Home Safety – Tip 1 – Gas Safety at Home

Gas safety at home – how clued up are you? The comforting blue flame of a gas hob has fuelled many generations of hearty family meals around the kitchen table. But combustible gas appliances are also one of the most significant risks to household safety if not used properly or maintained well.

Do you have a heat producing gas appliance at home? The use of gas for cooking at home in the UK is widespread. (Households recently reported as 61% having a gas hob and 38% of households have a gas oven*.) However, worryingly the UK’s GasSafe Register statistics show that 1 in every 6 of these homes has an unsafe appliance**. In this blog we look at safety and the Gas Hob and the simple things you can do to keep ‘cookin’ on gas!’ [Read more blogs here)

The familiar blue flame of a gas hob. Safety in Later Life is key.

Have you had your Gas Hob checked by a Gas-Safe registered engineer recently?

Residential Landlords are legally obliged to commission yearly checks on their properties’ gas-fuelled appliances; but individual households have no such duty. However, If you are a private home owner, we would still suggest a yearly gas safety check on all heat-producing, gas-burning appliances.

3 dimensional image of a home with the walls cut away, showing a gas cooker, boiler and fireplace. The article discussed the importance of Gas Safety Certificates.
Image: staygassafe.co.uk – The Gas Safe Register reports 1 in 8 cookers are unsafe.

How old is your hob?

Manufacturers have included an important safety mechanism in their gas hobs since a regulation change in 2010. Called a ‘flame failure safety device’, the gas is shut-off if unlit or the flame blows out. This safety feature might not be part of your gas hob if it was produced before these 2010 regulations came into force.

Think about replacing your hob for one that is newer, if it is more than 10 years old. Firstly, always use a Gas Safe engineer, who will register the installation with the Local Authority’s Building Control department for you. Secondly, make sure to ask for your Gas Safety / Installation Certificate for your records.

Living Independently

Making the switch from gas to an electric or induction hob may be difficult for some people. The style of cooking is very different. The ‘muscle-memory’ familiarity of a knob and adjustable flame might help someone feel confident in preparing their own meals, and maintaining independence is so important. With a well maintained, modern hob it is possible to achieve safe, gas-hob cooking for many years of independence.

Memory loss and poor concentration

If you have substantiated concerns about yourself or a loved one’s memory or loss of concentration, you may also worry about leaving the gas on or burning food. A heat detection alarm will give you an early warning for this.

If someone is a risk around gas, you can opt for a ‘Locking Cooker Valve’ installation from your regional gas network provider for free. This way, the household can continue with independent cooking at the right times of the day, and other household members (or the evening care visitor) can turn the gas off overnight. For instance, a household member with dementia and a tendency for night-time wandering cannot inadvertently cause a fire or gas leak.

Image showing a Gas Engineer holding a Locking Cooker Valve
SGN Locking Cooker Valve can be installed free-of-charge

Checklist For safety and added peace of mind:

  1. Gather a list of all the gas fuelled appliances you, or your loved ones, have at home. And note down when they were last serviced. Then, visit www.staygassafe.co.uk to sign up for an automatic diary reminder when it is time to book the next service or safety check by one of their engineers.
  2. Register all appliances with the original manufacturer. That way you will be first to know if there is a safety or other recall on the product.
  3. Replace an old hob (pre-2010) for a contemporary one with a flame-failure safety device and auto-ignition. You will also be able to do away with the matches! (Always use a Gas Safe registered engineer)
  4. A Carbon Monoxide detector will give you early warning of noxious gases from a faulty appliance. These can come with 10-year batteries.
  5. A Natural Gas detector (such as the Honeywell HF500 Natural Gas Alarm, approx £75) is another option. This can also be linked to a separate auto-gas shut off valve. This needs to be hardwired in to the property’s electrical circuitry. Factoring in the electrician’s costs and any circuit upgrades, it may be more cost effective to replace the hob.

Reference source:

  • *Energy Follow-Up Survey 2011, Report 9: Domestic appliances, cooking and cooling equipment, Prepared by BRE on behalf of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, December 2013
  • ** http://www.getgassafe.co.uk

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Look after yourself – so you can take care of the things that matter

From all of us at Living Well at Home Ltd, we wish you peace and prosperity.

We are taking a short break until Monday 4th January 2021.

