Ideas for Keeping Your Dementia Patient Busy and Happy

 Ideas for Keeping Your Dementia Patient Busy and Happy

 

 

 

 

Activities are crucial to well-being. In the past ten years, research has shown that activities play a large part in preventing the progression of dementia.

 

 

We also know that socializing prevents loneliness, despair and suicidal thoughts.

 

 

For several years I led recreational activities on weekends at a geri-psych hospital. The activities that took place on any particular weekend greatly depended on the patients in the unit at that time.

 

All of the patients there had dementia and behavior disorders that precluded their being able to remain at home until the behavior had been extinguished. Most patients were on the unit between three to four weeks, while the doctors changed their drugs or the dosages. Some were more alert; others were more physically functional. Some returned home; others returned to a nursing home or entered a long-term care facility for the first time after discharge.

 

There are many activities that are appropriate for people with dementia. The only guideline is to not degrade them by having them do children’s activities. Instead, show your respect by engaging them in pastimes that are similar to children’s activities but suitable for an adult, retaining whatever qualities that make the activity fun.

 

Here are some suggestions for caregivers who have a dementia patient at home.

 

 

Puzzles & Games

 

 

 

 

  • Easy, large print crosswords and word searches that use large type.

 

 

 

 

 

Memory Lane EZ-Grip Extra Large Pieces Puzzle

 

 

  • Jigsaw puzzles with very large pieces. The images shouldn’t be child-oriented; try scenery or pictures of animals instead. Floor puzzles are good because they typically have large pieces, and there aren’t too many, which can be discouraging. Work on these on a table so you don’t have to struggle getting off the floor!

 

 

 

 

 

  • Reminiscing, a board game which prompts memories of assorted events and fads from 1939 on.

 

 

Photo & Scrapbooking Activities

 

Expressions Collection Family Expandable Scrapbook

 

  • Sort photos by topic, subject, type or date. Mix them up after you finish so they can be sorted in a different way next time.
  • Assemble a photo collage. Pasting can be fun.
  • Make a scrapbook, pasting photos onto the pages and writing notes about the memory beside the photo. You can also use a photo album with plastic sleeves.

 

 

 

 

  • Label old family photos so you’ll have that information later on.
  • Reminisce about the focus of the photo.

 

K & Company Life Journey Diecuts

       Honoring The Past Scrapbook Page Kit

 

 

 

 

 

Reading Activities

 

Read out loud or simply look through books and magazines that can lead to discussions.

Suggestions:

 

 

  • Old copies of Look or Life magazines

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Old Days Hometown Memories

 

 

 

I really like the Good Old Days books.  In Hometown Memories, your loved one can remember when hometowns were a great place to be a kid. 

 

Some people say, “You can’t go home again.” But you can! … You can wave to the iceman as you head off to the general store. You can go to the Saturday matinee, and then stop off at the drugstore for a soda.

 

 

Take a stroll down those sidewalks again, and relive those warm Hometown Memories from the Good Old Days.  

 

 

 

 

 

Reminiscing with Memory Books

 

You can find blank memory books in the baby section of a bookstore. These usually pose questions that will prompt discussion. Here are a few suggestions:

 

 

 

Activities Involving Humor

 

The Long, Long Trailer

 

  • Start a humor notebook or scrapbook.
  • Laugh over funny family memories (like the time Mom put frozen rolls on the Thanksgiving table).

 

The Abbott and Costello Show: Who's On First? by Entertainment One

 

 

Housework

 

  • Rake leaves.
  • Fold towels.
  • Clean windows.
  • Cut coupons.

 

 

Gardening Activities

 

  • Pull weeds.
  • Plant annuals in spring and bulbs in the fall.
  • Transplant small plants into larger pots. Have the patient paint pots ahead of time and use these for gifts.

 

 

Seasonal Decorating

 

  • String cranberries or popcorn.
  • Make door wreaths and window decorations.
  • Put up decorations and take them down.

