How to Help a Senior With a Hoarding Problem

How to Help a Senior With a Hoarding Problem

 

 

 

Senior Hoarding :

Causes, Risks, and What to Do About It

 

Senior hoarding issues are tough for caregivers to manage, both physically and emotionally. It’s well known that hoarding causes safety hazards like fall risk, blocked emergency access, and unsanitary living conditions. What’s not as well understood is the emotional side.

To help you care for a hoarder and the messy consequences, this post explains the difference between a pack rat and a hoarder and which emotions are behind the behavior, as well as how to provide emotional support, arrange help, and restore their home back to a livable condition.

 

 

Is It Hoarding?  The Difference Between a Pack Rat and a Hoarder

 

Many people like to hang onto mementos and multiples of useful items for both nostalgic and practical reasons. But there are key differences between someone who collects and someone who hoards.

A hoarder suffers from an inability to discard items and often acquires useless items. They keep stacks of unnecessary items, like junk mail and old newspapers. They might move things from pile to pile, but will never throw anything away.

Many people have a few items they feel emotionally attached to, but a hoarder has an excessive attachment to many possessions and will be uncomfortable if somebody touches them or asks to borrow their items.

They’ll also feel unable to get rid of any possessions and will end up living in cluttered spaces that are often unsafe, unsanitary, and/or hazardous.

The difference between a collector and a hoarder is that when someone is hoarding, their daily life is negatively impacted.

If you are reading this article, you likely already know you’re dealing with a hoarder, and not just a pack rat or collector, and have noticed the following:

 

Signs of Hoarding:

  • Avoids throwing away possessions that have no value to them or anyone else.
  • Experiences mild to severe anxiety about getting rid of anything.
  • Repeatedly adding to the hoard without recognition that there is a problem.
  • Rooms in their home can no longer be used for their intended purpose.
  • Possessions are negatively impacting their safety, health or hygiene.

 

 

Hoarding is Especially Dangerous for Seniors

 

Hoarding is dangerous for almost everyone, but it’s especially harmful for seniors. They’re more likely to fall in a crowded home and their health will be harmed by unsanitary or hazardous living conditions.

 

Hoarding results in serious side effects for older adults, including:

 

  • Preventing emergency care – firefighters or emergency medical technicians (EMTs) may not be able to get through the house to reach them
  • Causing physical danger – increased risk of falls or not being able to move around due to the extreme clutter
  • Refusing home help – won’t allow anyone into their home (usually due to embarrassment or fear of their stuff being disturbed), this negatively affects their nutrition, hygiene, and medication
  • Producing unsanitary conditions – spoiled food leads to pests and food borne illness
  • Creating fire hazards – piles of old papers, newspapers, or magazines can easily go up in flames

 

Recommended: DIY Easy Mold Test

 

Mental Issues and Hoarding

 

Senior hoarding issues could also indicate the presence of Alzheimer’s, dementia, or mental illness. In other cases, it could also be caused by Diogenes Syndrome, a condition that affects some seniors near the end of life. Diogenes Syndrome is characterized by hoarding, self-neglect, social withdrawal, and a refusal to accept help.

Hoarding is often accompanied by some degree of anxiety, which makes it difficult to treat – and tough for families to watch. And because hoarders tend to self-isolate, it makes their emotional well-being even more fragile.

When you’re caring for someone who hoards, it’s helpful to learn more about senior hoarding issues (see my book recommendation below). Understanding the emotional side of this behavior helps you work toward effective solutions in a kind and gentle way.

 

 

Hoarding Can Be Triggered By Trauma

 

Recently, it has been found that people who have hoarding symptoms are also more likely to have experienced a traumatic event in life. It could be that hoarding is a coping mechanism to deal with grief or loss.

This is important to consider if your older adult has only recently started the hoarding behavior. They could be trying to fill an emotional hole left by the trauma of losing a spouse or another major life change.

 

 

The Emotional Effect of Senior Hoarding Issues

 

Even though hoarding can be a coping mechanism for dealing with anxiety, trauma, or other mental struggles, it doesn’t provide real relief.

In addition, hoarding behavior often comes with poor decision making, procrastination, and a lack of organization. These impact all aspects of life and make it more difficult to have good quality of life.

And because hoarding is isolating, seniors who hoard typically have limited social interactions. They may even push you away or avoid you, damaging your relationship.

People’s perceptions of hoarders can negatively impact a hoarder as well. It’s easy for others to see hoarders as dirty or lazy, and those judgments can be difficult for them to hear and handle.

 

 

Struggling To Let Go Of Possessions

 

Hoarding is a complex and layered behavior. A hoarder could be dealing with any number of symptoms and conditions, from indecisiveness to anxiety and from trauma to social isolation.

Using hoarding as a coping mechanism could mean that there‘s something in the person’s life that is just too painful to face. Clutter builds up and provides comfort to the hoarder. Letting go of that comfort can feel excruciating.

In fact, hoarders can develop such strong attachments to their possessions that these items become more valuable to them than the people in their lives. Getting rid of something so valuable would feel similar to the extreme grief of losing a loved one.

That’s why if someone forces a hoarder to get rid of these items, their anxiety can intensify to unimaginable levels.

So even though it may seem like the most straightforward solution, do your best to not throw items away without permission or jump into a big cleanup without help from mental health professionals – it would be too emotionally distressing.

And if you do get rid of things without their approval, it will likely make them see you as an untrustworthy person. That makes it harder for you to continue helping them.

Do your best not to judge and remember that they greatly value the items you see as junk. A hoarder likely needs professional help to deal with their serious emotional issues before they can cope with cleaning up.

 

 

Emotional Help for Senior Hoarding – Avoid a Forced Cleanup

 

Not only would a forced cleanup cause extreme emotional distress, the person you care for will immediately return to their hoarding ways and fill up the space again.

What works better is to help your older adult see that hoarding is a problem. That doesn’t mean shaming the person. Instead, an empathetic and rational discussion (or several discussions) will help them gain the courage to do what’s best for themselves. Start by helping them see that a change needs to be made for their own safety.

If the hoarding is linked to a traumatic event, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is often an effective treatment. CBT helps the person cope with the emotions from the trauma and learn to manage their grief in a healthier way.

And even if the hoarding isn’t linked to a traumatic event, therapy is still helpful. Hoarding can’t truly be fixed until the root of the problem is found and addressed. For some people, medications that treat anxiety and depression may also be able to help with hoarding disorder.

Above all, be empathetic. Try to understand where your older adult is coming from and listen to what they have to say as you gently guide them towards recovery.

 

Visit the Doctor

Because hoarding is connected to health conditions or mental health issues, it’s likely that your older adult will need professional help. Having their doctor do a full evaluation will help figure out if the behavior is caused by dementia or other medical conditions.

 

Consider Therapy

If the issue isn’t related to a medical condition, therapy (sometimes in combination with medication) is a way to help seniors manage their hoarding behavior.

 

Practical Ways to Start Organizing With a Senior Hoarder

 

Start By Simply Talking About Decluttering

The first step to cleaning a hoarder’s home is starting a conversation with your loved one who is challenged with a hoarding disorder. Talk about your plans and emphasize the ideas of safety and confidentiality. Discuss how organizing their home will make it safer to live in and communicate that you’re only there for support, not to judge.  It’s important to involve your mental health professional in these conversations as well, if applicable.

One of the most important tips for working with someone who is challenged with hoarding is to meet them where they are at. They are the owners of their stuff; they are the ones in charge of the process. Talk with the person to understand how the items they are keeping meet their end goal, whatever their end goal may be.

Use neutral language when talking with a hoarder about decluttering plans. Words like ‘clutter’ or ‘unsanitary’ can trigger [someone], and cause them to become defensive; using neutral, non-threatening language allows you and your loved one to communicate freely without pointing fingers.

 

Recommended Reading:  Digging Out – Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding & Compulsive Acquiring

 

 

How to Create an Action Plan

 

Once all parties involved have agreed it is time to start cleaning the hoarder’s home, you will need to create an action plan to complete the project. Work with your loved one to create a plan they approve of and are ready to attempt.

 

Determine criteria for Getting Rid of Items

Sit down with your loved one and help them create a list of criteria to determine if something can be thrown away. Remember that these are their belongings and they are in charge of this process. Write down the criteria so everyone assisting can refer to them as needed. An example could be: All mail older than six months can be thrown away.

 

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Important Recommendation: This 3M Particulate Respirator Face Mask protects against dust, mold and paint

 

 

Make a Schedule

Decide the order you will tackle the rooms and how much time you’ll plan to spend in each room. Remember, tackling rooms individually is much more manageable than tackling the whole house.

 

Set Goals

Setting goals is an important step in helping someone with hoarding tendencies. Set concrete and attainable goals to keep everyone motivated. A goal could be organizing their items and moving them to an area of the house that can be used for storage; clearing enough space in entrances and hallways to improve accessibility and safety; or clearing a space where they will feel comfortable hosting company.

 

 

Plan For Waste Removal

 

When working with someone who has a hoarding disorder to clean their home, you will most likely be throwing away a lot of waste. As you declutter the home, you will need to have a fast and simple solution for moving the debris out of the home. Renting a dumpster is a good option if the project is a large one. You can take your time filling the dumpster and have it removed as soon as your clean-out is complete. Other options for waste removal include curbside pickup and junk removal services.

Keep in mind that someone with a hoarding disorder may be tempted to remove items from the debris pile if left alone.

 

 

Begin Organizing the Home

 

With your plan and waste removal strategy in place, you are ready to being cleaning and organizing the home. Cleaning and organizing are two different things. First declutter the home, then organize and finally, begin cleaning.

Follow your plan and go room by room. Using your predetermined list of criteria, identify and throw away worthless clutter and create piles for items to be kept and items to be donated.  Remember to discuss how each item being saved helps them meet their end goal.

 

For a practical detailed guide, read my blog post:

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

Helping someone with a hoarding disorder is incredibly challenging. It will be an emotionally exhausting process, especially when you are working with someone you love. Remember to stay positive and be patient. Take frequent breaks and continue to have positive and encouraging conversations with your loved one.

The best goal for anyone is just to manage expectations, and ultimately to proceed with no expectations.

Working with a hoarder and helping them to live better in their space is really not about fixing the problem, but finding some kind of happy medium where you can make yourself feel better and alleviate a dangerous and/or unsanitary situation.

Hoarding is never really cured, just managed. Understand that the room you cleared out might not last for very long, and the solutions you created may not be long term.

 

 

Thanks for visiting and reading …

I hope this article provided you some practical information on helping a senior with a hoarding issue.

I welcome your comments below.

 

-Laurie

 

 

You may also be interested in:

How to Clean Up and Organize a Hoarder’s Home

Signs That You Need to Check Your Indoor Air Quality

Simple Steps to Ease Your Allergies at Home

How to Safely Clean Away Mold in Your Home

Is Your Indoor Air Making Your Allergies Worse?

Natural Options For Managing Asthma

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Tips For Easier Senior Car Travel

Best Air Purifiers for COPD – Full Reviews

Minimize Your Senior’s Falling Risk Now!  Here’s How …

The Right Lighting Prevents Dangerous Senior Falls

Easy Home Improvements for Mobility Issues

Practical Shoes for the Elderly

Help for Low Vision

 

 

How To Clean a Hoarder’s Home

How To Clean a Hoarder’s Home

 

 

 

Crucial Steps to Hoarding Cleanup

 

Going through a hoarder’s stuff is somewhat similar to a scavenger hunt, only without the fun usually involved in the game. You may find some valuable items in the hoard but instead of being thrilled you will be sad and sorry for the person suffering from a severe anxiety disorder that prevents him/her from assessing the true value of his/her possessions, making informed decisions, and having a normal lifestyle.

The affected individual will be most probably a friend or relative of yours, so the cleaning process will not only be very time-consuming and exhausting, but also rather emotional and difficult for you to deal with.

There are several crucial steps to take when cleaning a hoarder’s home in order to achieve a favorable outcome of such an overwhelming endeavor.

 

To clean a hoarder’s home, make sure you:

  1. Assess the situation
  2. Form a cleaning strategy
  3. Gather needed supplies
  4. Sort hoarded items
  5. Clean and restore the home

 

 

Assess the Situation and Create a Strategy

Hoarders lack the ability to classify items according to their actual value, so they tend to accumulate large numbers of useless things and never throw any of them away out of fear of losing something important.

The resulting piles of junk quickly build up to monstrous proportions, blocking most of the living space in the hoarder’s home and rendering normal everyday activities, such as cleaning, cooking, etc. impossible. Besides, the accumulated stuff harbors mold and bacteria growth, provides shelter to various kinds of pests, and poses fire hazards.

Quick and efficient measures are required to restore the hoarder’s home to safe living conditions but you need to approach the delicate situation with great patience and compassion in order to achieve satisfactory and sustainable results.

 

Address the Hoarder

Without a doubt, your greatest concern when faced with the difficult task of cleaning up a hoarder’s house will be how to help the affected person overcome his/her anxieties and resume a normal daily routine.

Decluttering and sanitizing the premises will restore the healthy living conditions in the hoarder’s home but will not restore his/her life. You need to earn the trust and respect of the affected individual first and convince him/her to actively participate in the cleaning process and keep his/her home neat and tidy in the future.

Special therapy treatment programs have been recently developed to help people with hoarding symptoms but your considerate and solicitous care is of paramount importance for improving the condition of a close friend or relative suffering from a hoarding disorder.

Of course, if you are about to clear a hoarder’s home after the affected person has already passed away, this aspect of the hoarding cleanup will no longer be relevant.

 

Secure Help

The laborious process of cleaning a hoarder’s home is too difficult to perform on your own. Not only are there many strenuous tasks to complete (removing large piles of garbage, repairing property damage, cleaning intensively, organizing the hoarder’s items, etc.), but you will also have to make a number of difficult decisions concerning the fate of specific items of sentimental value, documents, etc.

