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 glass fiber materials (unless manufacturers’ instructions allow).
- 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.
Sometimes deadbolts and alarm systems just aren’t enough to deter thieves. But there are outdoor security measures you can take to prevent property loss at the hands of a burglar. While pleasing to look at, landscaping can do more than enhance your home’s outdoor aesthetic. Consider whether your current setup promotes security or makes your home more appealing to thieves. Use these landscaping security tips to help prevent your home from becoming the target of a burglary. Here are 9 ways you can help protect your home with a well-planned landscape design.
- Use plant deterrents. Thorny shrubs and bushes like holly or roses help thwart would-be burglars. Plant barrier shrubs, which are any plants that have sharp leaves or spiny thorns. These help make your property less attractive to robbers. Common areas to plant them include along your property line — this helps to force intruders or trespassers toward visible, “official” access points like your driveway where you’ll be more likely to see them — and under your windows.
- Prune vegetation regularly. Unkempt hedges provide hiding spots where perpetrators can lurk. Prune back any stands of ornamental grass, hedges and shrubs in your front yard to a height of 2 feet or less. Plants that are taller than this are commonly used by robbers to sneak up to your house without being seen by you or your neighbors.
- Trim the trees. Leave sufficient distance between tree branches and the roof or second-story windows to limit intruder access. Leave a clear line of sight to windows or doors. Blocking these views leaves your home more vulnerable to break-ins.
- Invest in accent lights. Illuminate your yard to eliminate potential hiding spots. Check monthly to verify that any existing lights on the exterior of your house are in working order. Consider installing automated lights that turn on with a motion sensor, focusing the lights on access areas to your home, such as a side door or your garage door. Install additional lighting. Don’t just rely on the porch light. Consider adding motion-sensitive lighting to help ward off possible intruders.
- Put gravel beneath ground-floor windows. Burglars rely on silence; stepping on gravel can be a startling repellent.
- Protect the back door. Many thieves try this less obvious point of entry first.
- Replace solid privacy fences. Solid fencing helps intruders go undetected. Partial privacy fencing is a more secure option.
- Lock all gates. It seems obvious, but it’s still worth a mention. Keep front and back gates locked at all times. Lock up your garden shed and always store garden tools, such as shovels and hammers, under lock and key. Such landscaping tools are commonly used by robbers to break windows or force entry into your home.
- Keep your grass mowed, yard raked, flowerbeds regularly weeded and your mail picked up. An unkempt lawn or newspapers and mail on your front step often signal to robbers that you aren’t home often. If you plan to travel, hire someone to maintain your landscape while you’re gone.
Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. As more Canadians age, falls will become even more numerous and costly than they are now. As alarming as the statistics are, these documented statistics fall short of the actual numbers since many incidents are unreported by seniors and unrecognized by family members or caregivers. There are potentially millions more unreported falls.
Falls account for 25% of all hospital admissions and 40% of all nursing home admissions. 40% of those admitted will never return to independent living and 25% will die within one year.
The majority, 55 percent, of fall injuries among older people occurs inside the home and an additional 23 percent happen outside, but near the house. More fall injuries are caused by falls on the same level (vs. stairs) and from a standing highlight, i.e. tripping while walking. Many of these falls, and the resulting injuries, can be prevented by taking steps to eliminate or fix potential hazards in and around the home.
Let’s not forget the importance of Fire Safety:
Consider these statistics for older adults compared to the rest of the U.S. population:
- People between 65 and 74 are nearly TWICE as likely to die in a fire.
- People between 75 and 84 are nearly FOUR times as likely to die in a fire.
- People ages 85 and older are more than FIVE times as likely to die in a fire.
- Careless smoking is the LEADING cause of fire deaths and second leading cause of injuries among people ages 65 and older.
- Heating equipment is the SECOND leading cause of fire death and the third leading cause of injury to people ages 65 and older.
- Cooking is the THIRD leading cause of fire deaths and the leading cause of injury among people ages 65 and older.
Here’s why we developed Age Safe Canada. Approximately 90% of older adults say they want to age-in-place (meaning to stay in their own home instead of assisted living), yet 85% have done nothing to prepare their homes for aging. Plus much of the nation’s housing inventory lacks basic accessibility features, preventing older adults and those with disabilities from living safely and comfortably in their homes.