 

 

Sorting & Organizing Activities

 

Sort or organize:

 

2 lbs of Assorted Buttons
  • Nails, screws and other hardware.
  • Nail polish and lipsticks, sorting by color, brand or on a scale of 1–10, in order of preference.
  • Buttons, using muffin tins to sort by color, size or style.
  • Coins, according to date, value or place of origin.
  • The pantry, arranging cans and jars by size, brand or contents.
  • The silverware drawer, rearranging the order of the forks, spoons and knives.
  • Playing cards into decks that match, or into suits within a deck, or by numbers. Tupperware by size or color.
  • M&Ms, using muffin tins to sort them by color. Choose one color to eat!

 

 

Cooking & Activities in the Kitchen

Vintage-Look Recipe Box Set With 50 Recipe Cards & 10 Blank Dividers

 

  • Make salads, ice cream, Jell-O, pudding (try a hand mixer), no-bake cookies and pies, popcorn balls and other simple recipes
  • Wash fresh produce and put it into bags
  • Grind nuts to use for baking
  • Peel vegetables
  • Copy recipes from magazines onto cards 
  • Make a grocery list of items needed for recipes
  • Sort recipes and find pictures to illustrate them
  • Set the table
  • Fold or roll silverware into napkins
  • Assemble shish-kabobs with fruit or vegetables (use wooden ones with blunt ends)
  • Shell nuts or peas

 

 

The list above is not all-inclusive. Hopefully it will give you some ideas for getting started. Think about the kind of activities the patient has always enjoyed. Those are probably the best ones to start with. I’ll close with a few more ideas.

If the care recipient enjoys building things, try assembling model kits of airplanes or cars. A simpler activity could be making strings of paper clips, using different colors and sizes.

Patients who have an artistic side may enjoy painting or coloring in one of Dover’s many stained glass coloring books.

 

 

 

Musically inclined patients might enjoy singing along to patriotic songs, hymns and old favorites, or playing rhythm band instruments.

 

 

Songs Of Wartime: Wartime Favourites Vol 1
Songs of Wartime, Various Artists, Original Recordings
           Big Bands Music From the War Years

 

 

Did the patient used to enjoy sewing or mending? Offer some pants that need hemming or items of clothing that need buttons sewn on. Remember: people with dementia can still derive enjoyment from activities they have always enjoyed. Give it a try!

 

 

Based on an article by Kay Paggi

 

 

Please help our readers by sharing your experience with and suggestions for activities for those with dementia.

 

 

 

 

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Gifts for Nursing Home Residents

Gifts for Nursing Home Residents

 

 

 

“What do I get for someone who lives in a nursing home?”

It’s a good question — sometimes it’s tricky to work around constraints like limited space and health issues.

While your recipient’s health and abilities should always be kept in mind, here are some ideas to inspire your thinking.

 

 

Great Gift Ideas For A Senior in a Care Home

 

 

Guest book. Let visitors leave their warm wishes in writing. In cases where memory problems or dementia are involved, guest books can help family members keep track of who has come to visit.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo board. A padded, fabric covered board with ribbons in which to slip photos encourages guests to bring in new pictures, and they’re easy to swap in and out. (You can find them at craft or photography stores, or make your own.)

 

 

 

 

A throw blanket can add a personal touch to the room and make it feel more homey. A throw blanket or small quilt can keep legs warm.

Silk or satin pillowcases are a nice luxury because they’re easier on delicate skin and create less fuss for hair styling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spruce up their décor. Dress up the walls with “wallies or cut your own shapes out of a roll of wallpaper border to stick up as decals — they’ll be easy to remove later on. Help them choose a fresh set of curtains to brighten up the space.