In the mean time you can enjoy our Advent Calendar until January 6th 2021, read our blogs, download our free checklist or book one of our services with the special 15% off discount code: OneTogether15

(Discount Code Valid for all bookings or purchases made on or before February 14th 2021)

Making a home age-friendly isn’t just a bit important – it is screamingly, desperately urgent!

Firstly, between you and I, there a few brutal truths that mean making a home age-friendly isn’t just a bit important – it is screamingly, desperately urgent!  Why?

1. Fail to plan…. :

An unsafe home can lead to, otherwise avoidable, accidents or illness that result in unexpected crisis points for the household and their support network – meaning decisions are made in haste, with little time to reflect on a good range of choices.  If you reduce the risks at home, you can delay the difficult moments.

[Read more about the pressures of the ‘Sandwich Generation’ here]

2. Residential Care is rarely a first choice option:

People rarely move into residential care settings in a planned fashion, and it doesn’t have to be the inevitable next step in ageing after an accident or illness – In fact, only 4% of people say they ever want to move into a care home.  (We aren’t saying care settings can’t be fabulous, they can, but they aren’t always a first choice)

3.Residential care and even domiciliary (home) care is expensive – very expensive:

Residential care costs around £36,000 per year, but in more expensive areas can be upwards of £50,000 per year.  It is estimated that around 1 in 10 people over 65 years old face care costs of £100,000 or more. (So spending a few hundred, or even a few thousand, pounds on home adjustments seems like a bargain don’t you think?)

To calculate the likely costs for your area visit the WHICH? Cost of Care and Eligibility Calculator

Image showing 10 people with one of these in a darker colour to illustrate the point that 1 in 10 people over 65 years old face care costs of £100,000 or more.
Source: Commission on Funding of Care and Support and The Kings Fund
4. Not enough people to go round…..

There is a major shortfall in the human capital (people) in the domiciliary care system, making it harder to find good quality, reliable carers. Would you like to have a roll-call of strangers coming into your house every day? (So many carers are brilliant, but it is not always possible to see the same person each time and this places the onus on the family to make sure their loved one gets the care and medication they need each day)

5. Few people are eligible for State-funded Social Care

Firstly, State-funded social care (delivered via Local Authorities) is reserved for a very small section of the population. Secondly, the numbers who are eligible for funded care are reducing each year, despite the number of older people increasing. Most people will be self-funders, and may need to sell their assets to fund their care.

And so, it stands to reason that the longer you can delay the need for home care or residential care, the less stressful and less costly the ageing process is likely to be. And age-friendly home can’t fix all of later life challenges, far from it – but we promise you, it will help.

Is it Cold in here, or is it just me?

Is it Cold in here, or is it just me? Keeping a healthy home is important for everyone.

We all know that fresh air is good for us – but do you know how to keep your indoor air healthy? When is the last time you checked your indoor humidity levels? The more humid the air in your home is, the colder you are likely to feel – and the higher your heating bills will be too!

In the colder winter months it is only natural to want to keep the warmth inside and the cold out. But, by hunkering down and closing your windows, you might inadvertently be adding to the problem of cold and damp weather. You might even be creating unhealthy humidity levels inside your home.

There are many daily activities that can cause high humidity, including:

  • Us – we breathe… a lot!
  • Showering and Bathing
  • Washing and Cooking

And the more of these we do, the higher the humidity level will be. Moreover, the problem is compounded further by a lack of ventilation due to a missing trickle vents in windows, closed-tight windows or not using air handling units. The truth is, without extracting some of that damp air, we are creating unhealthy homes that can make us ill.

High levels of humidity are damaging to our health and our pocket! High humidity:

  • Makes a space feel colder, after all, you are sitting in a damp-air soup that takes longer to heat up than dry air and feels colder to the skin
  • Promotes the growth of mould, some of which produce toxic mould spores
  • Increases the risk of respiratory infection

Healthy Humidity

The healthy range of humidity in the average home is between 45-55% (but a range of 40-60% is sometimes acceptable). We at Living Well at Home Ltd will often come across homes with excessively high levels of 80% or more – and the household had no idea!

Image of a £10 monitor called a Hygrometer. This measures the humidity and temperature of a room.
For just £10 you can monitor the indoor humidity of your home

It is easy to purchase a device that will let you keep an eye on your home’s health. A low-cost monitor (called a hygrometer) like the ThermoPro TP50 from just £10 will measure your humidity and room temperature reasonably accurately (within 2-5%). Or alternatively you could opt for an all-singing, all-dancing monitor that will measure humidity and other forms of pollutant in the home. These range from £120 to well over £3,000 (!) – but are a worthwhile investment in our opinion!

