Warmer temperatures, budding trees and blooming flowers are all lovely parts of spring, but what you really look forward to is the start of vacation planning season! Deciding where to go and what to see, making arrangements and planning your wardrobe are all exciting aspects of summer vacation planning. But before you pack up to leave on your getaway, be sure to take care of the most important asset you’ll be leaving at home – your home itself.
“Before going away on vacation, homeowners do a lot of
things to prepare for the security and safety of their home while away, including stopping the mail, powering down electronics and turning off water and gas,” says Emily Lewicki, brand manager with Coleman Heating and Air Conditioning. “Additionally, it is important to keep in mind that a home’s temperature needs to be monitored, which can easily be done by using a programmable thermostat.”
While you’re savoring the fun of your vacation planning, here are seven steps you also should take to prepare your home to remain secure while you’re away:
- Stop the mail. Home safety experts agree: a stuffed mailbox is a sign of an empty home. The United States Postal Service allows you to request a vacation hold on your mail up to 30 days before your departure date. Go to holdmail.usps.com to see if this service is available in your area. You should also put newspaper and package delivery on hold, too, as uncollected newspapers or parcels in front of your house could also alert others that you’re not home.
- Turn off water and gas. If a water or gas leak occurs while you’re not there to address it, the emergency could cause significant damage to your home. You can reduce risks by turning off water flow to appliances like the clothes washer. To conserve energy and money, you can also turn off the gas flow to your water heater.
- Adjust the thermostat. You don’t need to spend money to heat or cool your home to a comfortable level when you’re not there to enjoy it. Turn down the thermostat, but don’t turn your HVAC system completely off. Extreme temperatures can harm your home and its contents. A programmable thermostat can take care of temperature adjustments for you while you’re away. If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat, consider installing a model like Coleman’s Hx(TM) thermostat. The touch-screen interface makes it easy to program the system, plus a free downloadable app allows you to control the thermostat from your smartphone, no matter where you travel. Just be sure to leave your internet connection active at home so your thermostat can communicate with the app while you’re away.
- Put lights on timers or sensors. A well-lit home looks lived in and is less appealing to burglars. Put outside lights on sensors so they’ll turn on when the sun goes down. Use timers to turn interior lights on and off at appropriate times.
- Prep your kitchen. Go through the refrigerator and pantry and throw away any food that could go bad while you’re away. No one wants to come home to smelly, spoiled food. Empty the trash and arrange for a neighbor to put the trash at the curb on your scheduled pickup day. Unplug all small appliances like the coffee maker, toaster ovens, food processors, etc.
- Power down electronic devices. Items like computers, TVs and phone chargers all draw power while plugged in, even if they’re not switched on. Turn off and unplug electronic devices to reduce power usage in the house and protect electronics from power surges while you’re away.
- Secure the garage. This is especially important if your home has an attached garage with direct access into your home. Most garage doors have a simple bolt lock that can be engaged from inside to prevent the door from being raised. Remember to also lock the door from the garage into your house.
- Use care in the bathroom: The bathroom can be a dangerous place. The floor can become wet and slippery, making it easier to fall. Getting in and out of the tub or shower is a common time for people to fall. To prevent falls in the bathroom: Use nonslip mats or strips in the bathtub or shower. Install grab bars inside and outside of the tub or shower. Install grab bars near the toilet for support. Clean up wet areas and spills as quickly as possible.
- Keep muscles strong through exercise: Sitting too much puts you at risk for falling! Many exercise programs improve strength and balance. Learn about classes that target health conditions that you might have, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, or Parkinson’s disease.
- Learn about the medications you are taking: People who take four or more medications may be at risk for falling. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the medications you are taking and any side effects. Make sure you tell your doctor about all the medications you are taking, including over-the-counter drugs, herbal remedies, and vitamins.
- Keep your vision sharp: Poor vision can make it harder to get around safely. To help make sure you’re seeing clearly, have your eyes checked every year and wear glasses or contact lenses with the right prescription strength.
- Have your hearing checked: Good hearing helps us notice sounds in our environment that can warn of danger. People who cannot hear well may stay by themselves and be less active. Reduced activity can put you at risk for falling.
- Make your house safer: About half of all falls happen at home. Use bright lightbulbs to brighten dark rooms. Wear secure shoes, not slippers or flip-flops, inside and outside of the house.
- Use contrasting colors at steps or thresholds so you can see them clearly. For example, if your bathroom is painted white, make sure the shower curtain is a different color and the threshold into the shower is a contrasting color. On dark wooden floors, paint the edge of the steps a lighter color.
- Keep emergency phone numbers in large print close by.
- A comprehensive home safety assessment can help identify potential fall hazards and accessibility issues. Look for an Age Safe America Advisor Member in your area.
Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that home modifications and repairs may prevent 30% to 50% of all home accidents among seniors, including falls that take place in older homes.
Your home can be more hazardous than you think. Because falls can happen anywhere and they pose a threat to your overall health and well-being, it’s important to lower your risk of falling by maintaining a safe living environment.