 

 

Examples:

 

Wallies Peel & Stick Vinyl Wall Decals, Tuscan Window Wall Sticker, Includes 1 Window of Tuscan Countryside and 30 Tile Decals

 

 

Wallies Peel & Stick Vinyl Wall Decals, Birds And Blossoms Wall Stickers, Includes 4 Wall Panels

 

 

 

Wallies Roosters and Sunflowers Peel and Stick Vinyl Decal

 

 

 

Suncatchers or decals for the window add some colorful decoration without getting in the way.

 

For example, this  Regal Hummingbird Suncatcher is gorgeous, and a cat lover would appreciate the “Cat Curiosity” Suncatcher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magazine subscriptions make great gifts, and give your loved one something to look forward to.

 

Some ideas are National GeographicReader’s Digest, and People.

 

 

 

 

Audio books are wonderful, especially if your loved one’s eyesight makes reading difficult.

 

 

 

 

 

Audio Book Ideas:

 

The literature buff would certainly enjoy BBC Radio’s Jane Austen CD Collection, which includes all six of her classic novels.

 

 

 

 

 

In Mansfield Park, on a quest to find a position in society, Fanny Price goes to live with her rich aunt and uncle.

In Northanger Abbey, young, naïve Catherine Morland receives an invitation to stay at the isolated Gothic mansion Northanger Abbey.

In Sense and Sensibility, forced to leave their family home after their father’s death, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood try to forge a new life at Barton Cottage.

In Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet is determined to get her five daughters married well, so when the wealthy Mr. Bingley and his friend Mr. Darcy move into the neighborhood, her hopes are raised.

In Emma, Emma Woodhouse declares she will never marry, but she is determined to find a match for her friend Harriet.

Finally, in Persuasion, Eight years ago, Anne Elliot rejected a marriage proposal from a handsome but poor naval officer—but now her former love has returned.  With an all-star cast including David Tennant, Benedict Cumberbatch, Julia McKenzie, Jenny Agutter, Toby Jones, Eve Best, and Juliet Stevenson, these BBC radio adaptations are full of humor, romance, love lost, and love regained. Duration: approx. 15 hours 30 minutes.

 

 

 

The New Adventures of Sherlock Homes Collection will be a sure hit with mystery fans who miss the old-time radio plays.

 

From 1939 to 1946, Americans gathered around the radio to listen to The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, featuring Basil Rathbone as the high-strung crime-solver, and Nigel Bruce as his phlegmatic assistant, Dr. Watson. Witty, fast-paced, and always surprising, these great radio plays are as fresh as when they first premiered and feature perfect sound. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Ideas

 

“Outside food” — like a cup of coffee and cookie from their favorite chain or a favorite take-out meal to enjoy with them.

 

Specialty food items. A nice tin of non-perishable candies, confections and cookies also give residents something to offer guests when they come to visit. Also, some fresh fruit, jams and jellies to enjoy with their meals offer some welcome variety.

 

 

Some Food Ideas:

 

For the snack lover, this Care Package Party Mix will be a lot of fun to share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These wonderful Fairytale Brownies are sugar-free and perfect for the sweet tooth who’s watching their sugars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Meat and Cheese Collection from Wine Country will be a real treat for the fan of gourmet savories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top up their account. Many residents appreciate a little cash for in-house services like the general store and hairdresser, and it can cover optional activities and outings.

 

KaBloom Merry Red Roses

 

 

 

Fresh flowers can brighten up the room. Choose a bouquet of cut flowers instead potted plants, unless you know someone can take care of them on a regular basis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A “coupon book” for running errands, shopping trips and other outings.

 

 

 

 

Some Clothing Ideas:

 

A nice pair of pajamas or a bed jacket. A  cardigan can also keep people cozy, and a pair of slippers will keep feet toasty. (Just be sure to avoid slippery fabrics.) 