Enlist the help of close friends or family members to help you deal with all the aspects of hoarding cleanup in a quick and efficient manner.

 

Consider Your Own Safety First

Keep in mind that many threats may lurk in the home of a hoarder (biological contaminants, fire hazards, structural collapse, etc.) and consider your own safety first.

In case of excessive mold, animal waste, pest infestations, and other risky circumstances present in the hoarder’s home, call professional hoarding cleaning services to take care of the dangerous situation and complete the job quickly and safely.

Hiring experienced cleaning services for hoarders will ensure your peace of mind and will save you much time and nerves. You can receive more detailed information and learn the cost of cleaning a hoarder’s home by contacting hoarding cleanup specialists in your area.

 

Create a Plan

Assess the situation carefully, prioritize the work that needs to be done, figure out what you are going to need and how much time each specific task will take, and decide if you will take advantage of hoarding cleanup services or will try to manage on your own.

 

 

Protecting Yourself

 

As already mentioned, you need to ensure your own safety first. Get hold of disposable gloves, dust masks, and goggles to avoid exposure to mold, parasites, and other health concerns that may be present in a hoarder’s home.

Wear sturdy shoes and a hard hat when you enter the house and make sure you have:

  • a fire-extinguisher – the hoarder’s stuff may contain flammable materials and they can easily catch fire while you are inside;
  • a repellent spray – when you disturb the hoard, you may find out that it has given shelter to a number of pests;
  • a flashlight – you need to be able to see clearly in every nook and cranny of the hoarder’s home;
  • a first-aid kit – to disinfect and dress accidental wounds. Don’t forget your allergy meds and some pain relievers as well.

 

Be careful for sharp objects (knives, broken glass, etc.) that may hurt you and immediately call the professionals if you find evidence of bio-hazardous materials.

 

 

Gather Supplies

 

You will need appropriate cleaning equipment in order to remove the trash and disinfect the premises, as well as some tools for disassembling or repairing certain items.

Take lots of heavy-duty trash bags with you, as well as some empty boxes, plastic bins, buckets, universal cleaning agents and disinfectants, mops, sponges, wet wipes for cleaning, brooms, a dust pan, a step ladder, a heavy duty vacuum cleaner, a shovel, paint and a disinfecting spray, a set of hand tools and anything else you find useful under the circumstances.

Don’t forget to get a dumpster as you will need a place to put all the garbage and damaged items you need to get rid of.  You can rent a large dumpster from the city sanitation services and have it hauled off and disposed of for a small extra fee.

 

 

Prepare a Staging Area and Secure the Exits

 

You will need some free open space (a staging area) to temporarily put the contents of the hoarder’s home but most probably the rooms, porches, attics, and basements will be so cluttered that working there will be impossible. So, make sure you have cleared the outside area first to provide room for sorting out and organizing the hoarder’s items (if the weather is fine, of course – otherwise, you will have to find an appropriate covered area).

Keep in mind that the doors may be partially (or fully) blocked and venturing inside without having secured a safe escape route out is very risky. If a fire breaks out, for example, you may be trapped and unable to leave the property in time.  So, secure an exit and start removing the trash and debris from the nearest room first. Pile all the salvageable items in your staging area to deal with them later.

 

 

Starting the Hoarding Cleanup

 

Once you have secured your safety and prepared everything necessary, it’s time to begin cleaning the hoarder’s home:

 

Choose a Small Room to Begin With

Be warned that many hoarders seriously neglect sanitation, which can lead to health hazards, especially in the bathroom and the kitchen. So, these areas should be thoroughly cleaned out and sanitized at the earliest opportunity.

It’s a good idea to start with the bathroom, as you will need free access to clean running water and soap. Besides, you can finish the task really quickly. There is no chance of finding a valuable item in the bathroom, so just get rid of all the expired toiletries and half-used personal care items, old towels and filthy bathroom fixtures.

Give the bathroom surfaces an overall sanitization (you’ll clean better later on) and move on to the kitchen. Immediately remove any food, food remains and food containers, as well as obvious trash, to avoid the risk of infections and take all the kitchen items to your staging area where they can be categorized and cleaned later on. Clean a place where you can sit and rest or have a snack.

Move on to another room but leave closets and other storage areas for last as they will be particularly challenging – extremely disorganized and overflowing with stuff.

 

Empty Out the Rooms

Get rid of all the trash in a room first (not only obvious garbage but also items that are too damaged or too filthy to be used again). Be sure to check on local ordinances for handling stuff that can’t go directly in the trash, such as medicines, fuels, explosive substances, oil-based paint, etc. Put aside materials that can be recycled and safely dispose of the others.

Work from the top to the bottom – take out the items stacked up on tables, beds, chairs, etc. first and work down to the floor. Look through pockets and purses to check for cash or jewelry. Remove all the clutter from the room and even consider temporarily moving large furniture and appliances, so that you can thoroughly clean the premises.

 

Sort Out Salvageable Items

Sort out and classify the hoarder’s stuff into three groups:

  • useful items you are going to keep
  • usable items you are going to donate
  • useless items you are going to throw away

Most charities will come to get your donations, but don’t forget to contact them beforehand and gather relevant information – what kind of items they need and what they cannot accept, how to arrange free pick-up, etc. Keep any papers you receive from charity organizations, as you may be eligible for tax deduction when you donate to charity.

 

 Repair and Deep Clean the Property

When the house is free of trash and clutter, you can finally begin the intensive cleaning. This will be a very time-consuming and laborious process.

If any repair works need to be done, have them completed first. Any major restoration or renovation projects should be performed by certified and experienced specialists, of course. Contact professional cleaning and restoration services in your area to ensure efficient mold remediation (if necessary) and to have the premises properly dehumidified, deodorized, and restored to an excellent condition.

If there is no structural damage, at least consider repainting the walls and the ceiling and re-polishing or re-carpeting the floors before the home is ready to be moved back into.

If you will be cleaning the hoarder’s home without professional assistance, start with the ceilings and ceiling fans and move on to walls, windows, and any furniture left in the room. Make sure the entire place is properly disinfected, including fan blades, cabinets, closets, window sills, baseboards, toilets, bathtubs, showers, etc. Scrub the floors and wash or replace the curtains and the area rugs.

Thoroughly clean and disinfect any furniture pieces and appliances before moving them back to their rightful places and organize all the useful household items you have preserved in a neat and tidy manner.

If the hoarder will be moving back to his/her home after the cleanup help the affected person maintain a clean and clutter-free living space – create an easy-to follow maintenance plan, visit often, and provide further assistance if necessary.

If the property is going to be sold or leased out to tenants, you will be able to make a good deal after the cleanup, as the hoarder’s home will be completely restored to an excellent condition.

 

Recommended Reading:  Digging Out – Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding & Compulsive Acquiring

 

Thanks for visiting and reading …

I hope this article provided you some practical information cleaning a hoarder’s home.

I welcome your comments below.

-Laurie

 

 

You may also be interested in:

How to Help a Senior With a Hoarding Problem

Signs That You Need to Check Your Indoor Air Quality

Simple Steps to Ease Your Allergies at Home

How to Safely Clean Away Mold in Your Home

Is Your Indoor Air Making Your Allergies Worse?

Natural Options For Managing Asthma

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Tips For Easier Senior Car Travel

Best Air Purifiers for COPD – Full Reviews

Minimize Your Senior’s Falling Risk Now!  Here’s How …

The Right Lighting Prevents Dangerous Senior Falls

Easy Home Improvements for Mobility Issues

Practical Shoes for the Elderly

Help for Low Vision

 

 

How To Safely Clean Away Mold in Your Home

How To Safely Clean Away Mold in Your Home

 

 

Can You Just Wipe Household Mold Away?

 

Are you wondering why you’re still experiencing mold issues despite wiping the affected area? You may need to do more.

You probably don’t know that mold is growing in your home. Mold thrives in dark, humid places such as your bathroom and basement.

Mold can develop within 24-48 hours under the right conditions and can potentially cause health problems or affect your home’s air quality if untreated. Once faced with this issue, you must recognize how to eliminate it.

If you’re wondering how to perform mold cleanup, here’s how.

 

 

Signs of Mold on Walls

 

The most common causes of mold growing on walls are high humidity, condensation and water leaks (which are often hidden inside the wall).

Condensation forms when water vapor in the air meets cold surfaces and cools to become liquid. Condensation is especially common on walls which form the perimeter of a house. These walls are often colder because of cool outdoor air on the other side.

Things like drying wet clothes inside or steam from hot water increases the humidity in the home. If humidity stays high in your home for a long time then you might see mold starting to grow on your walls. Usually the best way to decrease the humidity is to ventilate your home by opening windows and doors.

Leaking pipes near or inside of walls are a common cause of mold. If there’s a leaking pipe inside a wall cavity then mold will usually be well and truly set in before it’s discovered.

 

Look for:

  • cracked or peeling paint
  • discoloration
  • bulging

 

These are all tell-tale signs that there could be moisture in a wall. If you notice any of these things in a wall in your home, take a closer look and you might see the beginnings of small amounts of mold growth.

These signs could also indicate that mold is actually growing hidden behind the wall, in the wall cavity. Seeing small spots of mold on a wall can sometimes be a sign that there is actually a larger mold colony on the other side which is slowly growing through.

 

 

Mold Symptoms

 

Smelling a moldy odor or suffering allergic reactions are also good indications that there could be mold growing hidden behind a wall in your home.

Most mold symptoms are caused by mold allergies. When you breathe in mold spores your immune systems responds by creating allergic reactions. These reactions are the immune system’s defense against foreign particles entering the body.

The more a person is around mold the more sensitive to it they will become. This means that they can end up unable to tolerate being around even small amounts of mold. Their allergic reactions will also become more and more severe.

 

Indoor air quality doesn't have to be a scary unknown. Get easy-to-understand answers you can act on for cleaner, healthier air. Home Air Check - the test for VOCs, Mold, Formaldehyde, Tobacco Smoke

 

Symptoms that mold allergies cause include:

 

  • Cold or flu like symptoms
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Irritated, itchy throat
  • Blocked nose
  • Itchy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Sinus congestion
  • Sinus headaches
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Irritated, itchy skin
  • Skin rash, hives
  • Watery eyes
  • Red, bloodshot eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Itchy ears
  • Hair loss, baldness
  • Hay fever symptoms

 

 

Toxic Symptoms from Exposure to Toxic Mold

There are about 16 mold species which are toxic to humans. These molds put out highly toxic chemicals called mycotoxins.

Mycotoxins cause toxic symptoms which are much worse than the allergic symptoms caused by ordinary molds. Some of the symptoms caused by toxic molds include bleeding, damage to internal organs, mental impairment, cancer and even death in some cases.

 

Mold Infections

Sometimes mold spores that are breathed into a person’s lungs begin to grow inside them. Mold infections like this can also grow in the sinuses, skin or digestive system.

These mold infections usually don’t occur in healthy people. Elderly people or those who are sick with compromised or suppressed immune systems can suffer these infections though, since their immune systems might not be strong enough to fight off the mold. Sometimes these mold infections can even cause death.

Mold species that can opportunistically infect people include Trichoderma, Penicillium marneffei and Aspergillus fumigatus.

 

Eliminating Mold

 

It is virtually impossible to eliminate all molds and spores indoors. This is because some spores float in house dust and through the air. However, the mold spores won’t grow in the absence of moisture.

However, you can and should prevent or control mold growth indoors through moisture control. Although eliminating mold completely in a household setting is almost impossible, you can reduce an existing infestation to a point where it’s no longer harmful.

 

 

How to Remove Mold from Different Areas

 

Non-Porous Areas

 

You can simply scrub and wipe non-porous areas with a cleaning solution, sponge the affected area, and dry it fast (drying fast eliminates moisture that would allow recurring mold growth). This method is ideal for areas with small quantities of mold. An unscented detergent will enable you to smell residual moldy spots.

To remove and kill the mold, I recommend using Borax.

There are many advantages to using borax to kill mold. For starters, borax is a natural cleaning product and although it is toxic if you swallow it, borax does not emit chemicals or dangerous fumes like some other mold killers. Borax, a white mineral powder, has a pH level of about 9 (baking soda is pH 8.1 and pH 7 is neutral) and a low toxicity.

Borax is commonly used as a deodorizer as well as for cleaning toilets and drains. Borax is also used as an insecticide, herbicide and fungicide and it can be mixed with water in a solution to kill and remove mold as it is a natural mold inhibitor. You can buy borax in supermarkets for a few dollars from the laundry section.

 

How to Kill Mold with Borax

 

  1. To kill mold using borax, create a borax-water solution using a ratio of 1 cup of borax per gallon of water.
  2. Vacuum up any loose mold with a HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner to lessen the number of spores stirred up into the air during the cleaning process.
  3. Use a scrubbing brush with the borax-water solution to scrub the mold off the surface.
  4. Wipe up any extra moisture and excess mold particles or dust/debris to prevent them spreading into the air once the surface has dried.
  5. You don’t need to rinse off the borax as the solution will prevent more mold beginning to grow on the surface again.
  6. Leave the surface to dry completely.

 

 

Mold Stains

If the mold has left a stain, try RMR-86 Instant Mold & Mildew Stain Remover.  It works on wood, concrete, drywall, siding and walls, tile & grout, fiberglass, vinyl and fiberglass.  It has lots of terrific reviews at Amazon. 

Note though, that this is a very powerful product (which is why it’s so effective for removing tough mold stains):  use it in a well-ventilated space, and wear gloves.

 

 

Mold Growing Behind Walls

Mold commonly grows out of sight behind walls in the wall cavities. These spaces often contain pockets of humid, moist air. Mold can also grow hidden behind wallpaper. Wallpaper glue can hold organic debris which can then become a food source for mold growth.

