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Expert Advice

Watching for thieves

There have been a lot of burglaries in my parents’ neighbourhood. What can we do to make their home safer?

There are both low- and high-tech ways to improve security around your parents’ home and discourage intruders. Here are some ideas to put into practice.

• Ensure locks on doors and windows are in good condition. Opt for deadbolts. Consider installing security bars on basement windows.

• Tell your parents to always lock their doors and close the garage door, even if they’re just out for a minute.

• Mount a secure key box, rather than hiding a spare key outside the home.

• Install bright lighting with motion sensors at entrances.

• If resources allow, install a home security system—including alarms, motion sensors and cameras. Contact a security company, electronics store or telecom provider for advice.

Going Away

We’re taking my mum and her caregiver away for a few weeks and her house will be empty. Other than asking a neighbour to check the house, do you have any other suggestions for keeping her home secure?

Keep the curtains drawn and use a timer to turn the lights on and off. Suspend your newspaper delivery and, when the neighbour checks the house, ask them to sign a log for the insurance company records and pick up flyers and the mail. If it’s summer, you’ll need to think about the lawn maintenance and flower watering; in the winter, arranging for snow removal is key.

Where there’s smoke there’s fire

Uncle Harry smokes and is getting rather forgetful with his cigarettes. I’ve also caught him leaving the stove on a few times. I know that fire safety is an issue for people who live alone. How can we prevent an accident?

Seven out of 10 fires in Canada occur in homes, so it’s very important to have working smoke alarms and take other steps to improve fire safety.

Experts suggest installing a smoke alarm outside each bedroom and on each floor (including the basement). Test smoke alarms every month, and replace the batteries according to the manufacturer’s directions or have the alarms hardwired into the home’s electrical supply. Replace smoke alarms that are more than 10 years old right away. It’s also smart to keep a fire extinguisher on hand for small fires. Give one to your uncle and inspect it regularly, and make sure he and his close friends or neighbours know how to use it. Good places to put a fire extinguisher include the kitchen (away from heat sources), on upper floors of the home, at the top of a basement staircase and near an exit route.

You can also help by replacing any electrical equipment that has a worn, broken or frayed cord, and making sure there aren’t jumbles of power cords and extension leads behind furniture or under rugs. Encourage your uncle to unplug appliances such as the iron and kettle when he’s not using them. A lack of dryer maintenance is a major cause of fires at home. Check the lint screen every time you visit, and ask your uncle to only run the dryer when he’s awake and in the house. If your uncle won’t quit smoking, try to encourage him to smoke outside and emphasize that he should never leave a cigarette unattended and must extinguish his cigarettes completely (they can smolder for hours).

The questions in this issue of Caregiver Solutions were answered by the experts at Bayshore Home Health. Visit

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