 

 

Hospital Gown And Bed Jacket Value Gift Pack

 

 

 

Women’s Adaptive Cardigan Sweater With Pockets

 

 

This adaptive cardigan completely opens up, allowing the arms to be slid into the armholes without having to raise the individuals arms or struggle with a neck opening. The back overlap is then folded over and domed/snapped into place. I think this is a great product for home care, retirement and nursing home settings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adaptive Men’s Fleece Cardigan With 2 Pockets with Snap Open Back

 

 

Men’s Extra Extra Wide Slippers for Swollen Feet – VELCRO® Brand Deep Diabetic & Edema Slippers

 

 

 

 

 

Some Music Ideas:

 

Music.  A CD of your loved one’s favorite songs can be enjoyed any time. Music can also help people suffering from dementia remember happy times.

 

 

Big Bands: Music from the War Years Collector’s Edition

 

 

50s Jukebox Hits – 100% Original Recordings and Artists

 

 

 

A visit. Ultimately, the best thing you can offer is your company. Bring in a movie or watch a TV special or sports event with them. Plate up some homemade goodies and sliced fresh fruit for a mini Christmas party. Give your favorite lady a manicure or pedicure.

 

 

At holiday time, pick up a Christmas Wreath or  other seasonal decoration for their door. If there’s enough space, consider a mini Christmas tree with built-in lights.

 

 

 

Tips For Smarter Shopping

 

– Steer clear of strongly scented perfumes, lotions or flowers. Many people have allergies — including staff and other visitors.

 

– Breakable items can pose a safety hazard — especially if they can’t be cleaned up right away.

 

– Pack modest sized portions of perishable foods. It’s better to bring less goodies than to have them go to waste.

 

– Check with the family or with staff to find out if gifts of food are appropriate. Your recipient may have certain dietary needs, and Christmas goodies can cause stomach upsets and diarrhea.

 

– Leave animal prints in the store. People with dementia can find them frightening. Likewise, avoid the color black if you can because it can be hard to see.

 

– If you’re giving blankets or clothing, make sure someone can sew in a label with the recipient’s name on it. Items can get lost in the laundry or go wandering with other residents.

 

– Unfortunately, theft is possibility so avoid valuable and one-of-a-kind items you would hate to see go missing.

 

 

And a final word of advice: be aware that whatever you buy will have to be stored somewhere and someone will have to take care of it if you’re not around. If you’re able, offer to store items like holiday décor yourself.

 

When in doubt, ask ahead of time if your gift idea is appropriate. The nurses, personal support workers and volunteers who spend a lot of time with your loved one can offer great advice. If you aren’t close by and don’t visit often, check in with the family first.

 

 

Nursing Home Holiday Celebration Tips

 

 

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Celebrating with loved ones who live in a nursing home or assisted living can be a lot of fun if the family and the care center join forces.

Most facilities make a big deal about holidays and birthdays, and your presence can enhance your elders’ enjoyment.

 

 

 

 

 

Nursing homes often have for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Halloween, July 4th or any other special day.  The home will usually provide decorations, appropriate activities and jolly good cheer.

I recommended decorating your loved one’s rooms with ornaments they remember from their past, along with some new decorations to keep things fresh and interesting.

 

 

Besides decorating their rooms and showing up for celebrations, what else can you do to make a holiday festive for your loved one?

 

  • Use music. It’s great for setting the mood. It also relaxes tension or promotes a festive feel, depending on the music chosen and the direction you need to go with the elder. Keep a CD player or an iPOD (with speaker) around so you can play their favorites.

 

  • Sing. Singing can be fun for many people. Whether Christmas Carols, Happy Birthday or just old favorites, getting a few people together to sing can often help everyone have a good time, even if they can’t physically join in.

 

  • Use photos. Photos are wonderful for stirring memories. If you print copies of old photos, you won’t have to worry about loss or damage. If some can be enlarged without undue distortion, so much the better. Hang them on walls or put them in an album.

 

  • Cook your elders’ favorite foods. Bring favorite foods for the occasion, even if the facility is loaded with treats. Each elder has favorite treats from home. Try to provide some for the elder and some for her to give as snacks to residents, staff and visitors. Many elders enjoy a chance to be a host or hostess.