To find hidden mold behind walls you need to use invasive inspection methods and, optionally, mold testing. It’s best to talk to a professional mold specialist in this case.

 

Porous Areas (Like Unpainted Drywall)

If you discover mold on a porous area for instance, an unpainted drywall, you’ll typically need to cut the wall where there’s mold growth.  Because drywall is a substance high in cellulose, it is one of the most common materials mold grows on in the home. As there is no practical way to completely remove mold from drywall, you will have to cut out and dispose of any drywall you discover which has mold growing on it.  Bottom line – for such an area, you can’t merely wipe it because mold growth occurs inside the material rather than on the surface.

 

Wood Surfaces

Use an externally vented or HEPA vacuum cleaner for wood surfaces. Scrub using an unscented detergent solution, rinse and dry fast. You may have to sand and refinish the surface if the stain does not come off.

You should perform sanding with a sander/vacuum combination, allowing the vacuum to pick up the spores emitted by sanding.

 

Example: This lightweight Shark Navigator utilizes Anti-Allergen Complete Seal Technology® + a HEPA filter; it traps 99.9% of dust and allergens inside the vacuum.

 

 

Mold on the Ceiling

If you see mold on the ceiling in your home then you probably have a humidity or condensation problem. It is also possible that the mold is caused by a water leak above the ceiling.

 

Removing Mold on the Ceiling

Like with mold on walls, if the ceiling is made of a non-porous material then you can usually just wipe the mold away with a wet cloth. You can use a mold killing product like bleach if you like too.

If the ceiling is made of a porous material though, like unpainted drywall, then you may have to cut away the material where the mold is growing since the mold has probably grown inside the material.

 

Windows

Condensation frequently forms on windows due to cold outdoor air on the other side of the window which cools the glass. Although mold cannot feed on the glass itself, if the window is dirty then mold can feed off of the grime on the window glass.

Condensation can also lead to mold growing around window frames because of moisture condensating on the glass and then running onto the frame. The other place to watch out for mold growing around your windows is in the seal where the window frame meets the wall.

So discovering mold on your windows isn’t uncommon if you have a condensation  issue.  After removing excess mold, you’ll be in a better position to establish the full extent of the issue.

If you discover a relatively minor problem, spray some cleaning strength white vinegar on the windows and then combine with some baking soda.

You can prevent mold from recurring by keeping your windows free from condensation. Wherever possible, ensure window ventilation to allow air circulation and prevent dampness.

 

Mold in Floor

Mold can grow beneath the floor in your home just like it grows above ceilings and within wall cavities. Dirt and dust which fall under the floor become trapped, along with moisture, leading to perfect conditions for mold growth.

Tiles and especially carpets trap large amounts of dust and can become a haven for mold growth. Carpets hold moisture particularly well, taking a long time to dry out, which means they can very easily foster mold growth if there are spilled liquids, water leaks or floods.

 

Mold on Furniture

Furniture left in storage can accumulate mold and mildew, especially in damp, dark conditions. Mold thrives in moist environments, and fabrics such as upholstery can absorb moisture from the air and provide an ideal place for mold and mildew to grow. It usually appears in patches, and can give off a foul, musty odor. One of the best ways to prevent future mold growth is to keep the area and items as dry as possible.

Furniture made of organic materials, such as wood, are another thing that mold soon ends up growing on if there’s a moisture problem in your home. Upholstered furniture in particular absorbs moisture, making it a prime candidate for mold growth.

Your household furniture should not be kept close to, or touching, the walls as this diminishes the air flow and creates condensation. When you check your furniture for mold remember to check underneath pieces of furniture. Also look inside furniture like cupboards, drawers, etc.

 

How to Remove Mold from Upholstered Furniture

Lay down newspaper around the couch to catch any falling mold. Brush the couch with a stiff broom or brush to loosen the spores and knock them onto the newspaper. Pick up the newspaper and throw it away.

Combine 1 qt. of warm water and 1/2 tsp. of liquid hand soap in a container. Alternatively, you can use equal parts rubbing alcohol or white vinegar and water. You can also use 1 qt. of warm water and 2 tbsp. of ammonia.

Dip a sponge into the liquid and squeeze it until suds form.

Apply the suds to the couch, focusing on the moldy areas.

Rub the upholstery with the sponge to remove any mold, rinsing and wringing the sponge as you go.

If you use alcohol, rinse the upholstery with a clean, damp sponge.

Dry the couch completely in a well-ventilated area or in the sunlight. Use fans or open a window, if possible.

Allow it to dry before using.

As an alternative to preparing your own cleaning solution, try Chem-Girl No Rinse OxyPro Deodorizer Biodegradable Peroxide Cleaner.  It’s very effective at removing mold and mildew, it utilizes hydrogen peroxide (not bleach), so there are no fumes.  Plus, you don’t have to rinse it off.  6 oz of OxyPro makes 1 quart of cleaning solution.

 

 

 

Testing For Mold

If you suspect that your home has a mold problem, and want to be sure,  you can pick up a mold testing kit.  Keep in mind that a mold testing kit is for mold only, and does not test for any other volatile organic compounds or off-gas.  For that, you will need a comprehensive test.

 

Example: This DIY Mold Test tests for mold and pollen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for visiting and reading …

I hope this article provided you with some practical information. 

I welcome your comments below.

-Laurie

 

You may also be interested in:

Relieve Sinus Pain Without a Prescription

Is Your Indoor Air Making Your Allergies Worse?

Prepare Your Home and HVAC System For Warmer Days

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Best Air Purifiers for COPD – Full Reviews

Detailed Review of the SoClean CPAP Cleaner

Choosing The Right Allergy Treatment (So Many Options!)

Oxygen Therapy for COPD – Pros and Cons

The Most Effective Stop Smoking Aids Reviewed

Best Treadmills for Seniors Home Fitness

Should You Buy an Electric Bike?

The Best Elliptical Machines Reviewed

Find The Best Bathroom Scale for You

The Fix for Cracked Heels

The Best Foot Bath Massagers – Full Reviews

Top 10 Massage Chairs – Full Reviews

About Me

Create Your Own Blog

Signs You Need to Test Your Indoor Air Quality

Signs That You Need to Test Your Indoor Air Quality

(And How to Do It)

 

 

 

 

Physical symptoms caused by poor indoor air quality could be ambiguous and wide ranging, including everything from allergies, to sinus conditions, to headaches, to respiratory irritation. But when symptoms do persist, checking a home’s air quality and air circulation might have great benefit.

 

The indoor air quality of your home is a key part of you and your family’s overall health, because indoor air quality health effects can be wide ranging and have a long-term cumulative effect.

Indoor air quality isn’t always easy to spot the way that a burst pipe or a broken refrigerator is – unlike those household appliances, there’s no switch you flip only to find out your indoor air quality is broken. In the busyness of modern life, it’s often easier to think that smell is coming from the neighbors or the headaches you experience are from your stressful job. But indoor air quality plays a key role in our long-term health, and as we spend up to 90% of our lives indoors, having good indoor air quality is important.

 

Related image

 

 

Know What Your Indoor Air Quality Is

 

In most homes, both urban and rural, people have become much more environmentally conscious than ever before. And while much is made of the air quality outdoors and around the world, we often overlook the air quality inside our living space. It really shouldn’t be that way, especially since we spend so much of our waking hours indoors. The bigger question is how to ensure that indoor air quality is at an acceptable standard. The best way to start is with an air quality test.

Most every home could use an air quality test, including those that seem to be just fine. The truth is, a homeowner doesn’t have to wait for physical symptoms to arise before exploring the indoor air environment. For that matter, symptoms could be ambiguous and wide ranging, including everything from allergies, to sinus conditions, to headaches, to respiratory irritation. But when symptoms do persist, checking a home’s air quality and air circulation might have great benefit.

In the majority of homes, dust and debris is commonplace. And this could be anything from plain dirt, to plant materials, to skin particles, to home cleaning off-gases. For those with respiratory issues, polluted indoor air may be playing a part, especially when irritation is exacerbated. Even furnace filters have their limits – and poor maintenance can easily contribute to poor air quality. In cases where furnace filters clog up quite quickly, an air quality test might diagnose a problem.

Knowing what your indoor air quality is and why it’s important is the first step to having a healthier, safer home. Indoor air quality refers to the condition of the air inside of and around the building, especially as it relates to the comfort and health of the occupants within. Indoor air quality health effects appear when parts of the systems that support a high level of indoor air quality are faulty or broken. Some of these systems include your Heating, Ventilation and Cooling systems (HVAC), fans, HEPA filters, windows, doors, and moisture barriers.

Indoor air quality is more than just clean smelling air, it’s also about keeping allergens and pollutants out, while constantly refreshing and renewing the air within. When indoor air quality health effects appear, it can be the first symptom of a larger problem within your home.

 

 

 

High Off-Gas Levels in Your Home Can Make You Sick

 

Off-gassing is the release of chemicals from the things we bring into our homes, or that our homes are actually made of. In drafty old houses with lots of air changes it wasn’t much of a problem, but as we build our houses tighter for energy efficiency, these chemicals can build up inside. The craziest part of it all is that we go out and buy them without knowing what’s in them, and often stockpile them in the bathroom, the tiniest room of the house with the worst ventilation.

Poor indoor air quality can affect your health in a number of ways, and research has shown that certain toxins or chemicals can build up in people’s systems and cause trouble years down the road. Children, elders, or people who suffer from chronic illness or weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to poor indoor air quality which can worsen symptoms or complicate existing illnesses.

While the symptoms of poor indoor air quality health effects are broad, there are a number of them that can be mistaken for other illnesses such as colds, influenza, or allergies. They are:

  • coughing
  • sneezing
  • itchy, watery eyes
  • tiredness
  • headaches
  • dizziness

 

The key sign that your trouble may be with indoor air quality health effects is that they often completely disappear as soon as you leave the room or building.Indoor air quality health effects can be experienced at any time, by any person. But when indoor air quality is a problem in your own home, these effects can become serious. Air pollution can affect asthma, COPD, or allergies, but also heart conditions like angina; it can even be a contributing factor to heart attacks or strokes. Air pollution from some pollutants like asbestos or bacteria like legionella (which causes Legionnaires’ disease) can be fatal.

Some indoor air quality health effects may show up after one exposure, while others take repeated exposure to cause symptoms, which often makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the problem.

 

Walk-In Lab Allergy Test

 

These small chemical compounds are common in many household items like wood, perfumes, paint, cleaners, glues, and solvents. They may be stable as a liquid or solid, but when exposed to air, they rapidly become gaseous and can become problematic for your indoor air quality.

 

 

Here are some of the worst offenders of off-gas and volatile organic compounds in the home:

 

Particle Board and Plywood

Judging by words of the American Chemistry Council, Formaldehyde is positively benign, a natural part of our world. And it is, in small doses. Unfortunately, it is part of the glue that holds particle board together, the stuff our houses and furniture is made of. It is a recognized carcinogen and causes eye and nose irritation. But hey, it’s a natural part of our world.

The best way to avoid formaldehyde is to buy used, whether it is an older home where it has had the time to off-gas, or furniture that has stood the test of time. Or, buy solid wood furniture instead of particle board.

 

 

Dryer Sheets

Here is a completely useless product that does nothing but add VOCs to your clothing. Chemicals include chloroform and pentanes, which the Material Safety Data Sheet suggests can cause eye and skin irritation. Ultimately, anything that is designed to make your clothes smell nice is releasing compounds you don’t want in your house.  To reduce wrinkles, static and drying time, use dryer balls instead.

Example: These Handy Laundry Sheep Wool Dryer Balls are a great alternative to liquid fabric softeners and dryer sheets.

 

 

Air Fresheners

There really are few products stupider than air fresheners, which are actually designed to pump chemicals into your home. The NRDC notes that 75% of houses now use them. Most of them are pumping out phthalates, the gender bender hormone disruptor that is the main villain in vinyl. The NRDC says:

Phthalates are hormone-disrupting chemicals that can be particularly dangerous for young children and unborn babies. Exposure to phthalates can affect testosterone levels and lead to reproductive abnormalities, including abnormal genitalia and reduced sperm production. The State of California notes that five types of phthalates—including one that we found in air freshener products—are “known to cause birth defects or reproductive harm.” Young children and pregnant women should be especially careful to avoid contact with these chemicals.

 To enhance the scent in your home, you can use essential oils and a diffuser instead of chemical sprays.  They’re safe and natural, and smell much better, anyways.

Example: These Lagunamoon Essential Oils are premium grade, natural and 100% pure. The set includes lemongrass, peppermint, orange, lavender, eucalyptus, and tea tree.

 

 

URPOWER Real Bamboo Essential Oil Diffuser Ultrasonic Aromotherapy Diffusers Cool Mist Aroma Diffuser with Adjustable Mist Modes, Waterless Auto Shut-off, 7 Color LED Lights for Home Office

Example: This Urpower Real Bamboo Essential Oil Diffuser has adjustable mist modes, 7 colored LED lights for ambience, and auto shut-off.

 

 

Nail Polish Remover With Acetone

Breathing moderate-to-high levels of acetone for short periods of time can cause nose, throat, lung, and eye irritation.  It can also cause intoxication, light-headedness, dizziness, confusion increased pulse rate, nausea, vomiting, and shortening of the menstrual cycle in women.

Use an acetone free nail polish remover instead.  A good quality remover without acetone can get the job done!

 

Example: I use this Pure Vitality Beauty polish remover, and it has never let me down. It’s free from acetone, acetate, ethyl lactate & petroleum chemicals (and it’s cruelty free).

 

 

Electronics

Many products have the flame retardant triphenyl phosphate in the insulation on their wiring; it is an endocrine disruptor that off-gases when the device heats up.