A New England Burden of Disease (BODE) report stated that “home safety assessment and modification” appears to be “a very cost-effective health sector intervention.” And even more cost-effective was targeting this intervention to older people with previous injurious falls. The cost-benefit analysis found a “33 percent reduction in spending to treat fall injuries over three years, and potentially a six-fold savings in ‘social costs’ related to such injuries.” In that study the average cost per home modification was $448. A 2014 report by the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies found that the five most important “universal design” features in the home are: no-step entries, extra-wide hallways, accessible living spaces on the ground floor and accessible light switches and door levers.
Simple changes can make measurable impact.
The overall goal is to make the home safer. Typical changes include the following:
Getting safely and securely into and out of the house.
- Better outdoor lighting to get you from your car to the door.
- Attractive ramps or a zero-step entrance for the home.
- A package shelf by front door.
- Handrails at existing steps and porches.
- A front door with sidelight for security.
- Fewer or no stairs.
Changes in the kitchen for easier meal preparation and eating.
- Lever-handle faucets with pull-out spray.
- Raised dishwasher to avoid back strain (a good idea for front-loading washers and dryers, too).
- Rolling island that can be placed back under the counter.
- Revolving corner shelves and pull-out shelves.
- Lower, side-opening oven.
- Pull-out cutting board.
- Adjustable height sink.
- Side-by side refrigerator with slide-out shelves and a water/ice dispenser.
- Cooktop with controls on front.
- Larger, friendlier cabinet and drawer pulls.
Changes in the bathrooms – the #1 place for accidents in your home.
- Attractive grab bars in the shower.
- Lever handles on faucets.
- Slide-bar-type hand-held shower, for sitting or standing.
- Shampoo nooks inset in the wall.
- Curbless showers so that there is nothing to step over or rolled into with a wheelchair.
- Tub and shower controls moved closer to entry point.
- Anti-scald, temperature and pressure balanced tub shower valves for safer bathing.
- Widened entry doors to at least 32.”
- 32”-36” pocket doors.
- Higher toilets with non-slam seats and lids.
Moving around within the house.
- Improved lighting with recessed fixtures in common areas and hallways.
- Lever handles on doors and windows.
- Lower light switches and thermostats; raised outlets.
- Planning for a future elevator by stacking closets.
- Adding blocking in walls for future chair lift at stairs.
- Wider doors that accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.
These are just a few examples. Virtually all rooms of your house can be improved, even closets and garages.
5 Simple Things You Can Do to Reduce Your Fall Risk:
- Begin a regular exercise program.
- Review your medicines regularly.
- Have your vision checked annually.
- Wear sturdy, nonskid shoes at all times.
- Make your home environment safer.
100% of ER doctors agree that an annual Home Safety Assessment is important to keep seniors safe at home.
A comprehensive Home Safety Assessment can pay for itself by avoiding the high cost of injury or assisted living.
Who is Age Safe Canada?
Age Safe Canada is a national membership, training and advocacy organization dedicated to meet the growing need for Home Safety Assessments and Aging-in-Place Home Modifications. Members are independent advisors, providers, contractors and professionals dedicated to helping seniors and their families determine the steps necessary to maximize both safety and independence.
Every year, NAHB puts on the home building industry’s largest new product exposition and education program: The NAHB International Builders’ Show (IBS).
With acres of exhibitors, ongoing workshops and thought leaders from every aspect of the construction, remodeling and aging-in-place home modifications industries, this is a great way for Age Safe America to start the New Year! Fritzi Gros-Daillion Chief Advocacy Officer (shown in the photo) came in from San Diego to join Age Safe America Managing Director, Steven Bailey for the show and an intensive 2-day meeting back in Sarasota. We are also excited to be joined at the show by two Age Safe Advisory Team members Steve Hoffacker award winning aging-in-place/ universal design instructor and Robert Gurinowitsch COO at Home Access Professionals for some good old-fashioned face time and brainstorming.
No matter what your business objectives are, IBS is the only event that provides the products, networking and educational opportunities to help make them happen. This years show is being held in Orlando Florida from Jan. 7th-12th at the Orange County Convention Center. For the fourth straight year, the IBS will be co-located with the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS), under the umbrella of Design and Construction Week (DCW). This partnership enables people registered for the Builders’ Show to visit the exhibit floors of both trade shows with their IBS badge to see innovative kitchen and bathroom products.
See ya in Orlando!