 

  • Avoid over stimulation. Be careful to not over stimulate someone with dementia. Keep an eye on the elders’ moods so you know when to stop the party or when you should help a particular elder back to his room if he needs a break. Too much commotion can get confusing and stressful for anyone in ill health, but particularly for someone confused by dementia. Celebrating should preferably end before stress is evident, but be alert in case you need to assist someone to a quieter area.

 

  • Connect with others. Hopefully, you already have made friends with staff, other residents and their families. That connectedness helps your loved one feel a part of a whole rather than left out of life. If your loved one is new to the center, this is a good time to get to know other families.

 

  • Be sure to participate. Join in the fun as much as your loved one can handle, but remember your own needs as well. If you have family members at home that need some of your time, then you have to balance both worlds. Give your loved ones in the care center your attention and contribute to their good time, then leave them in the good hands of staff and go back home to finish celebrating with the rest of your family.

 

  • Get some rest. All of this celebrating doesn’t only wear down your elders. It can also be exhausting for the caregiver. You found help by choosing a good care center because your elders need more help than you, alone, can give. When party time is over, give yourself time to regenerate. You should be a better caregiver if you do.

 

Celebrations should be fun and encouraging for all involved. These tips can help reduce stress, anxiety, and fears–and, in the end, help you have a good time with those around you.

 

Please share your nursing home gift-giving and holiday celebration advice in the comment section below!

 

 

 

You may also be interested in:

Ideas For Keeping Your Dementia Patient Busy and Happy

Anytime Gifts that Seniors Will Actually Use

Coloring For Adults is a Healthy Hobby

Are Therapy Dolls and Fidget Blankets Good for Dementia Patients?

Practical Shoes for the Elderly

Shoes and Slippers for Swollen Feet

Convincing Your Parents to Transition to Assisted Living

Assisted Living Questions and Answers

Preparing For Your Elderly Parent to Move In With You

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About Me

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Book Review of “Our Dementia Diary”

 

Book Review of

“Our Dementia Diary”

 

 

 

Rachael and Irene were supposed to live a long and happy life, retire and travel the world. But a thief called Alzheimer’s visited in 2004 and began tearing apart the lives they had carefully built for a quarter century.

This is a remarkably honest story of the enduring love between two people coping with uncertainty and the eventual loneliness of losing a spouse.

The author, Rachael Dixey, professor at Leeds Beckett University copes by keeping a journal—a way to release her feelings. She ties these entries with “interpolations” to make sense of it all. She wonders if a more appropriate title might be Fifty Shades of Dementia.

 

 

Dixey manages to find strength amidst the tears to take care of herself and find the humor. She hires in-home caregivers for Irene while she works (for sanity). When Irene is hospitalized and then placed in a care home, she visits almost every day and soon realizes the toll it takes when Irene recognizes her and says, “I love you” and the next day, forgets and walks past her in the corridor.

During the nine-years, from Irene’s diagnosis to her passing, Rachael writes of the full range of emotions—from the love she and Irene shared to missing Irene, feeling lonely as a singleton, dating (nothing lasts but gives her strength to be stronger for Irene), and even contemplating Irene’s death. Through it all, she visits Irene regularly, cares for her, feeds her, and feels Irene in every room of their house.

She recounts with humor the folly of dealing with social services. Irene attends adult day services in a county that only covers healthcare and receives healthcare in a county that covers social services such as adult day care. After almost a year, they work it out where she feels assured of not losing their home. Meanwhile, she takes time off periodically. The time away gives her greater appreciation for what she and Irene had despite some funny (in hindsight) foibles during her travels.

She recounts the good times they had going on “epic walks,” camping, exploring the mountains, trees, and sunsets. She misses those quiet mornings together. She struggles to remember the bad unusual behaviors for five years before Irene’s diagnosis at age 57. Home movies help her see the beginnings of Irene’s inexplicable behaviors. She’s able to piece together those embarrassing outbursts when Irene would storm out of restaurants after finding something wrong with her meal. She recalls the desperate cries at home when Irene couldn’t find a piece of clothing she had worn for several days in a row (likely because Rachael removed it for washing). And yet, Irene’s heart-wrenching cry early on returns to her from time to time, “I don’t know who I am anymore. Please help me.”