 

Non-Stick Pans

It is suspected that overheating a teflon pan can lead to the release of Perfluorinated chemicals that cause “teflon flu.”

 

Laser Printers and Copiers

The printing process releases ozone, which causes irritation to nose, throat and lungs.

Individuals who have preexisting lung problems, such as emphysema, bronchitis, or asthma, are even more at risk for the effects of ozone (O3). Children are also more susceptible to the effects of ozone (O3) and can increase their sensitivity to allergens.

 

 

Example: Aunt Fannie’s Cleaning Vinegar is an effective natural cleaner, with a pleasant fresh lime mint scent.

Household Cleaners

It is hard to know where to start with this one, so many of them are full of VOCs. That’s why people get “spring cleaning headache” from inhaling them all.

The US Department of Health and Human Services maintains a household products database where you can look up the ingredients of almost every product sold in the country. It is disturbing reading.

The EPA has noted that levels of organic pollutants can be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes rather than outside. Most of the cleaners we use are not needed;  vinegar and baking sodas are good substitutes.

If, like me, you can’t stand the smell of vinegar, try one of the many natural cleaners on the market.  They are pleasant to use, and most are very effective. 

I have used several of Aunt Fannie’s products, as well as Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day products, and have been satisfied with all of them so far.  There are many options, so get rid of your toxic cleaners and replace them with natural choices – it’s an easy change.

 

Getting Rid of VOCs

There really are two ways to deal with the buildup of VOCs:

* Don’t use products that have them in the first place, and

* Provide lots of fresh air to get rid of them.

That’s why every new house should have a heat recovery ventilator, every stove should have a real exhaust fan that vents to the exterior (not those silly recirculating noisemakers) and every bathroom should have a high quality exhaust fan that actually gets used, (not the ten buck noisy ones that most builders put in and people hate using).

 

EnviroKlenz Mobile HEPA Air Purifier

 

 

Moisture Build-up and Mold

 

Sometimes you see it, but sometimes you don’t: mold is often not visible to the naked eye, but it has a recognizably musty smell and it’s important to have it promptly -and professionally- removed.

 

Interestingly, most homeowners aren’t aware enough of the negative effects of moisture build up in various parts of the house. Moisture is simply a stepping-stone for mold or mildew to develop, even in a small sized washroom space. And while mold may look unsightly, an infiltration could be the first sign of a health risk. In any home, it’s wise to watch for the beginnings of mold, but for extra measure a high quality air test will be able to pinpoint the exact source and extent.

Found worldwide, mold is an important type of fungus. But when it grows indoors, toxic strains can proliferate and cause serious indoor air quality health effects that can make people seriously ill. Mold is often found after a water leak or flood, and can destroy construction materials and objects as well as cause health trouble.

Mold is often not visible to the naked eye, but it has a recognizably musty smell and it’s important to have it promptly -and professionally- removed. 

If you suspect that your home has a mold problem, you can pick up a mold testing kit to see if you need to  call a professional for mold removal.  Keep in mind that a mold testing kit is for mold only, and does not test for any other volatile organic compounds or off-gas.  For that, you will need a comprehensive test.

 

Example: This DIY Mold Test tests for mold and pollen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carbon Monoxide

This odorless, invisible gas is produced by appliances that use fossil fuels, such as your furnace or gas stove. Carbon monoxide can build up in your home and it prevents your body from using oxygen efficiently – resulting in tiredness, dizziness and headaches. If the concentration is high enough, you can die. While plug-in and battery powered testers are available, have your heating and cooling systems checked by a professional yearly, and ensure appliances are correctly vented.

Every home should have a carbon monoxide detection device on every level of the home. If the home has an attached garage a CO detector should be installed in the room that shares a door with the garage. In the case of CO, monitoring is better than testing.

 

 

Here’s How You Can Be Proactive About Your Indoor Air

 

You can test your home’s indoor air quality quite easily on your own with a testing kit.  If a specific problem is found, you can then assess whether you can handle the issue or need to call the appropriate professional to take care of it.

My husband and I did this testing in our home, and it was a simple process, which saved us from paying a professional for a service call to do the testing for us (using a similar testing device).

There is a good variety of indoor air testing kits available to consumers these days, so there is really no reason to feel you have to call someone if you suspect your home’s air is causing health problems.

We used the Home Air Check, and were very satisfied with it.  Their testing device  provides a comprehensive picture of chemical levels that you are breathing when in the home. It also indicates a level of actively growing mold present in the home. Since these chemicals are tested simultaneously, this sophisticated analysis becomes less expensive than arranging for a professional to come out charge you for their time and several separate tests.

Also, the samples are collected without the use of toxic chemicals, so there are no health risks using Home Air Check. We were happy with the level of completeness, sophistication, prediction, and value of Home Air Check.

The Home Air Check Indoor Air Test measures VOC’s, formaldehyde and mold.

 

This is how the testing process works:

You use a small sampling device to collect an air sample in your home. The sampling time takes about 2 hours.  Full instructions are included in the kit (and it is very straightforward).

After the sample is collected,  you return the complete kit to the Home Air Check laboratory, where they analyze the air sample using sophisticated state-of-the-art analytical instrumentation for hundreds of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that can be found in home air. In addition, they look for 21 specific mold compounds that can be generated when mold is actively growing in a home.

A detailed report is then generated. In this report will be a Total VOC concentration level – a total of all the VOCs found in your home. The US Green Building Council recommends a TVOC level of less than 500 ng/L to be considered a healthy environment. (The median US home is about 1,200 ng/L.) A total concentration of Mold VOCs is also listed. Generally, this number should be less than 8 ng/L or you have active mold growth you need to find.

The report also includes a Contamination Index, which gives you a prediction of which sources or materials in your home may be responsible for these contaminating chemicals, such as gasoline, paint, adhesives, odorants, personal care products, etc. Home Air Check emails you the report within 5 business days of receipt of your air sample. You can then use their phone or chat line support to answer any questions you have and to help you improve your air quality.

 

 

Thanks for visiting and reading …

I hope this article provided you some practical information. 

I welcome your comments below.

-Laurie

 

 

You may also be interested in:

Is Your Indoor Air Making Your Allergies Worse?

Simple Steps to Ease Your Allergies at Home

Prepare Your Home and HVAC System For Warmer Days

Natural Options For Managing Asthma

Thinking About Switching to Organic Makeup? Read This First …

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs

Best Air Purifiers for COPD – Full Reviews

Detailed Review of the SoClean CPAP Cleaner

Choosing The Right Allergy Treatment (So Many Options!)

Oxygen Therapy for COPD – Pros and Cons

The Most Effective Stop Smoking Aids Reviewed

Best Treadmills for Seniors Home Fitness

Should You Buy an Electric Bike?

The Best Elliptical Machines Reviewed

Find The Best Bathroom Scale for You

The Fix for Cracked Heels

The Best Foot Bath Massagers – Full Reviews

Top 10 Massage Chairs – Full Reviews

About Me

Create Your Own Blog

 

Seniors and Guns – Do They Mix?

Seniors and Guns

 

Do They Mix?

 

 

The debate surrounding gun ownership has been raging for decades, and I want to preface this article by acknowledging that advancing age, by itself, should not preclude anyone from leading an independent life and enjoying their rights and privileges. However, when exercising one’s freedoms threatens others’ safety and puts oneself in danger, I believe some sort of intervention is necessary.

I find that a simple comparison helps me wrap my head around this heavily contested topic. Many families are familiar with the dreaded process of taking away an aging loved one’s car keys. Whether an elder starts getting lost while driving, experiences a few fender benders or near misses, or their eyesight or reaction time is worsening, at some point it becomes clear that they should no longer be on the road. In my opinion, guns are in the same category as cars. Both items are useful tools, but they can also be lethal, whether intentionally or accidentally.

In some areas, hunting is a popular sport. Many households have one or more guns used for hunting, and some people also own hand guns for protection. I feel that if an elder is cognitively sound and has good eyesight and reflexes, he or she should be able to possess a firearm for hunting and self-defense. I don’t feel that age alone should be a deciding factor with guns any more than it is with driving. But, as with the ability to drive a car, the time may come for many elders when owning a gun is no longer safe. That’s when the challenge of removing this hazard arises.

 

 

When is it Too Dangerous?

 

Continuing with the comparison between the ability to safely own a firearm and drive a car, the answer to this question is very rarely black and white. In fact, part of the difficulty with taking away an aging loved one’s driving privileges is that they usually haven’t harmed themselves or others or caused any property damage… yet. Their family members can see the writing on the wall and are anxious about what could happen if they continue getting behind the wheel. The trouble is that the time to cut an elder off may only become clear after something conclusive occurs.

Daniel C. Potts, MD, a neurologist at the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center, founder and president of the Cognitive Dynamics Foundation and medical director of Dementia Dynamics, LLC, feels that elders who are not cognitively impaired should be allowed to continue owning guns without any restrictions that are not already in place for the general population. “The case of documented cognitive impairment, however, would be different,” Dr. Potts says.

Cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia and mental health disorders, such as depression and psychosis, are the biggest red flags for families to look for when deciding if it is still safe for a loved one to own a gun. Confusion, memory issues, inability to recognize or remember who friends and family are, impaired decision-making capabilities, delusions, hallucinations and paranoia can all contribute to a terrible accident.

“I personally feel that guns should be removed from the homes of those with documented dementia,” Dr. Potts explains, “or at least sequestered safely so that only family members with their faculties have access to them.”

Other less serious age-related factors that might at least warrant a healthy discussion about responsible gun ownership and safe handling techniques and storage practices include changes in eyesight, hearing loss, slowed response times, use of certain types of drugs that can affect mood, judgement, and alertness, and limited mobility and coordination. Even if an elder is emotionally stable and mentally competent, certain physical conditions can still contribute to dangerous mistakes.

 

 

Reasoning For Gun Ownership

 

Susan Madlung, RN, BScN, MSc Gerontology, Eden Alternative Associate, and Resident Care Manager at Langley Lodge in Langley, British Columbia, says that there is a larger factor to consider when addressing a senior’s gun ownership: their motives. This often boils down to their desire to feel protected and secure. As we age, we concentrate more on basic needs like shelter, food and safety.

“If an elder is in possession of a gun, my first step would be to ask them why, rather than jump to managing the gun itself,” Madlung notes. “If safety is their main concern, ask questions to determine what exactly is causing the elder to feel unsafe and whether the threat is genuine or perceived. Usually, the more vulnerable or isolated they feel, the greater the perceived threat will be.”

Ideally, if family members can come to understand the fear or uncertainty that causes an elder think they need a gun for protection, it can help everyone work together to devise a way to address these concerns and seek out other alternatives for improving comfort and security. This could include carrying pepper spray instead of a gun, installing additional security measures around their home, moving in with family, transitioning to a senior living facility with regular security patrols, etc.

“Addressing feelings of safety and social isolation can help to minimize their need for such a powerful weapon to protect themselves,” posits Madlung. “Improved feelings of safety will go a long way in improving quality of life as well.”

However, for some people and in some areas of the U.S., gun ownership is an essential part of life. For a senior, giving up their gun can be tantamount to giving up their independence and part of their identity. When understanding their need to hang on to a gun doesn’t help solve the issue, other means must be used.

 

 

Is Gun Safety Being Maintained in the Home?

 

If your senior does keep a gun in their home, you must ensure that it is properly and securely stored. Taking the necessary precautions is vital, but the weapon should still be easily accessed should the time ever come when it is needed. Here are five key safety measures for storing firearms at home.

 

Lock Boxes and Gun Safes

The safest way to store a gun is within a well concealed lock box or gun safe. This will prevent unauthorized access to the weapon, while also ensuring that you have it close at hand.

While some owners may choose to keep their gun safe in the closet or under the bed, it is safest to install a hidden one whenever possible. A sturdy lock box may also be adequate, though you must ensure that it is well hidden to protect your weapons from potential intruders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep it Locked

The National Rifle Association notes that safe and proper gun storage includes using a secure locking device. Two of the most common mechanisms are trigger locks and cable locks – the former is affixed around the weapon’s trigger to lock it in place, while the latter is a long steel cable that is looped through the action of the firearm to block its operation.

However, owners should never rely solely on mechanical locking devices, like the mechanical safeties built into guns, the NRA warns, as these can fail and should not be used as a substitute for safe gun handling and the observance of all gun safety rules. Always remember that, while these devices prevent the weapon from being loaded or fired, they will not stop it from being stolen. That’s why it’s so important to use it in conjunction with a proper storage device.

 

Keep it Unloaded

The NRA recommends that gun owners should always keep their gun unloaded until it is ready to use. This is particularly important when you are storing your gun at home. Keeping your firearm unloaded at all times will help prevent accidents and injuries, even if it does accidentally fall into the wrong hands. It’s also good practice to store the bullets separately from the weapons.

 

 

Addressing the Issue

 

There is no single best way to tackle delicate subjects like this one. Your approach should depend on your loved one’s level of cognition, their physical health, their reasons for owning a gun/guns, and the nature of your relationship with them.

If Dad has been a responsible gun owner his whole life, has no signs of any impairment or age-related decline, and you two are close, it can’t hurt to discuss the possibility of one day having to sell his weapons or give them to another trustworthy family member for safe keeping. Discussing these matters early on can help an elder feel involved in the decision and prevent unexpected issues down the road.

If you have noticed behavioral changes in a loved one and suspect some sort of cognitive impairment, seeking a diagnosis early on is critical, whether they own firearms or not. Gathering as much information as possible will help the entire family be better prepared and enable you to address difficult issues as they arise. If the diagnosis is positive, work closely with your loved one’s doctor to ensure they understand that there are guns in the home. Just as with driving, a physician should be available and willing to help family members determine if safety is an issue and how to proceed while keeping everyone’s best interests in mind.