What to do if you have high humidity at home:

Try to work out the specific causes of the humidity:

  • If your windows lack trickle ventilation think about sporadic ‘flushing’ of the air. To do this, open all your windows and doors for 5-10 minutes at a time, to replace all the indoor air. If you do a quick ‘flush’, the fabric of your home shouldn’t lose too much heat, it is just the air that you are replacing.

(In the longer term, think about getting trickle vents installed into the frames, or replacing your windows)

  • If you dry your freshly washed clothes indoors all the time, think about investing in a Dehumidifier. This is a compact, plug-in machine that sucks damp air in and extracts the moisture from the air.
  • Think about whether your bathroom, kitchen and utility has a good quality extractor fan. We like the Humidistatically controlled versions, where the fan is activated once the humidity reaches a certain critical level. As a result, regardless of whether you are using the bathroom or not, the fan will do its work.
  • Finally, if you are planning a Grand Design then a high quality air handling system will do the work for you.

HomeCheck service

If you want a more comprehensive assessment of how healthy your home is then our range of HomeCheck Services can help you. Find out more here: https://livingwellathome.co.uk/home-check-service/

Is your home HAPPI?

Grand Designers and Home Refurbishers – Is your home the right kind of HAPPI? [No, that isn’t a spelling mistake]

HAPPI is is a design code of 10 principles for a healthy, social and comfortable home life.

HAPPI homes have plenty of light and space with a focus on healthy homes.  They also integrate accessible age friendly design features like bathrooms with walk-in, curb free showers. Although the HAPPI reports are primarily focussed on the shared living environments like retirement communities, most of the principles hold true to individual homes too:

  • Space and flexibility
  • Daylight in the home (and in shared spaces)
  • Balconies and / or outdoor space
  • Adaptability and ‘care ready’ design
  • Positive use of circulation space
  • Plants, trees, and the natural environment
  • Energy efficiency and sustainable design
  • Storage for belongings and bicycles
  • (External shared surfaces and ‘home zones’ – for communal living)
  • (Shared facilities and ‘hubs’ – for communal living)
HAPPI – A home with plenty of natural light and views to nature

To learn more, visit the HousingLiN’s HAPPI homes pages.

And remember, we can help you make sure your dream home is a future-proofed home and age-friendly through our range of design review services. There is something there to suit every budget.

The Value of OT (Occupational Therapy)

The Value of OT – to you and your loved ones

Our homes have a big part to play in staying independent as we age.  If you need these changes because of an illness, degenerative condition or accident you likely need some additional specialist input – so who else should you go to? An O.T. (Occupational Therapist) will help you align your aspirations and abilities with your environment by undertaking an assessment of you  – that is what they specialise in.  The value of OT – to you and your loved ones should not be underestimated.

And with the Royal College of Occupational Therapists‘ mantra of #LiveNotExist; you get a sense for how passionate the profession is to make a difference to people’s lives.

Older man and occupational therapist consulting a report together.
Consulting the right professional at the right time is crucial to ensuring independence for longer in later life.

Make the little changes first, engage the right professionals at the right time for the rest

Throughout this site you will find a number of top tips and little adjustments that you can do yourself. You can do these either for yourself or for (and with the consent of) a loved one. The sooner you do these adjustments, the lower cost and less traumatic those changes will be. With our range of services, we can help you identify how Age-Friendly your home is. We can also help you come up with a good plan to make the little adjustments.  And then, if you want a design review or need the bigger adaptations, we can help too.

The Occupational Therapist has a unique set of skills to help retain independence

An Occupational Therapist can bring huge value to the process and you are likely to meet one at some point in your life journey. To find out more about the work of an OT watch this video on the NHS website.

  • You might come across an NHS OT during a stay in hospital or if you have injured yourself and they will provide you with some equipment to help you get back on your feet at home.
  • You might come across a Community OT, working for the Local Authority (or their delivery partners). They will assess for any aids or adaptations that you might need, including the larger projects like a walk-in shower.
  • Everyone is eligible for an assessment by the OT Service. But not everyone is eligible for funding from the council for the resultant adaptations – these are means-tested. 
  • There are also private OTs that can help you to get the help and advice you need, if you don’t want to wait for the state-funded OT availability.  Contact us if you would like us to put you in touch with a local private OT in your area.

info@livingwellathome.co.uk or 0800 44 88 248

or visit: https://bit.ly/LivingWellAtHome-Services 

Using colour and tone to good effect – Age-Friendly Homes

In this article we will look at using colour and tone to good effect at home for an an age-friendly future.