Written by an author based in the UK gives us Americans a refreshing expression of care between partners. Her writing is characterized as informed humility. We gain greater awareness and knowledge of what it’s like to live with Alzheimer’s while feeling the angst and pain of losing her soulmate. Written by one of a gay couple gives us an endearing portrait of how love among LGBTs is no different than love among (dare I say, traditional?) male-female partners. Oftentimes, because of ongoing discrimination, the bond of their love seems stronger.

I’m glad she chose to write, Our Dementia Diary – Irene, Alzheimer’s and Me and that her and Irene’s story is being shared. The LGBT caregiver’s voice is one that needs to be heard.

 

Based on a review by Brenda Avadian, MA,  who serves as President of The Caregiver’s Voice.

 

 

More information from Amazon:

 

This is a love story from start to finish, Irene and Rachael’s. Based on the diaries of Rachael Dixey who looked after her civil partner Irene after she developed early onset Alzheimer’s disease, the book opens with the lines: Irene, Alzheimer’s and me – Alzheimer’s came between us. It does that, drives you and the love of your life apart, going your separate ways because you cannot follow.

That’s the story really, that’s it. The end. But it is also the beginning of the story, which shows how life can still be lived despite losing a life partner to dementia, and how to cope emotionally and practically with a disease that robs you of your loved one a thousand times before they die.

 

 

The story charts the daily decline and inexorable loss of Irene to dementia. With the dramatic deterioration in Irene’s health Rachael turns from lover and soul mate to career and, finally, single woman. Eventually, no longer able to cope with Irene at home, she makes the agonizing decision to allow Irene to be put in a care home. There she spent her last six years. When she died aged 66, the couple had spent half their life together.

This book is a powerful and moving account of the progression of dementia, and raises serious questions about how our society cares for those who develop the disease, especially at a young age and in the gay, lesbian community. It also deals with loss and grief, during the illness and afterwards. Their memoir will be invaluable for anyone affected by dementia, those working in mental health and those caring for a loved one with a life-changing and incurable illness.

Our Dementia Diary tells with brutal honesty of love, loss and life with Alzheimer’s and opens up discussion of how dementia can be handled better.

 

 

 

Also Recommended:

The 36-Hour Day, 5th Edition A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss

This best seller is the definitive guide for people caring for someone with dementia. Now in a new and updated edition, this best-selling book features thoroughly revised chapters on the causes of dementia, managing the early stages of dementia, the prevention of dementia, and finding appropriate living arrangements for the person who has dementia when home care is no longer an option.

 

 

 

The author, Nancy L. Mace, M.A., is currently teaching dementia care internationally. She has been a consultant to the Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Congress, and to the Alzheimer’s Association, and she was an assistant in psychiatry and coordinator of the T. Rowe and Eleanor Price Teaching Service at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  

 

 

 

 

 

You may also be interested in:

Book Review of “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?”

A Hospice Reflection

Preparing For Your Elderly Parent to Move In

Avoid or Slow Dementia By Building Cognitive Reserve

The MIND Diet for Fighting Dementia

First Signs of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s, Elevated Cortisol and Your Genes

The #1 Alzheimer’s Care Tip

Preserving Alzheimer’s Patients’ Dignity

Stop Alzheimer’s Wandering

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Organize Your Senior’s Home For Winter

Organize Your Senior’s Home For Winter

 

 

http://bluepicketrealty.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/winter-time.jpg

 

George & Martha built their split-entry style home in the suburbs in 1964.  They raised 4 children in their home.  Their oldest daughter, Julie, was in her teens when they moved in.  Julie is in her 60s now and has her own home a few streets away.