“Ideally, I think that a health care provider should have a discussion after the initial diagnosis with both the patient and caregiver, if possible, to talk about how to safeguard the home and environment,” suggests Dr. Potts. “This would include things like securing or removing any weapons, or at least having them supervised by another family member with access restricted for the patient.”

Many members of caregiver forums have offered excellent advice to fellow caregivers who are struggling with this problem. For example, one woman’s mother had always carried her gun for protection, but she became more fearful than ever after being diagnosed with dementia. She absolutely refused to give up her weapon, and her daughter didn’t know what to do. Another member suggested that the daughter take the gun to a professional and have it permanently disabled.

Countless caregivers have had to use the same approach with their loved ones’ cars to prevent them from driving. Removing guns altogether is the safest option. Disabling may be an alternative, but it also comes with hazards. Once the weapon is disabled, the elder should be able to enjoy the feeling of gun ownership without the risk of accidentally hurting or killing someone. Obviously, as with so many caregiving issues, you wouldn’t let your loved one know of the change. Just be aware that even a disabled weapon still poses a risk, since law enforcement and other individuals will react as if it is operational.

 

 

Finding Help

 

While gun laws and background checks are in place to prevent high-risk individuals from purchasing weapons in the first place, many seniors are unique in that they are not considered risky or unfit for gun ownership until later in life—after they have already legally obtained weapons.

Generally, this demographic does not pose the same dramatic public safety threats that are so often cited in gun control debates. But that does not change the fact that family members are concerned their aging loved ones may mistake them for an intruder, take their own lives or react violently to delusions they think are real.

If discussing these concerns with your loved one directly is not productive, it can be helpful to contact their physician, the local police department and even the family attorney for guidance on ensuring their safety and the well being of those around them. A police officer may be able to help confiscate and destroy the weapons. It may be difficult and heartbreaking to attempt, but revoking a loved one’s concealed-carry license is also an option.

Lastly, a handful of states feature Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) laws, which are also called red flag laws. They allow law enforcement officials, and in some cases family members, to petition for the immediate and temporary seizure of weapons from a person who poses a danger to themselves or others. The owner can then attend a hearing where the court determines how long the weapons will be held in custody. Washington, Oregon, California, Indiana and Connecticut are the only states who have enacted some form of this red-flag law, but others are considering them.

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

Ultimately, no family member wants to infringe on a loved one’s independence, but at some point, we must take responsibility for their well being and our own. Being a caregiver isn’t about doing what is easy; It is about doing what is best for those we love.

 

Based on an article by Carol Bradley Bursack, author of Minding Our Elders – Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories.

 

Thanks for visiting and reading … I hope this article provided you some helpful ideas.  I welcome your comments below.

-Laurie

 

 

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Best Home Safes for Valuables and Guns – Reviews

Best Home Safes for Valuables and Guns

 

Home, Portable and Firearms Safes – Tips and Reviews of the Best

 

While no one likes to think that events like break-ins, fires and floods might happen to them, the truth is that these things can happen to anybody. Most people arm their homes with door locks, window locks, and fire, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as a way to forestall these disasters; so it makes sense to add a fireproof safe that can protect hard-to-replace documents, currency and large and small valuables in case of fire or flood. The general rule when buying a safe is to get the largest safe you expect to be able to fill — that way, you won’t have to invest in a second safe in the future. Image above – SentrySafe SFW123DEB

If you have guns, a safe designed specifically for handguns or long guns like rifles and shotguns will not only protect your weapons from fire, water damage and theft, it will keep them safely out of the hands of small children or unauthorized adults.

It may be tempting to head straight for the cheapest safes — but if there was ever a time to invest in quality, this is it. However, price is not always an indicator of quality either, and there are plenty of reports of pricey or even custom-made safes that owners felt seemed cheap or tended to collect condensation in spite of their cost. Regardless of price point, look for home safes that are rated by Underwriters Laboratory (using the UL mark) or Intertek (using the ETL mark). Testing from these third-party companies gives you an honest gauge of just how much fire or flooding the safe can withstand, and how well it will hold up against break-in attempts.

 

Fireproof Home Safes

 

Although they sometimes come with theft-deterrent features like relockers and pry-resistant hinges, a fireproof home safe’s primary focus is exactly what the name suggests: Defending the contents against a house fire. Most fireproof safes use either moisture-rich insulation or concrete amalgamate to do this, paired with doors that seal shut in a fire for extra protection. Many larger safes also come with a range of interior organizers, and some are waterproof against flooding or the firefighter’s hose.

 

What to Put in Your Home Safe

 

A home safe gives you 24/7 access to documents you might need from time to time without requiring a trip to your bank’s safe-deposit vault. 

 

Document How long to keep
Birth and death certificates Forever.
Estate-planning documents Forever. (Unless your executor knows how to get into your safe, also make sure he or she and your lawyer have copies.)
Life-insurance policies Until the term of coverage ends.
Savings bonds Until you cash them in at maturity (30 years in the case of Series EE bonds).
Stock certificates Until you sell the stock or have it converted to direct or street-name registration.
Tax returns At least seven years.

 

Portable Safes

 

For those who just want a layer of extra protection for difficult-to-replace documents such as social security cards, birth certificates or other small items, these highly affordable safes will probably do the trick. Most are fireproof and can be moved fairly easily; some are waterproof, too. Although these small boxes aren’t the best deterrent against theft because a burglar can just carry them off, many people choose portable safes primarily for their fire and water protection, then hide them so a thief cannot easily find them.

 

Gun Safes

 

Gun safes employ the similar security features to home safes, although gun safes are often designed for quick access in case you need the gun for self-defense. Second, although the federal government doesn’t require you to lock your firearms up, some states do; and some states levy penalties or criminal charges for allowing children access to firearms. Always check your local laws regarding firearm storage.

 

Best Home Safe Recommendations

 

 

Best Fireproof Home Safe:  The SentrySafe SFW123DSB

 

 

Of all the safes evaluated, the SentrySafe SFW123DSB offers the best combination of fire and flood protection at a reasonable price. It’s UL-rated for up to an hour in 1700-degree fire and against exploding or rupturing in a flash fire. This safe is also ETL-verified for impact resistance during a fire and flood resistance for 24 hours in 8 inches of water. This SentrySafe is a top choice for protecting USB drives, CDs, DVDs and portable hard drives.

The SFW123DSB offers fire and water protection at a good value, plus a few effective anti-theft measures. It’s UL-classified to survive up to one hour in a 1,700 degree fire, and also UL-tested not to explode or rupture when exposed to a flash fire in a 2,000 degree furnace for 30 minutes.

The SentrySafe SFW123DSB home safe is ETL verified for 15 feet of impact resistance in a fire (important because this simulates the performance of a super-heated safe that may fall through a floor or have a beam fall on it). With a guarantee that the interior won’t exceed 350 degrees, the SFW123DSB is also certified for protection of USB drives, CDs, DVDs and portable hard drives for up to an hour. However, it can’t protect photo negatives or floppy disks in a fire because they’re susceptible to heat damage at lower temperatures than some other media. Some prospective buyers misconstrue this to mean that you can’t store any electronics or media at all, but, in fact, it will effectively protect the above listed items. You also shouldn’t store pearls in this safe, because they sustain damage at relatively low temperatures.

The SentrySafe SFW123DSB is also flood-proof to a certain degree, with ETL-verified water-resistance for up to 24 hours in up to 8 inches of water. That waterproofing goes away, however, if you drill into the safe to mount it to the floor as a theft deterrent (the bolt-down kit is included).

That’s an impressive selection of disaster-proofing at a great price, and the SFW123DSB has a few anti-theft measures built in as well, including the pre-marked bolt holes and bolt-down kit, steel construction and pry-resistant hinges. However, the manufacturer doesn’t disclose how thick the steel is, and it’s likely that much of this safe’s 90-pound weight is due to the heavy, moist fire-resistant insulation, not steel; so it’s best to think of this as a disaster-proof safe rather than a theft-proof safe. Many home users take the extra step of hiding the safe in a closet to make it a less obvious target for would-be thieves.

Although the SentrySafe SFW123DSB represents a good value in disaster-proofing, there are a few quirks you should be aware of. Users are sometimes surprised to see that both the safe handle and the outer dial on the combination lock are made of plastic and feel a little flimsy. These cosmetic parts don’t have anything to do with actually locking the safe — but you do need them to open it.

Also, SentrySafe’s proprietary fireproof insulation, combined with the airtight/waterproof seal on the safe, produces quite a lot of condensation inside. Leave the desiccant package that comes with the safe inside, and consider adding more; and if you store electronics, watches, jewelry, photos or firearms in the this safe, they should be put into airtight containers first, to protect them from the condensation. SentrySafe offers a fire protection program that will replace up to $50,000 worth of belongings if they’re lost to a fire while in the safe — but you do have to enroll first. They’ll also send you a replacement safe if the one you bought is damaged in a fire.

Many users like the backup key lock on this safe, which can be used to provide extra security to the sometimes-fiddly combination lock. Note that it’s not an override key that can open the safe if you forget the combination; it’s just an extra layer of security. Also, you can’t set your own combination — you’re stuck with whatever the factory issued.

This line of safes has an interior capacity of 1.23 cubic feet, and users are sometimes surprised by how small the interior is, thanks to the thick fireproof walls.  The interior measures 13.8 inches by 12.6 inches by 11.9 inches, or just large enough to hold tabbed file folders. There’s a door pocket and key rack for quick access to small items, and one adjustable interior shelf tray that users say seems a little flimsy, so only use it for light items.

Most of the varied model numbers on this line of safes simply designate different lock types or interior configurations. For example, the SentrySafe SFW123DEB  is essentially the same safe with a shelf instead of a tray and the addition of a locking inner tray/top-access drawer, which can also act as an additional shelf. You can also purchase extra trays, shelves and drawers for any of these safes separately.

One quick note: If you do purchase any version of the SentrySafe SFW123, inspect it for dents and other damage before accepting delivery. The construction is sturdy enough that you might not notice dents at first, and many users say that once they’re stuck with a dented safe, it’s not worth the effort to return it.

 

Best Portable Firesproof Safe –

The SentrySafe 1200 Fire-Safe Chest

 

In the portable fire safe category, the SentrySafe 1200 fire-safe chest draws excellent reviews for its UL-rated 30 minutes of protection in fires of up to 1550 degrees. It’s also ETL verified for keeping internal temperatures low enough to protect USB drives, CDs, DVDs and portable hard drives.

The SentrySafe 1200 is small enough to hide discreetly away or pick up and run with during an emergency, but, at 3.5 by 12 by 7.5 inches, it’s not exactly spacious.

This fire-safe chest draws the best reviews for being able to stand up to a fire. It’s UL classified to survive up to half an hour in fire temperatures of up to 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit, and ETL verified for keeping internal temperatures low enough to protect USB drives, CDs, DVDs and portable hard drives. It’s also an excellent value.

This is one of the few products where there is an owner review from someone who had it in a fire. That user writes that although the box itself was “neatly seared” after what the fire marshal estimated as 10 to 15 minutes of exposure, everything inside the box survived just fine. However, If this box is in a fire, it seals itself shut and will have to be pried open; SentrySafe will send you another fire chest to replace the old one.

 

Not For Burglary Protection

One place the SentrySafe 1200 does not excel is burglary protection, but that’s not what it’s designed for; after all, it’s deliberately built small enough that you can pick it up and run in case of a house fire. We also found a few scattered complaints about durability for the key-lock mechanism, but users say SentrySafe’s customer service did a good job of replacing defective products.

 

Size Options

Owners are sometimes surprised by just how small this fire-safe box is. The interior capacity is just .18 cubic feet, or 3.5 inches by 12 inches by 7.5 inches, so it’s long enough but not quite wide enough to lay a letter-size piece of paper flat. Most people use this 13.3-pound box for storing small but important documents — like birth certificates, social security cards and passports — and sometimes even for securing prescription medication, although there’s no rating to say whether it can protect meds through a fire. A similar lock chest is also available, the .17 cubic foot the SentrySafe H0100, that is ETL-verified for water submersion in case of a flood.

If you want a larger fireproof box, consider the SentrySafe FHW40100 large file safe, which is UL-classified for fire endurance for up to half an hour at 1,550 degrees. It’s also ETL-verified for a half-hour of fire protection for digital media, UL-classified against explosion hazards, and ETL-verified for water submersion in case of a flood or water from fire-fighting efforts. 

The biggest thing to be aware of with the SentrySafe FHW40100 file box is that its fireproof insulation has a high moisture content, which is part of what makes the safe so heavy. Although this offers excellent fireproofing, users are sometimes dismayed to see that the manufacturer recommends against storing anything that might be damaged by that moisture — including firearms, stamps, photos, watches and other jewelry with moving parts — inside the safe. Some readers store these items anyway, placing them in airtight plastic bags — often with a desiccant inside — to protect against that moisture.

With an interior capacity of .66 cubic feet, users say the fireproof and waterproof SentrySafe FHW40100 file box is large enough to hold several dozen full letter-size file folders (hanging or non-hanging) or four reams of paper, and it has a pair of straps in the lid to help secure smaller items. It comes with built-in carry handles on the side and isn’t meant to be bolted down — so technically it’s still portable — but at more than 40 pounds while empty, you probably won’t be moving it around much. Owners are sometimes surprised by how thick the safe’s walls are: Its interior dimensions are just 11.6 inches by 12 inches by 8.1 inches.

The SentrySafe FHW40100 comes with a flat key. If you prefer, you can buy the same fireproof, waterproof portable safe with a tubular locking mechanism — the SentrySafe FHW40220. The FHW40220 also has an in-lid organizer for small items, but draws a few complaints about its plastic handle breaking — something that should definitely be treated with care, given this fireproof box’s weight.