Ten ways to help prevent falls at home:
- Always wear shoes with non-slip soles, even inside your home. Don’t walk barefoot or wear slippers or socks instead of shoes.
- Use bright lights throughout your home, especially on the stairs.
- Have railings put on both sides of all stairs on the inside and outside of your home.
- Keep stairs and places where you walk clear of clutter. Pick up things you can trip over, like newspapers, shoes, or books.
- Remove small rugs or use double-sided tape to keep rugs from slipping.
- Keep kitchen items you use often in easy-to-reach cabinets.
- Have grab bars put inside and outside your bathtub or shower and next to your toilet.
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub or shower.
- Stand up slowly after eating, lying down, or sitting.
- Have a trained professional perform a comprehensive room-by-room Home Safety Assessment to identify safety and fall hazards and accessibility issues
Sometimes deadbolts and alarm systems just aren’t enough to deter thieves. But there are outdoor security measures you can take to prevent property loss at the hands of a burglar. While pleasing to look at, landscaping can do more than enhance your home’s outdoor aesthetic. Consider whether your current setup promotes security or makes your home more appealing to thieves. Use these landscaping security tips to help prevent your home from becoming the target of a burglary. Here are 9 ways you can help protect your home with a well-planned landscape design.
- Use plant deterrents. Thorny shrubs and bushes like holly or roses help thwart would-be burglars. Plant barrier shrubs, which are any plants that have sharp leaves or spiny thorns. These help make your property less attractive to robbers. Common areas to plant them include along your property line — this helps to force intruders or trespassers toward visible, “official” access points like your driveway where you’ll be more likely to see them — and under your windows.
- Prune vegetation regularly. Unkempt hedges provide hiding spots where perpetrators can lurk. Prune back any stands of ornamental grass, hedges and shrubs in your front yard to a height of 2 feet or less. Plants that are taller than this are commonly used by robbers to sneak up to your house without being seen by you or your neighbors.
- Trim the trees. Leave sufficient distance between tree branches and the roof or second-story windows to limit intruder access. Leave a clear line of sight to windows or doors. Blocking these views leaves your home more vulnerable to break-ins.
- Invest in accent lights. Illuminate your yard to eliminate potential hiding spots. Check monthly to verify that any existing lights on the exterior of your house are in working order. Consider installing automated lights that turn on with a motion sensor, focusing the lights on access areas to your home, such as a side door or your garage door. Install additional lighting. Don’t just rely on the porch light. Consider adding motion-sensitive lighting to help ward off possible intruders.
- Put gravel beneath ground-floor windows. Burglars rely on silence; stepping on gravel can be a startling repellent.
- Protect the back door. Many thieves try this less obvious point of entry first.
- Replace solid privacy fences. Solid fencing helps intruders go undetected. Partial privacy fencing is a more secure option.
- Lock all gates. It seems obvious, but it’s still worth a mention. Keep front and back gates locked at all times. Lock up your garden shed and always store garden tools, such as shovels and hammers, under lock and key. Such landscaping tools are commonly used by robbers to break windows or force entry into your home.
- Keep your grass mowed, yard raked, flowerbeds regularly weeded and your mail picked up. An unkempt lawn or newspapers and mail on your front step often signal to robbers that you aren’t home often. If you plan to travel, hire someone to maintain your landscape while you’re gone.
Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. As more Americans age, falls will become even more numerous and costly than they are now. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts these staggering statistics in a context that really brings the problem home: one out of every three seniors falls each year; every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in an emergency room for a fall; every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. As alarming as they are, these documented statistics fall short of the actual numbers since many incidents are unreported by seniors and unrecognized by family members or caregivers. There are potentially millions more unreported falls.
Falls account for 25% of all hospital admissions and 40% of all nursing home admissions. 40% of those admitted will never return to independent living and 25% will die within one year.
The majority, 55 percent, of fall injuries among older people occurs inside the home and an additional 23 percent happen outside, but near the house. More fall injuries are caused by falls on the same level (vs. stairs) and from a standing highlight, i.e. tripping while walking. Many of these falls, and the resulting injuries, can be prevented by taking steps to eliminate or fix potential hazards in and around the home.
Let’s not forget the importance of Fire Safety:
Consider these statistics for older adults compared to the rest of the U.S. population:
- People between 65 and 74 are nearly TWICE as likely to die in a fire.
- People between 75 and 84 are nearly FOUR times as likely to die in a fire.
- People ages 85 and older are more than FIVE times as likely to die in a fire.
- Careless smoking is the LEADING cause of fire deaths and second leading cause of injuries among people ages 65 and older.
- Heating equipment is the SECOND leading cause of fire death and the third leading cause of injury to people ages 65 and older.
- Cooking is the THIRD leading cause of fire deaths and the leading cause of injury among people ages 65 and older.