George & Martha are in their 80s and want to stay in their home, but can no longer manage the upkeep and seasonal maintenance. With the impending change of seasons, Julie wants to help her parents get organized for the winter. 

 

Here are some things Julie (and you) can do to help elderly loved ones stay safe in their home during the colder months.

 

 

 

  • Schedule a furnace check: HVAC System Maintenance is important, especially for at-risk populations like seniors.  The last thing we want to happen is for the furnace to go out in the middle of the night when it’s below freezing outside!

 

  • Make sure all seasonal clothes and coats are accessible: If your loved one changes out their clothes with the seasons, you’ll want to be sure that all of their fall and winter items are unpacked and accessible. Make sure their coats, hats, gloves, etc. are easy to find and in good condition.

 

  • Stock the Pantry: An extra reserve of canned goods and other non-perishable or frozen foods is good to have on hand when inclement weather is in the forecast. This is also a good time to check existing items in the pantry and fridge for freshness If food is running low during an episode of bad weather, we don’t want our loved ones to get sick from eating expired food stores.

 

  • Stock the Medicine Cabinet: This time of year marks the beginning of Cold & Flu season. Make sure your loved ones have current basic medications in their cabinet in case they need them, but of course be sure to check all over-the-counter medications with their doctor/pharmacist to be certain they are safe to take.  If you help your loved one manage their medication, you may want to be aware of the weather forecast and portion out their medication in advance in case you are not able to travel to see them.

 

  • Check their emergency kit: Now is a good time to make sure they have plenty of blankets, flashlights, bottled water, batteries and other emergency items that are in good and working order in case of a power outage.

 

 

 

  • Arrange for leaf & snow removal: Falling leaves and icy sidewalks both create major slipping hazards for seniors. This can be a difficult conversation to have, especially with seniors like George & Martha who are striving to maintain their independence, but paying for leaf & snow removal will ensure that driveways and sidewalks are cleared. If your loved one can’t afford to pay for the service, you might investigate volunteer services in your area. Check with your local resource on aging (State Departments of Aging, Area Agencies on Aging, etc.) for more information.

 

  • Purchase sand or salt to have on hand: As snow melts and refreezes, it’s always a good idea to have these items at home to treat icy spots.  Try Safe Paw Non-Toxic Ice Melter

 

 

  • Prepare the car: If your loved one is still driving, make sure to have their car checked for winter and stock it with all the winter necessities (ice scraper, blankets, etc.).

 

  • Winterize the home: Gathering the family for a weekend or hiring a handyman to put in storm windows, clean the gutters, and check for roof leaks will help make sure your loved ones are safe and warm all season.

 

 

Consider the following checklist from Bob Vila (before the first frost) when preparing the home for winter:

 

Windows and Doors

 

  • Check all the weatherstripping around windows and doorframes for leaks to prevent heat loss. Replace weatherstripping, if necessary.
  • Replace all screen doors with storm doors.
  • Replace all window screens with storm windows.
  • Examine wooden window frames for signs of rot or decay. Repair or replace framing to maintain structural integrity.
  • Check for drafts around windows and doors. Caulk inside and out, where necessary, to keep heat from escaping.
  • Inspect windows for cracks, broken glass, or gaps. Repair or replace, if needed.

 

 

Lawn, Garden, and Deck

 