 

 

Best Handgun Safe:  The GunVault SV500

 

 

Both owner and expert reviewers love the GunVault SpeedVault SV500’s balance of security and quick, one-handed access with either hand. When you key in your pre-programmed access code, the bottom of the vault drops open to give immediate access. The GunVault’s 18-gauge steel isn’t going to keep a determined burglar out, but it’s still a solid deterrent, and it works great for securing your handgun from nosey adults or inquisitive children. The GunVault comes in a biometric version as well.

 

Quick Access

Quick access is why so many reviewers recommend the GunVault SpeedVault SV500. Its 18-gauge steel and keypad lock won’t keep a determined burglar out, but it offers reliable everyday security while keeping your firearm close and accessible.

When you tap in your personal combination on the four-button keypad, the bottom of the GunVault SpeedVault SV500 drops open, giving you instant access to your firearm. There’s also a small light to illuminate the vault’s interior. The SpeedVault can be mounted for right- or left-hand access, and it’s approved by the California Department of Justice. If the keypad stops working or the 9-volt battery gives out, a back-up key will still open the vault. There’s an audio and light-up warning to let you know when the battery is nearing the end of its life.

With the GunVault SpeedVault SV500 you can program your own three- to six-entry access code, even pressing more than one button at once as an “entry” in the code — which makes for more than 12 million potential combinations in all. Users generally love how well this unit works, although they do say the keypad is a little touchy if you try to key in your code too quickly, and some wish it didn’t make an audible “clunk” when opening, although they also say that’s not a deal-breaker. Speaking of sound, the GunVault also defaults to beeping when you key in your code, but there is an option to silence the keypad. If you think someone has tried to access the SpeedVault without your permission you can activate the tamper detect feature, which will illuminate a red light if someone has keyed in an invalid access code, or a green light if no invalid codes were entered.

Owners say the GunVault SpeedVault SV500 is easy to mount, although several are frustrated by the tiny installation screws that come with it; you may want to consider using longer screws and securing the vault to something that can’t be easily carried off or ripped apart.

It’s also available in a biometric version, the GunVault SpeedVault Biometric SVB500, although user feedback on that model’s fingerprint scanner is mixed. Both the biometric and keypad versions come with an override key to immediately open the vault in case the other mechanism fails.

 

 

Best Biometric Handgun Safe:  The SentrySafe QAP1BE

The SentrySafe QAP1BE is one of the best biometric gun safes on the market. It’s small enough to stick in a drawer but offers quick access to your handgun, draws plenty of praise for being sturdily built, and can be bolted in place as an additional theft deterrent. The biometric fingerprint reader is the SentrySafe QAP1BE’s best feature, reading multiple fingerprints and working almost flawlessly for quick access. There’s a keypad and key lock backup as well.

This 12-pound steel box can hold one J & K size resolver or a full-size semi-automatic handgun. You can also mount it in place to make it a better theft-deterrent but, again, its strength is keeping children and inquisitive adults away from your firearm while still allowing quick access when you need it.

The SentrySafe QAP1BE has a pry-resistant steel door, a foam interior to protect your handgun, and easy one-handed access: Just tap the fingerprint scanner to “wake it up,” then press your finger to the biometric scanner for one second and it’ll pop right open. You can program multiple fingerprints for access to this safe, allowing more than one person access with either hand or, say, with a different finger in case one is bandaged. A compression gas strut lifts the lid for quick, quiet access to your firearm, although users say it’s not completely silent: You’ll hear a sound variously described as a thud, thunk or click.

Most users say the biometric reader works very well once it’s programmed, even if you have unusually rough or worn fingertips; however, if you put your finger on the scanner at an angle, it might take several tries to get a good reading, and access can take a couple of seconds. You can also use the keypad entry or backup key lock to get in. The QAP1BE can only be mounted horizontally. It’s not meant to be mounted on vertical services, because there’s no lip to hold the handgun in place once the safe is open.

While SentrySafe doesn’t disclose the thickness of its steel casing, the QAP1BE draws a lot of praise from users for being thick and heavy. The SentrySafe QAP1BE runs off four AA batteries, and has an indicator to let you know when battery life is running low. If you would rather skip the biometric scanner and go for a key-operated version, it’s available with a keyed lock or electronic lock, or in a two-pistol version.

 

 

Best Long Gun Safe:  The AMSEC BF6032

 

 

Protecting your valuable guns from damage or theft should be a top priority, and for that you need the AMSEC BF6032. It stores up to 20 guns, is ETL-verified for two hours of fire protection at 1200 degrees, and it’s UL-rated for resisting up to five minutes of sustained attack protection with typical tools. At 913 pounds, no one’s running off with the AMSEC BF6032, either. It’s pricier than some, but most say it’s well worth it.

The BF6032 is the smallest in a series of residential gun safes that is built using the same techniques and material that you’ll find in many commercial safes.

Not all of AMSEC’s safes are built in the USA, but the AMSEC BF6032 and the larger safes in its line (the BF6030, BF6636, BF7240 and BF7250) are. The AMSEC BF6032 has a 1/2-inch plate steel door and 2-inch walls, the latter a combination of AMSEC’s proprietary poured DryLight fireproofing insulation and two layers of steel.

 

DryLight Insulation

The DryLight insulation is a concrete amalgamate that, unlike the moist fireproofing material used in SentrySafe’s fireproof safes, doesn’t generate condensation inside the safe.

Thanks to that DryLight insulation, the AMSEC BF6032 is ETL verified to provide two hours of fire protection at 1,200 degrees, with the interior temperature staying lower than 350 degrees; it’s also UL-rated as a residential security container (RSC), which meets California DOJ standards and means that it can resist up to five minutes of consistent attack with typical household tools including pry bars, hammers, chisels, a handheld drill and screwdrivers. This safe has a UL-listed Group II lock with hard plate and two relockers, and is covered with a lifetime warranty against theft and fire.

 

Stores up to 20 Guns

The AMSEC BF6032 can store up to 20 guns — although depending on how you configure the interior storage, that capacity may be reduced — and weighs a hefty 913 pounds. That weight in itself is a theft deterrent; nobody is going to just pick this safe up and run off with it, and users are generally very happy with its build quality. “This safe is like a piece of fine furniture. I wish I could put [it] out in my living room,” writes one.

The end result is a sturdy safe that is well-made enough to draw high praise from Capra, who also points out that the AMSEC safe’s Palusol intumescent door seal is the industry standard for fire protection.

The AMSEC BF6032 represents a hefty investment, but it’s one of the best ways to protect another investment you’ve already made — those valuable weapons — and of course it’ll keep your guns safely away from inquisitive children or adults as well.

 

Best Inexpensive Gun Safe: 

The Stack-On FS-14-MB-E

 

If the AMSEC or other high-end gun safes are a bit above your price range, reviewers suggest taking a look at the Stack-On 14-gun safe FS-14-MB-E. Fire-resistant up to 1400 degrees for 30 minutes, it also will do a good job of discouraging thieves and keeping young children (or unauthorized adults) from accessing your guns. The FS-14-MB-E is also versatile, with adjustable shelving if you prefer to use it just for general storage.

The Stack-On is more widely available at retail than the AMSEC, is fire resistant up to 1,400 degrees for 30 minutes, and conforms to California DOJ standards.

 

Stores up to 14 Guns

 

This safe can store up to 14 guns depending upon the type and configuration, although things get a little tight if you’re storing them with scopes or light attachments.

The FS-14-MB-E isn’t quite as theft-resistant as pricier models, but owners say it seems as if it would be plenty hard to break into; and at 290 pounds and 55 inches tall, no one’s going to pick it up and haul it off by hand.

The interior features four adjustable shelves that make it versatile enough to use for any of your valuables. However, the manufacturer does not recommend storing CDs, DVDs, photographic negatives or other delicate storage media in this safe.

There are a couple other quirks to the Stack-On FS-14-MB-E safe that you should be aware of: lots of owner comments that the carpet install isn’t so great, and there are sporadic complaints that the electronic lock goes through 9V batteries very quickly. The carpet isn’t a deal-breaker for most, and if you’re concerned about the lock, this safe is also available in a combination lock version.

 

 

Where to Put Your Safe

The best place for your safe will depend on the design of your house, but there are some trade-offs worth considering. The master bedroom tends to be the first stop for burglars,  so it might not be the ideal site for the safe. Your basement could be better from a fire-protection standpoint; there’s usually less down there to burn. But if your home is located in a flood-prone area, the safe might be at greater risk in the basement.  You could also consider the home office or a crawl space under the stairs.

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

No one wants to think about the possibility of coming home to find all of their most precious processions missing. Unfortunately, whether the cause is burglary, fire, or a flood, it can happen to anyone. These occurrences are particularly scary because there isn’t any warning beforehand.

And when it comes to your firearms, controlling who has access to them is fundamental to gun safety. Burglars are first and foremost, but think too about anyone else who may be in your home: children, visitors, babysitters, house-sitters, friends with spare keys, etc.

Luckily, buying a safe for your home is a simple way to make sure that your valuables and firearms are protected, no matter what.

 

 

Thanks for visiting and reading …

I hope this article provided you some practical information. 

I welcome your comments below.

-Laurie

 

 

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Simple Kitchen Gadgets and Safety Tips for Seniors

Simple Kitchen Gadgets and Safety Tips for Seniors

 

 

Make the Kitchen Safer With These Inexpensive Products

 

Kitchens are considered one of the most dangerous areas of a home, for children and for seniors. Many accidents and falls occur in the kitchen due to a range of common scenarios: cooking fires, grease and spills on the floor, reaching for objects, appliance injuries and even inappropriate objects placed in a microwave.

Health conditions like arthritis, low vision, frailty, stroke, or dementia can make everyday tasks challenging for older adults. With heat, liquids, and knives present, working in the kitchen can be especially dangerous.

I found some simple kitchen aids for seniors that increase safety, prevent accidents, and help them stay independent longer.

Being able to perform everyday tasks on their own boosts mood and self-esteem. Plus, increasing their safety in the kitchen will give you peace of mind.

 

 

This Universal Knob Turner is really handy tool; it can be used to grip and turn many different types of small, slippery knobs found on stovetops, microwaves, dishwasher, etc.

 

 

 

Use this clever silicone Boil-Over Safeguard lid to avoid running to the stove to catch a pot that’s boiling over. Make sure to take off the cap to expose the holes.

 

 

 

Use these slim, cut-resistant gloves to keep fingers and hands safe from cuts when slicing meat or veggies.

 

 

 

 

This palm peeler sits in the palm of the hand and is easier for people with arthritis or joint issues to use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Protect your older adult’s arms from burns with these oven rack guards.

 

 

 

Make veggie prep faster, easier, and safer with one of these simple veggie chopping tools.

 

 

 

 

Hard-to-open jars shouldn’t stop your older adult from eating foods they enjoy. Let an automatic jar opener do all the work.

 

 

 

 

 

Make it easier to access pots and pans with easy pull-out shelves that install into existing kitchen cabinets, available in a variety of sizes

 

 

 

This special kitchen stool lets seniors sit and get off their feet while working at the kitchen counter. The angled seat makes sitting and standing easy. The height is adjustable too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Important Safety Tips for Seniors Kitchen Safety

 

 

Fire

Fires in the kitchen are often a concern for seniors and can be very dangerous. Seniors should make sure that the outlets in their kitchen are safe and have cover plates and that the wiring in their kitchen is properly installed to prevent electrical fires from occurring.

When cooking, seniors should make sure that they do not wear long, loose sleeves because this can easily cause their clothing to catch on fire. Wearing short sleeves or rolling the sleeves up can help prevent the sleeves from touching the stove or other hot areas.

Stoves with front or side controls are often good for seniors to have because this keeps them from having to reach over the stove to operate it which can prevent burns and fires.

Family caregivers should also make sure that their loved ones do not have any dish towels or curtains that will touch the stove while it is on. If possible, it is helpful to have a gas stove that will shut off automatically. Those who do not have a stove that shuts off on its own can try clearly marking the on and off switches on appliances as this can also help prevent fires by making sure that heated objects do not get left on the stove in the kitchen.

 

Spills and Clutter

Spills and clutter in the kitchen can be another hazard for seniors. Many seniors spill things in the kitchen and do not notice it and then slip and fall in it later. Buying pots and pans with handles on both sides can help keep seniors from spilling things when cooking. If family caregivers notice spills, they should make sure to clean them up as soon as possible so that their loved one will not slip. Clutter around the kitchen can also cause seniors to fall, especially when there are cluttered cords on the floor. Small appliances should be unplugged when not in use so that seniors do not trip over the cords.

 

Organization

Keeping an organized and well-lit kitchen is another way to make sure that seniors are safe while in the kitchen. Lighting might not seem like a big deal but it can make a big difference for seniors who have trouble seeing by allowing them to see what they are doing better.

I really like these Stick-On Anywhere Portable Wireless Motion Sensor Lights.  They are so versatile and perfect for providing  a good amount of light when and where you need it.

 

 

When it comes to organization, sharp knives should be stored in a knife rack or in a separate drawer so that seniors do not cut themselves while looking for silverware.

All appliances, silverware and dishes should be stored in easy to reach places so that seniors will not get hurt getting them down. A sturdy step ladder can be used if necessary, but it is usually best to avoid using all out of reach cabinets. If possible, seniors should get unbreakable dishes so that if they do drop them they will not have to clean up broken glass. It is especially important to store heavy objects at waist level so that seniors will not drop them when trying to get them out because this can cause serious injury.

 

Example:  These Golanstar Unbreakable Dinner Plates are dishwasher, microwave, fridge and freezer safe.

 

 

 

 

 

Expired Food

To avoid poisoning or illness from expired food, family caregivers should regularly check their loved one’s kitchen. Hazardous items such as cleaners or chemicals should be stored away from food so that your loved one’s food will not be contaminated with things that are not safe to eat.

