommodating a widening spectrum of issues related to care.
The report comes at a time where dynamic population and healthcare trends are coinciding with a labor and skills shortage.
It doesn’t have to be this way! There are professionally trained Senior Home Safety Specialists™ who can provide the information and solutions to reduce the stress and worry about aging parents at home while an employee is attempting to put in a full day’s work. Age Safe® has trained professionals throughout North America, Europe and the Middle East to provide the valuable resources for human resource departments and EAP program administrators.
Our mutual goals are better, healthier, less stressed, more productive employees who have confidence that their family members have the right solutions in place for their home environments.
After Rosemarie Rossetti’s spinal cord injury in June 1998, she found that access to appliances, counters, and storage in her kitchen became challenging, hazardous and frustrating. The microwave, oven controls, and wall cabinets were out of reach. (Photo: Mark Leder)
Rosemarie Rossetti’s Story
When I came home from the rehabilitation center in a wheelchair for the first time after my T12-L1 incomplete spinal cord injury in June 1998, my husband, Mark, pulled me in my wheelchair up three steps at the front door. He then pushed me over the carpeted great room, too weak to roll myself. In the kitchen, I rolled on the linoleum and tried to get an unreachable glass out of the wall cabinet. Mark handed me the glass. I took it to the sink but couldn’t reach the faucet. Mark poured me a glass of water.
The realization I was so dependent on Mark hit me hard. So much was out of reach in the kitchen, including the freezer, microwave, and shelves. There was no knee space under the sink or cooktop. The 36-inch-high counters were too high for comfort. The oven door was hinged on the bottom, making it very difficult for me to position myself to use the oven. Frustration was intense as I tried to imagine how to live independently. With my home not accessible, I was keenly aware of the obstacles that intensified my disability.
Entering and Exiting the Home and Internal Mobility
Entering and exiting the home is a primary concern; inability causes the person to become homebound and unable to leave the home in an emergency. Many homes have at least one step at entrances. Each entry should be evaluated for the possibility of adding a ramp, either wood with appropriate weatherizing materials or aluminum. While the code for ramps requires 12 inches in length for every 1 inch of rise, there is a growing movement to change the code to 18 inches in length for every 1 inch of rise to make an easier-to-traverse ramp. When a ramp is not possible, installing a vertical platform lift brings people up to the level of a landing at the door.
Once inside, various access challenges can arise. Beyond wider doorways and 5-foot turning radiuses, thresholds can be problematic. Thresholds should be no more than ½ inch high beveled. If unable to decrease the threshold height, two small ramps (aluminum or rubber) on either side of the threshold can solve the problem. Automatic door-opening systems can be installed to remove the need to physically open the door. A version is available for nearly any door, controllable via remote control, push pads, and motion sensors. Swing-away door hinges add 2 inches of space when replacing regular door hinges—just enough to fit a wheelchair.
Guest Post by Rosemarie Rossetti, PhD, CLIPP, SHSS and Monique Chabot, OTD, OTR/L, CLIPP, CAPS
As it turns out, turmeric (more specifically its active compound, curcumin) is more than just a delicious seasoning for your favorite Indian takeout dish. This fragrant yellow spice, a close relative of ginger, is also renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidant effect, weight management support, and pain relief. Wondering if supplementing with turmeric can help improve your pain in a natural way? Turmeric (curcumin) shows a surprising number of health benefits:
One of the most compelling benefits of using turmeric is its pain relief properties. One study conducted by the Cytokine Research Laboratory found that the curcumin in turmeric was a more effective anti-inflammatory than aspirin and ibuprofen, and has pain-relief properties on par with phenylbutazone and hydrocortisone. This is fantastic news for people with chronic pain who are concerned about the negative side effects (like liver damage and ulcers) that can arise with long-term or heavy use of NSAIDs.
Curcumin is also renowned for its antioxidant properties, which can make a big difference in how quickly your body heals! The cells in your body create “free radicals” as part of their normal metabolic cycle. And when inflammation is present in the body, free radical production goes up. Without antioxidants (which neutralize free radicals), these harmful free radicals have the potential to further damage the cells and organs in the body. Adding antioxidants like curcumin to your diet while you recover from an injury can help your body heal.
Using Turmeric for Inflammation
While there isn’t a standardized dose of turmeric, many studies have concluded that, even at high doses, turmeric is safe for consumption. The most common mild side effect that you may notice is gastrointestinal discomfort, which can be avoided if you add turmeric to your diet slowly (instead of a high dose all at once!) In general, it’s a good idea to take the most natural (organic and minimally processed) form of turmeric/curcumin that you can find, to help your body most easily absorb it.
The most common ways to use turmeric/curcumin include the following:
You can make turmeric paste by mixing ¼ cup turmeric powder with ½ cup water, then heating on low until a thick paste is formed. This mixture can be kept in your fridge for several weeks. This paste can be eaten in turmeric milk (recipe below) or applied topically by mixing with coconut oil or olive oil spreading across the affected area. Massage this paste into the skin, wrap with plastic wrap, and leave on for an hour.
Add a piece of raw turmeric root (½ inch to 1 inch) or a teaspoon of turmeric paste to a cup of milk in a saucepan. Heat slowly to simmer, but do not boil. Any kind of milk (almond milk, coconut milk, cow’s milk) will work! For turmeric tea, repeat this same process with water. If you like, add a little bit of butter and maple syrup!
Curcumin can also be taken in concentrated form through capsules. Make sure you consult with a doctor on the right dosage for you before you begin taking curcumin capsules, since this method of taking turmeric is the most potent, and your doctor will have helpful insight into your unique health history.
Curcumin can also be taken as a food-grade essential oil, either topically or by mouth. If you don’t like the taste of turmeric milk, this can be a good way to take turmeric in a concentrated form! Keep in mind that, like other anti-inflammatories, turmeric is a blood thinner and should not be taken during pregnancy or before surgeries and medical procedures. Turmeric can also change how some medications interact with your body (like anti-depressants). When in doubt, ALWAYS talk to your doctor! Keep in mind that while turmeric shows a lot of potential for lowering inflammation and pain, it won’t treat the underlying cause of your pain.