Here’s why we developed Age Safe America. 90% of older Americans say they want to age-in-place (meaning to stay in their own home instead of assisted living), yet 85% have done nothing to prepare their homes for aging. Plus much of the nation’s housing inventory lacks basic accessibility features, preventing older adults and those with disabilities from living safely and comfortably in their homes.
A New England Burden of Disease (BODE) report stated that “home safety assessment and modification” appears to be “a very cost-effective health sector intervention.” And even more cost-effective was targeting this intervention to older people with previous injurious falls. The cost-benefit analysis found a “33 percent reduction in spending to treat fall injuries over three years, and potentially a six-fold savings in ‘social costs’ related to such injuries.” In that study the average cost per home modification was $448.
A 2014 report by the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies found that the five most important “universal design” features in the home are: no-step entries, extra-wide hallways, accessible living spaces on the ground floor and accessible light switches and door levers. However, the Harvard cites survey data indicating that only 1% of housing units in America have all five of these features. Or, as a Washington Post article headlined, “America is rapidly aging in a country built for the young.”
Simple changes can make measurable impact.
The overall goal is to make the home safer. Typical changes include the following:
Getting safely and securely into and out of the house.
- Better outdoor lighting to get you from your car to the door.
- Attractive ramps or a zero-step entrance for the home.
- A package shelf by front door.
- Handrails at existing steps and porches.
- A front door with sidelight for security.
- Fewer or no stairs.
Changes in the kitchen for easier meal preparation and eating.
- Lever-handle faucets with pull-out spray.
- Raised dishwasher to avoid back strain (a good idea for front-loading washers and dryers, too).
- Rolling island that can be placed back under the counter.
- Revolving corner shelves and pull-out shelves.
- Lower, side-opening oven.
- Pull-out cutting board.
- Adjustable height sink.
- Side-by side refrigerator with slide-out shelves and a water/ice dispenser.
- Cooktop with controls on front.
- Larger, friendlier cabinet and drawer pulls.
Changes in the bathrooms – the #1 place for accidents in your home.
- Attractive grab bars in the shower.
- Lever handles on faucets.
- Slide-bar-type hand-held shower, for sitting or standing.
- Shampoo nooks inset in the wall.
- Curbless showers so that there is nothing to step over or rolled into with a wheelchair.
- Tub and shower controls moved closer to entry point.
- Anti-scald, temperature and pressure balanced tub shower valves for safer bathing.
- Widened entry doors to at least 32.”
- 32”-36” pocket doors.
- Higher toilets with non-slam seats and lids.
Moving around within the house.
- Improved lighting with recessed fixtures in common areas and hallways.
- Lever handles on doors and windows.
- Lower light switches and thermostats; raised outlets.
- Planning for a future elevator by stacking closets.
- Adding blocking in walls for future chair lift at stairs.
- Wider doors that accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.
These are just a few examples. Virtually all rooms of your house can be improved, even closets and garages.
5 Simple Things You Can Do to Reduce Your Fall Risk:
- Begin a regular exercise program.
- Review your medicines regularly.
- Have your vision checked annually.
- Wear sturdy, nonskid shoes at all times.
- Make your home environment safer.
100% of ER doctors agree that an annual Home Safety Assessment is important to keep seniors safe at home.
A comprehensive Home Safety Assessment can pay for itself by avoiding the high cost of injury or assisted living.
Who is Age Safe America?
Age Safe America® is a national membership, training and advocacy organization dedicated to meet the growing need for Home Safety Assessments and Aging-in-Place Home Modifications. Members are independent advisors, providers, contractors and professionals dedicated to helping seniors and their families determine the steps necessary to maximize both safety and independence.
Today in America someone is turning 65 every 8 seconds. Our Advisor and Business Members provide assessments, solutions, product recommendations and installation.
Every year, NAHB puts on the home building industry’s largest new product exposition and education program: The NAHB International Builders’ Show (IBS).
With acres of exhibitors, ongoing workshops and thought leaders from every aspect of the construction, remodeling and aging-in-place home modifications industries, this is a great way for Age Safe America to start the New Year! Fritzi Gros-Daillion Chief Advocacy Officer (shown in the photo) came in from San Diego to join Age Safe America Managing Director, Steven Bailey for the show and an intensive 2-day meeting back in Sarasota. We are also excited to be joined at the show by two Age Safe Advisory Team members Steve Hoffacker award winning aging-in-place/ universal design instructor and Robert Gurinowitsch COO at Home Access Professionals for some good old-fashioned face time and brainstorming.
No matter what your business objectives are, IBS is the only event that provides the products, networking and educational opportunities to help make them happen. This years show is being held in Orlando Florida from Jan. 7th-12th at the Orange County Convention Center. For the fourth straight year, the IBS will be co-located with the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS), under the umbrella of Design and Construction Week (DCW). This partnership enables people registered for the Builders’ Show to visit the exhibit floors of both trade shows with their IBS badge to see innovative kitchen and bathroom products.
See ya in Orlando!