After carefully organizing the kitchen, family caregivers should make sure to regularly check their loved one’s pantry and fridge to ensure that there are no expired items. Eating expired foods can be very dangerous, but many seniors forget to check expiration dates when cooking.

The kitchen should also be bug and vermin free, so family caregivers should check to make sure that their loved one’s kitchen does not have rodents, ants or roaches which can contaminate food. If your loved one does have bugs or vermin in the house you should call in an exterminator to get rid of them so that your loved one will not get sick.

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

Kitchen safety is important at any age, but it can be a serious problem for the elderly. The kitchen is said to be one of the most dangerous areas in the home, especially for seniors. Many seniors are harmed by fires, spills or spoiled food in the kitchen. You can make some simple changes that help ensure your senior’s safety as they maintain their independence and enjoyment of kitchen activities.

 

Thanks for visiting and reading …

I hope this article provided you some helpful information. 

I welcome your comments below.

-Laurie

 

 

 

 

You may also be interested in:

Anytime Gifts That Seniors Will Actually Use

Tips For Easier Senior Car Travel

How to Choose Adaptive Clothing

10 Simple Products to Help With Getting Dressed

Easy Home Improvements for Mobility Issues

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Adjustable Beds – Guide and Reviews

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Modifying Your Bathroom for Safety 

Pick the Right Shower Chair or Bath Bench

Caregivers Must Plan for Emergencies – Here’s How

Best Hearing Amplifiers Reviewed

The Healthiest Supplement Drinks for Seniors and Diabetics

Important Seniors’ Nutritional Supplements Reviewed

About Me

Create Your Own Blog

Do You Need a Shower Wheelchair?

Do You Need a Shower Wheelchair?

 

 

 

A shower wheelchair is designed for elderly who use a wheelchair as their primary means of moving around and have an accessible shower.

Maybe your aging parent or elderly loved one is using a wheelchair and is having difficulty transferring onto a shower bench or seat in the shower.

Maybe there isn’t enough room to safely complete the transfer – whether they can’t get their wheelchair at the right angle or there isn’t anything to grab on to.

This type of wheelchair can be a great solution as it is easier to use than a shower bench or seat in the shower.

Elderly can undress in the bedroom, transfer into the shower wheelchair, cover themselves with a towel and roll into the bathroom to shower.

 

Overview of Shower Wheelchairs

 

A shower wheelchair is basically a waterproof wheelchair designed to get wet.

Instead of having to transfer onto a shower chair or bench in the bathroom, the elderly can transfer into the shower wheelchair in another room and roll to the bathroom.

This opens up the option of using a transfer pole or lift to transfer into the shower chair in another room, which makes it safer and easier than trying to transfer onto a chair/bench in the bathroom.

 

Who Should Use a Shower Wheelchair?

 

Elderly that will benefit from using one will already use a wheelchair as their primary method of mobility and have an accessible shower.

Many models can also be used as a rolling commode so the elderly can also use it to roll over a toilet to go to the bathroom.

 

Do You Need a Commode Opening?

A commode opening is a cut out space in the seat that can be used to relieve yourself or wash your entire body while showering. Shower chairs are sold with solid seats or with the commode opening. Some even have seat plugs available so you can switch back and forth as needed.

 

Pros:

  • The seat cut out makes it easier to wash personal areas without having to stand
  • Incontinence poses less of an issue
  • The chair can double as a commode and is easily rolled over the toilet or the integrated pan can be used.

 

Cons:

  • Requires good sitting posture to avoid falling into opening
  • Can make some people self-conscience
  • Less comfortable than a full seat

 

 

Example:  This Enshey Shower Commode Mobile Chair  is a multi-use 3-in-1 commode/shower chair.  It can be used anywhere as a standalone commode thanks to the included pail. It can also be used directly over a toilet for safer toileting or as a safe and comfortable shower chair. It weighs only 22 pounds and supports up to 330 pounds.

 

 

 

 

 

Recommended Features of a Shower Wheelchair

 

A good shower wheelchair will be:

 

Waterproof to ensure durability and that it dries quickly

 

Rust proof,  ensuring long term durability

 

Lightweight, portable and easy to use

 

Compactespecially important for small showers

 

 

Other Good Features: 

 

A commode option (see above)

This makes it possible to use the shower wheelchair as a portable rolling commode

 

Flip up or removable foot rests 

These allow for safer transfers

 

If your elderly parent has poor upper body and trunk strength (difficulty maintaining an upright position in sitting), they will also likely need the tilt option.

 

Shower Wheelchair Accessories

 

There are a few accessories available:

 

A padded waterproof cushion for comfort and to protect skin

 

A commode design to allow for personal care

 

A head rest (used primarily for models with tilt/recline)

 

Tilt Example:  EZee Life Tilt Shower Commode Wheelchair with Headrest

 

 

Waterproof calf support for elderly that need additional lower leg support

 

Finding the Right Fit for Your Shower Wheelchair

 

Fit is not as important as a light weight wheelchair as the senior will not be in it for as long. However, you want to get the best possible fit so that it’s comfortable and easy to use.

 

There are three basic measurements used in fitting:

  • Hip width – This is used to determine the width of the seat
  • Thigh length – This is used to determine the depth of the seat
  • Knee to ground height – This is used to determine the seat height and leg rest length
  • Back height – To determine back rest height

 

How to measure:

  1. Have the senior sit in a kitchen chair
  2. Measure hip width at widest part
  3. Measure from back of knee to lower back/bottom (keep measuring tape parallel to floor)
  4. Measure from back of knee to floor (have them wear their regular shoes)
  5. Measure from lower back/bottom to base of neck

 

Also, be sure to check the weight limit of the chair.  Larger seniors will require a bariatric shower chair.

 

Example:  This EZee Life Bariatric Shower Commode Wheelchair has a 22″ wide seat, large 5″ castor wheels, and can accommodate up to 425 lbs.

 

 

Using Your Shower Wheelchair

 

They are similar to using a regular light weight wheelchair.

Remember to put the brakes on when transferring in/out of the chair and when showering.

 

Example:  This aluminum shower chair from Healthline Products has a padded seat, locking wheels, a commode pail and cover and a weight capacity of 300 lbs.

 

 

 

 

 

Example:  This NOVA Medical Products shower commode has a comfortable padded seat and a weight capacity of 250 lbs.  There are some terrific reviews of this chair on Amazon.

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

Bathroom wheelchairs (also known as shower wheelchairs) are designed to make hygiene maintenance easier for those who find it difficult or impossible to make it to the lavatory. These chairs typically feature an opening in the seat — to allow users to toilet themselves. 

Because the bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the house, especially for those with limited mobility, its certainly worth thinking about purchasing a  shower commode chair for anyone with mobility issues.

 

 

 

Thanks for visiting and reading …

I hope this article provided some helpful information. 

I welcome your comments below.

-Laurie

 

 

You may also be interested in:

Detailed Guide to Shower Chairs and Bath Benches

Minimize Your Senior’s Falling Risk Now!

Practical Shoes for the Elderly

Easy Home Improvements for Mobility Issues

How to Find the Right Mobility Scooter

The Right Lighting Prevents Falls

Guide to Grab Bars and Hand Rails for Safety

How to Choose the Right Medical Walker

How to Choose the Right Transport Chair

Guide to Power Lift Chairs

Tips for Easier Senior Car Travel

How To Buy Adult Diapers

Coping With Incontinence – A Guide for Caregivers

Top Adult Diaper Products Reviewed

Incontinence Protection Products for Home, Car and Bed

Managing Dementia Related Incontinence

How to Buy an Elevated Toilet Seat

Heavy Lifting Guide for Caregivers – Save Your Back!

Create Your Own Blog

About Me

Choosing the Right Medical Alert System

Choosing the Right Medical Alert System

 

 

 

Caregivers’ worries never end, especially when their loved ones are living alone in their own homes. Falls, stroke, heart attack and other medical emergencies are the biggest concerns for seniors’ safety. According to the National Council on Aging, one in four Americans age 65 and over fall each year. Research from the National Institute on Aging shows that 60 percent of these falls occur in their homes, where most seniors wish to remain as they age.

 

Seniors want to maintain their independence, but family members often worry since they cannot be present around the clock to ensure their loved ones’ safety. This dilemma prompted the creation of medical alert systems that are capable of instantly summoning help in the event of an emergency.
 
 

 

There are many types of these devices on the market, and they go by a few different names, such as personal emergency response systems, medical alert devices or medical emergency response systems. They all typically work in a similar way, and all function to help ensure a senior’s safety and provide peace of mind for their family members.

 

How Medical Alert Systems Work

 

Most systems have three basic components: a small radio transmitter (a help button carried or worn by the user); a console or base station connected to the user’s telephone line; and an emergency response center that monitors calls.

 

 

When the help button is pressed, the console automatically dials the central monitoring center and connects the user with an operator. Most consoles feature a two-way speaker, so the operator and the senior can hear one another.

Some systems can dial out even if the phone is in use or off the hook. This is called “seizing the line.” In addition to dialing the monitoring center, once notified, the operator may also contact family, friends or neighbors that the senior has listed as emergency contacts.

“A medical alert system provides peace of mind for both the caregiver and the senior,” says Ken Gross, President of Medical Alert, by Connect America, a leader in the medical alarm industry since 1977. “The senior simply presses a button and help is on the way.”

These systems can vary widely, though, so it is important to carefully compare different companies, products and service packages.

 

 

 

 

Important Considerations of an Emergency Response System

 

To help you shop for an emergency response system, Gross suggests considering the following factors:

 

 

Pricing and Contract Terms

Medical alert companies assess fees differently. Some offer monthly, semiannual or annual payment plans for monitoring services, and some also charge for necessary equipment like the base unit and the wearable transmitters.

Ask about minimum obligations for the service. Some require a 30-day, 90-day or even 36-month minimum contract in order to provide services. In the same vein, inquire about activation fees, cancellation fees if you need to end the contract early, and whether monitoring costs are locked in or will increase. Keep an eye out for additional fees, and be sure to obtain an itemized written quote when inquiring about prices.

 

 

Features

Along with pricing, it is crucial to ensure that an emergency alert system is a good fit for a senior’s unique medical conditions. What is the main objective for the system? For example, if a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, they may wander and get lost. A system that provides GPS monitoring services would be especially beneficial in case they go missing. For a senior who is prone to falls, a system that offers automatic fall detection technology in its wearable transmitters would be ideal. These special call buttons have motion-sensing capabilities to determine if the wearer has fallen and contact help automatically even if the wearer cannot.

A number of additional features have been added to these systems over the years, including fitness trackers, medication reminders, daily check-in calls, home security features and more.

Remember, additional “bells and whistles” typically mean higher costs, so steering clear of unnecessary features is equally as important as ensuring you get the ones you want.

 

 

Experience and Reputation

How long has the company been in business? Do they have a good reputation? Search online for customer reviews of systems you are considering, and try to find feedback from real users with similar medical conditions and concerns. If consumers report the same complaint again and again, it is likely an issue that should factor into your decision.

 

 

Range and Portability

 

What is the range of the system? Does the senior need more than one base unit for adequate coverage of their home, and will that increase the cost? Can the system be used when the elder is working in their yard or away from home? These are important considerations for seniors who lead active lifestyles and those who live in more than one place during the year.

Some companies offer plans with nationwide cellular coverage or base units that can be moved from home to home. “These setups allow seniors to take the system with them when they travel, and it will work in all 50 states. It’s great for snowbirds,” Gross says. Just remember to update your current home location with the response center, otherwise they may send help to the wrong home address.

 

 

Ease of Use

 

Be sure to research the actual equipment included in the system. Look at the dimensions of the base unit and wearable transmitters and the different buttons on each. Is the emergency button large and easy for the senior to see and press? Are there any complicated instructions, buttons on the console or other features that might be troublesome for the elder to operate? Are the wearable devices comfortable? Do they need to be charged?

Ask if the company you are considering offers a trial period for their system so that you can ensure it is the right fit. You want a product that the senior is willing to wear every day and able to use with ease.

This is especially important for users who have poor eyesight, limited dexterity or other impairments that may complicate using these devices properly. A system that is uncomfortable or difficult to use is not going to be effective.

 

Waterproofing

 

“Most accidents happen in the bathroom,” Gross points out. A waterproof wearable button can be worn in the bath or shower. This will ensure that a senior can summon help if they slip and fall while bathing.

 

 

Trained Operators

Determining the quality of the monitoring service is also very important. Ask about the training that monitoring center staff members receive and look for a company that has its own in-house center located in the United States to handle incoming calls. When that button is pressed, every second counts. You want a qualified response team to assist the user and contact the proper emergency personnel.

 

 

Hours of Operation

Make sure the monitoring center is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for both emergency monitoring and customer service. What happens if there are problems using the system or questions arise about the service?

 

 

Contact Options

Some systems have options for connecting users with various contacts depending on the nature of their call. In emergencies, of course the operator will summon the proper authorities, but some systems allow users to program family members and friends as contacts for non-urgent situations. This keeps seniors connected with a comprehensive support system, regardless of what kind of help they may need.

 

 

Testing

The company you choose should test the system on a regular basis to ensure it is functioning properly. Ask what procedures the center uses and how frequently these tests are conducted. “Medical Alert systems receive a silent signal from the home on a weekly basis to ensure that the customer’s system is connected and functioning,” Gross explains. Make sure the system includes repair and replacement services as well.

 

 

Suggested: 

I like the medical response system from Life Link Response;  its a simple system which offers good value.  It has all of the important features without the monthly expense of a contract – which costs hundreds of dollars annually! For someone who only needs monitoring in and around the home, this system will provide security without any extra or ongoing charges.

 

 

You can set this Life Link System up easily yourself in about 3 minutes:  you just plug in the AC power plug, plug in the telephone plug and program the system with your help message and 3 phone numbers of family or friends to call (or program 9-1-1 as one of the numbers). 