  • Trim overgrown branches back from the house and electrical wires to prevent iced-over or wind-swept branches from causing property damage or a power problem.
  • Aerate the lawn, reseed, and apply a winterizing fertilizer to promote deep-root growth come spring.
  • Ensure rain or snow drains away from the house to avoid foundation problems. The dirt grade — around the exterior of your home — should slope away from the house. Add extra dirt to low areas, as necessary.
  • Clean and dry patio furniture. Cover with a heavy tarp or store inside a shed or garage to protect it from the elements.
  • Clean soil from planters. Bring pots made of clay or other fragile materials indoors. Because terracotta pots can swell and crack, lay them on their sides in a wood carton.
  • Dig up flower bulbs, brush off soil, and label. Store bulbs in a bag or box with peat moss in a cool, dry place for spring replanting.
  • Remove any attached hoses and store them away for the winter to prevent cracks, preserve their shapes, and prolong their life. Wrap outside faucets with covers to prevent water damage.
  • Shut off exterior faucets. Drain water from outdoor pipes, valves, and sprinkler heads to protect against pipe bursts.
  • Inspect decks for splintering, decay, or insect damage and treat, if needed, to prevent further deterioration over the winter.
  • Clean leaves, dirt, and pine needles between the boards of wooden decks to thwart mold and mildew growth.
  • Inspect outdoor lighting around the property. Good illumination will help minimize the chance of accidents on icy walkways at night.
  • Check handrails on exterior stairs to make sure they’re well secured.

 

 

Tools and Machinery

 

  • Bring all seasonal tools inside and spray them with a coating of lightweight oil to prevent rust.
  • Weatherize your lawn mower by cleaning off mud, leaves, grass, and debris.
  • Move your snow blower and shovels to the front of the garage or shed for easy access.
  • Prepare the snow blower for the first snowfall by changing the oil and replacing the spark plug.
  • Sharpen ice chopper and inspect snow shovels to make sure they’re ready for another season of work.
  • Make sure you have an ample supply of ice melt or sand on hand for steps, walkways, and the driveway.

 

 

Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning

 

  • Inspect the firebox and flue system to ensure that they’re clean of any soot or creosote and that there aren’t any cracks or voids that could cause a fire hazard.
  • Check fireplace for drafts. If it’s cold despite the damper being closed, the damper itself may be warped, worn, or rusted. Consider installing a Chimney Balloon into the flue to air seal the area tightly.
  • Clean or replace the air filter in your furnace for maximum efficiency and improved indoor air quality.
  • Clean your whole house humidifier and replace the evaporator pad.
  • Bleed valves on any hot-water radiators to increase heating efficiency by releasing air that may be trapped inside.
  • Check that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.
  • Remove air conditioners from windows or cover them with insulated liners, to prevent drafts.
  • If you have an older thermostat, replace it with a programmable unit to save on heating costs.
  • Install foam-insulating sheets behind outlets and switch plates on exterior walls to reduce outside airflow.
  • Make sure fans are switched to the reverse or clockwise position, which will blow warm air down to the floor for enhanced energy efficiency and comfort.
  • Flush a hot water heater tank to remove sediment, and check the pressure relief valve to make sure it’s in proper working order.
  • Examine exposed ducts in the attic, basement, and crawl spaces, and use a sealant to plug up any leaks.

 

 

Gutters, Roof, and Drains

 

  • Check for missing, damaged or warped shingles and replace, as necessary before you get stuck with a leak.
  • Check for deteriorated flashing at the chimney, walls, and skylights and around vent pipes. Seal joints where water could penetrate, using roofing cement and a caulking gun.
  • Check the gutters and downspouts for proper fastening, and re-secure if loose or sagging. The weight of snow and ice can pull gutters off the house.
  • Clean gutters of any debris. Make sure downspouts extend away from the house by at least 5 feet to prevent flooding of the foundation and water damage from snowmelt.
  • Clean leaves and debris from courtyard and pool storm drains to prevent blockages.
  • Ensure all vents and openings are covered to prevent insects, birds, and rodents from getting inside to nest in a warm place.

 

 

By staying organized in advance of the changing weather, you’ll have peace of mind that your loved ones are safe in their home – even if you can’t get over to help due to road conditions.

 

 

 

 

Based on an article by Vickie Dellaquila, Western Pennsylvania’s first Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization and owner of Organization Rules® Inc. Organization Rules provides compassionate organizing services for every stage of your life®.

She is the author of Don’t Toss My Memories in the Trash: A Step-by-Step Guide to Helping Seniors Downsize, Organize, and Move.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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