 

How it Works

1.   Anytime you need help, press the wireless help button or the help button on the main unit

2.   The Life Link System will dial the 1st programmed phone number

3.   When you receive the call and hear the message, press 5 to accept the call or 9 to reject the call

4.   If you reject the call, the system will hang up and call the next programmed phone number, if no answer it will continue to call the next number and cycle until someone answers.

5.   If you press 5 to accept the call, the system will open up the 2-way voice. You will be able to talk through your phone direct the person needing help and they will talk and listen through the main system base.

6.   If they are unable to get to or speak to you at the system base, you can send the paramedics if needed or attend to help them if its not urgent.

 

 

The tips above will help you compare providers and products before making a purchase. Obtaining the right medical alert system is crucial for your loved one’s security and knowing that help is only a push of a button away can give the entire family invaluable peace of mind.

 

 

Thanks for visiting and reading … I hope this article provided you some helpful ideas.  I welcome your comments below.

-Laurie

 

 

 

 

 

You may also be interested in

Anytime Gifts That Seniors Will Actually Use

Minimize Your Senior’s Falling Risk Now!

Practical Shoes for the Elderly

Easy Home Improvements for Mobility Issues

The Right Lighting Prevents Falls

Guide to Grab Bars and Hand Rails for Safety

Gardening Safety Tips for Seniors

How to Choose the Right Medical Walker

How to Choose the Right Transport Chair

Guide to Power Lift Chairs

Tips for Managing Foot Drop

Create Your Own Blog

About Me

How to Prevent Theft by Caregivers Part 2

How to Prevent Theft by Caregivers Part 2

 

 Read Part 1 Here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Use Cash

 

If your hired caregiver is responsible for running errands or buying groceries, don’t give them cash. Instead, use prepaid debit cards or gift cards along with asking for receipts for all purchases.

 

That way, all purchases can be tracked and verified. Plus, if the hired caregiver steals those cards, they’re only getting a limited amount.

 

Though the vast majority of senior caregivers are reputable and honest, occasionally someone comes along who takes advantage of an elderly client.

 

According to Sally Hurme, coordinator of AARP’s Financial Protection Outreach & Service, there are at least 5 million financial abuse victims each year in the U.S., and only one in 25 of them are reported to authorities.

 

Hurme cites many reasons why elder financial abuse is a “particularly pernicious crime.”

 

“Studies point to specific cracks in victims’ defenses against exploitation: trust, financial niavete, cognitive impairments, social isolation, dependency, fear, and embarrassment.”

 

Hurme goes on to explain that elder financial abuse is unique because “there is a very real chance that the victim has no idea that she has been … victimized. The victim may have no awareness that anything is amiss with his finances.”

 

There are many ways of combating and preventing financial abuse of elders, one of which is using a reputable caregiving agency. Many of these agencies not only screen their employees, but also do background checks to ensure the safety and security of their elderly clients.

 

Some such agencies have also begun a gift card program. Gift cards are a convenient and easily accessible solution to preventing certain financial abuses. Agencies issue the gift card to the caregiver, who can then buy groceries and other essentials for their clients. Since the gift card is purchased through a bank, the agency can track purchases online and know when transactions take place. All risk, which is limited to the amount of money put into the gift card, is borne entirely by the agency. The caregiver never needs to use the senior’s cash or credit cards as all purchases must be made using the gift card. Receipts are kept and purchases are then billed to the client with their regular invoice.

 

Though financial abuse of elders is a reality, measures can be taken to minimize the damages and the possibility of elderly clients being victimized.

 

As Hurme points out, “Even though there are no broken bones, the effect is devastating financially and emotionally.”

 

Being aware, taking steps to prevent theft, and utilizing reputable In-Home Care Agencies are the first defenses against elder financial abuse.

 

 

 

Watch for Over Attachment

 

Hired caregivers who are planning to steal might start out by creating an unusually close relationship with your senior. Through this tight bond, they may be able to get your older adult to voluntarily give them money, valuables, or extravagant gifts like cars!

 

That’s not to say that you should be suspicious a little suspicious and look into things, especially if you see any of the signs outlined below.

 

An heirloom bracelet goes missing, electronic gadgets can’t be found, a wallet or bank account seems to be bleeding cash. Talk to anyone who’s hired someone to help care for an older loved one, and theft is almost always a major worry. Bringing a paid caregiver into the home — whether through an agency or privately — can come as welcome relief to all, but it can also feel like a risky decision. Stories abound about vulnerable people who’ve been taken advantage of.

 

The solution? Be careful, proactive, and alert. Here, some of the key warning signs that a caregiver is on the take.

 

Receipts that don’t add up

If grocery shopping and other errands are among a caregiver’s responsibilities, it’s pretty easy for “mix-ups” to occur. You might notice items listed on a receipt that seem out of character for your loved one, or certain supplies that seem to run out — and be replaced — with surprising frequency. If the caregiver takes your loved one out to shop or dine, you may notice purchases from stores that he or she doesn’t typically frequent or restaurant meals that are out of your family’s typical price range.

Why it’s worth worrying about:

A few dollars here, five dollars there may not seem worth making a fuss over. After all, caregivers aren’t usually well paid, so is it worth rocking the boat over a little bit of paycheck padding?

Yes, says Carolyn Rosenblatt, author of The Boomer’s Guide to Aging Parents. “You may see $6.50 for a lipstick, knowing Grandma doesn’t wear lipstick, but if you let it slide you’re sending a signal that no one’s minding the store.” Typically, these first purchases are tests, Rosenblatt says. “The caregiver is saying, ‘Let’s see if I can get away with it.’ If you don’t respond by confronting her, you’re saying, ‘Yes, you can.'”

 

What to do:

For starters, avoid cash. Supply the caregiver with debit gift cards preloaded with a limited balance. This way, if fraud is occurring, you can limit the amount of liability your family is exposed to. Also, use online banking to monitor card transactions, so you can see how much is being spent at each store. Ask the caregiver to supply receipts for each shopping trip, and keep an eye out for any purchase that seems unnecessary or for quantities that seem overlarge.

If you find yourself hesitating over a questionable purchase in case it’s an honest mistake, bring it up in that spirit, keeping it light and nonconfrontational. Explain that you noticed a purchase that didn’t seem to be something intended for your family member, and you’d like to keep those kinds of purchases separate in the future so it’s easy for you to keep track.

 

Phone Use and Friendships

 

Frequent cell phone use on the job

Texting or taking calls on the job is discourteous and distracting — but it could also be a sign of something more serious.

 

Why it’s worth worrying about:

While there are legitimate reasons a caregiver may need to make an occasional call, if someone’s on the phone all the time, it’s a signal that some outside relationship or network of relationships is more important than caregiving. It may even be that some outsider is calling the shots, says Rosenblatt.

 

What to do:

If you — or the agency you’re working with — haven’t already done so, run a thorough background check on the person you’ve hired. While some agencies do an in-depth background check on all employees, including requiring drug testing, others are much less thorough. It’s important to make sure good research was done, says Rosenblatt, because all too often records of crimes committed in other states or counties may not come up during a simple records search in your area.

Next, make sure you’ve securely protected your family member’s finances from potential fraud. The best way to do this is by having your family member sign a durable power of attorney for finances, which authorizes you or another trusted person to oversee financial transactions. A power of attorney is just a piece of paper, though, unless it’s recognized by the financial institutions that handle your loved one’s money. The safest strategy is to inform the banks and other financial institutions that you’re the proper legal agent for your loved one’s finances and that no one else is authorized to act. To do this, you’ll probably be asked to show a copy of the power of attorney document and may need to fill out additional forms.

 

 

Cultivating a Personal Connection

 

For many older adults, a caregiver quickly becomes a trusted friend, often the only person they see from day to day. With such consistent and intimate contact, close bonds are common. But keep your eyes open for anything that seems to step over the boundaries of professionalism. Watch and listen for signs that your loved one is becoming emotionally involved with or dependent on his or her caregiver, such as talking about the caregiver all the time or seeming to consider that relationship more important than friendships or family ties.

 

Why it’s worth worrying about:

Typically, thieves planning a scam will gradually “prime the pump,” seducing an elderly target with greater and greater shows of affection until he or she becomes emotionally dependent on the caregiver. “It can start very subtly: touches on the arm, little gifts, shows of affection,” says caregiving author Carolyn Rosenblatt. Hugs, compliments, and attention become stepping stones to building a connection that’s overly intimate. Some concerned family members have found themselves in situations in which their loved ones bought their caregivers cars or gave other expensive gifts, paid their rent, or “loaned” them money that was never repaid.

 

What to do:

Prevention is worth a pound of cure, experts say. Loneliness and isolation leave many older adults susceptible to all manner of exploitation, from relatively small expenditures to outright fraud and identity theft. To protect your loved one, you’ll want to act on two fronts.

First, the psychological: Think about your loved one’s day-to-day interactions. Does he have opportunities for companionship other than his caregiver’s visits? Can you find a day program or other activity for him to attend, or are there others who might visit from time to time to liven up his routine?

Next, the practical: Focus on safeguarding against his caregiver gaining access to his finances. Experts recommend setting up online banking for checking, credit cards, and any other accounts, so you can monitor all activity in real time. (Most transactions post within a few days.)

If you check credit card records and discover charges that you or your loved one didn’t authorize, act quickly to protect yourselves from identity theft, says Caring.com legal expert Barbara Kate Repa. Close the account and immediately alert the company holding the account that you believe it’s been used without your authorization. Then alert one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies and request a fraud alert. If your loved one hasn’t already signed a durable power of attorney for finances so someone trusted has authorization to access financial accounts, encourage him or her to do it now.

 

Manipulation and Missing Work

 

Bids for sympathy

Personal tales of woe are a common danger sign. If your loved one begins expressing worry and concern for a situation his caregiver has told him about, that’s your cue to get involved — and quickly. “A sister with cancer who can’t afford medical care, a child who needs dental work, a family member in another country who’s being persecuted and desperately needs to come to the U.S. — these are the kinds of scenarios we hear all the time,” says caregiving author Carolyn Rosenblatt. “The next thing you know, your loved one’s writing checks and that money’s gone.”

 

Why it’s worth worrying about:

The caregiver relationship is a professional service. If it becomes personal enough for your loved one to become involved in the caregiver’s private life, the caregiver has clearly crossed a line. Best-case scenario: The caregiver is manipulating your family member. Worst-case scenario: An outright fraud is in progress.

 

What to do:

Act quickly. You may hesitate to question your loved one’s judgment, but the caregiver, if he or she is a practiced scammer, will be counting on that. Call a family meeting and discuss the situation with all family members, including siblings who don’t live nearby. Make sure everyone is on the same page, so you don’t end up in the all-too-common situation in which family members are divided against one another or undermine one another. As many of you as possible should talk to your parent or other loved one together, explaining how concerned you are and why you need to take steps to protect him or her.

If the caregiver was hired through an agency, it’s a good idea to alert the agency to your concerns and ask them to double-check the records of the searches performed and make certain this caregiver hasn’t been accused or convicted of exploitation or fraud in the past. If the caregiver was hired independently and a thorough background check was not performed at the time, now would be the time to do some digging.

Depending on how your loved one reacts, you may wish to terminate the caregiver’s employment or set up a more careful monitoring situation in which you limit access to funds. If possible, consult a family lawyer to make sure all possible legal protections are in place, says Caring.com legal expert Barbara Kate Repa. If your loved one’s judgment appears to be seriously impaired and you’re not able to convince him or her to grant you power of attorney, you may need to consider trying to obtain legal guardianship, also called conservatorship.

 

Missing Work on Mondays

 

Some days your loved one’s caregiver seems responsible and reliable; other days — particularly Mondays or the first day back after time off — he or she goes AWOL.

 

Why it’s worth worrying about:

“This is a classic sign of alcoholism or substance abuse; people go on a bender over the weekend and then can’t make it into work on Mondays,” says caregiving author Carolyn Rosenblatt. “Unfortunately, alcoholism and chemical dependency often go hand in hand, and they frequently lead people to steal to meet their need for drugs.”

 

What to do:

Be on the alert for other signs of alcohol and substance abuse. Check the liquor cabinet and make a note of liquid levels in each bottle; you might even taste the contents to see if they’ve been watered down. Go through bathroom and kitchen cabinets and empty them of any prescription and over-the-counter medicines that might tempt an abuser. For prescriptions in current use, count the pills so you can check if doses go missing. Hide medications in a safe place or — if your loved one doesn’t need them right now — take them home with you. Keep prescription receipts and labels in a safe place, so the caregiver can’t call in refills without your knowledge.

If your caregiver was hired through an agency, report all unexplained absences and discuss the situation with the agency. If the caregiver has a history of this type of behavior with previous clients, the agency should be proactive about assigning you a new caregiver. If the caregiver was hired independently, have a frank discussion and set boundaries. Explain that you require 24 hours advance notice if he or she has to miss work, and another unplanned absence is going to be grounds for dismissal. Then stand firm. The caregiver will almost certainly use illness as the excuse and protest that illnesses come on suddenly, but don’t get sucked into that debate.

While this is happening, take all necessary precautions to protect your loved one’s cash and financial records, since a caregiver with a drinking or drug problem is a risk and a disgruntled former caregiver can be a threat.

 

By using common sense and due diligence, you can both reduce the risk of caregiver theft and minimize it’s scope.  Always pay attention and trust your feelings.

 

 

Thoughts, questions, tips?  Feel free to comment below.

 

 

Suggested Security Camera System:

Arlo Security System – 4 Wire-Free HD Cameras, Indoor/Outdoor, Night Vision

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recommended Reading: 

How to Care for Aging Parents (3rd Edition);  A One-Stop Resource for All Your Medical, Financial, Housing, and Emotional Issues

by Virginia Morris

 

 

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