Subtle changes to the colour and tone in a room can help make it more age friendly, whilst still keeping the design and ‘feel’ of the room.

Improving how well the main elements in a room can be distinguished against each other is another great, low-cost adjustment. Can you easily identify the walls, floors, furniture and switches in the room you are in right now? (Try looking around with your eyes almost closed or in soft focus. Can they still be identified easily enough?)

The busier the room is, the stronger the definition needs to between the elements. The two images below are very different, neither of them have good definition between the elements – can you see why?

Having a well contrasted design makes the room more easy to ‘understand’ and reduces the risk of collision or tripping over poorly identified pieces of furniture. But you don’t have to fill your space with bright colours to achieve this, the changes can be made though subtle, harmonious combinations when the elements have a good tonal contrast between each other. Something as simple as changing the rug, swapping items of furniture around or painting a wall will have a big impact.

Example of using colour and tone to good effect at home

The interactive image below shows how minor changes can make a bid different. Slide the central arrow bar sideways to see the difference between the two rooms.

They are identical in size, shape and light levels. The room on the left has low contrast between the elements because they all have similar tone and it is harder to identify objects and edges. (Look for the coffee table glass top and the rug edge with a soft focus or almost closed eye and you will see what we mean.) On the other hand, the room on the right has great contrast between most of the main elements. For example, the rug edge can be clearly identified against the floor, and the coffee table stands out well against the lighter rug.

An example of how to improve the contrast between elements in a room. The Left Hand image has low contrast between elements, the Right Hand image has good contrast between most elements. (Images: Amazon Showroom)

Do you want to learn more and start the journey towards making your home Age-Friendly? You can choose from a range of options in our HomeCheck suite:

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Age-Friendly Homes – Should I stay put or go? Article 1

Should I stay put or go? Have you ever thought about relocating – either yourself or someone else? 

Sometimes your home may not suit you perfectly anymore, and the obvious answer seems to be to move somewhere else.  However, before you decide whether to stay put or go, make sure you have considered all options for making your existing home more Age-friendly.  (Remember, have a browse through our Blogs for advice. Then check our range of services, to help you make the most of whatever property you choose to live in.)

One of our clients, Joyce went through her own ‘Stay Put or Go’ journey. Joyce was so delighted by our service that she wrote us a poem about her experience.  Enjoy!

This is one of a series of ‘Stay Put or Go’ articles. Everyone is different and we hope this series helps you make the best decision. The next article in the series sets out some of the considerations.

Perhaps you are worried about a loved one and wonder whether they should stay living in their own home? Or perhaps you think a move to a residential home or nursing home might be better? If so, You can read some of our focus articles such as this one to help you help them.

Age-Friendly Homes – Small Changes Series – Tip #2 – Lighting – (Article 1 of 3)

Time to ditch old light bulbs that no longer provide enough light

Adjustment #2: LIghting

When is the last time you changed your lighting at home?

And we don’t mean replacing a blown bulb – We mean upgrading those old compact fluorescent bulbs that never ‘die’.  You, or your loved ones, probably have one lurking around the mirror in your bathroom, in the garage, on the landing or perhaps even in the kitchen. They are the bulbs that take a while to warm up, sometimes flicker and produce a dim, yellow-white light.

What is wrong with them?

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs are those curly tubes that fit a standard light bulb fitting or the long tubes on the ceiling. They were once hailed as the energy efficient alternative to traditional tungsten bulbs, and many of us still have them in our homes.  And indeed they did / do use less energy. But they also degrade very quickly and produce a very poor quality and level of light after a relatively short time.

The impact of Poor Quality Lighting

The older we are, the more light (and the better quality light) we need to stay safe and stay well. For example, research shows that our 40 year-old selves need twice the amount of light (light level) compared to our 20 year-old selves; and our 60 year-old selves need twice as much again. But we rarely take this into account as we age.

In extremis, poor quality light and low levels of light can cause permanent eye damage. On a daily basis, unsuitable lighting causes eye-strain leading to headaches and tiredness.  Poor lighting also makes it more difficult to see hazards, read the instructions on medication packs and operate controls.

But simply replacing the outdated compact fluorescent bulbs with any-old LED just won’t do. They need certain qualities to them to make for a better lighting solution.

Good quality lighting has 3 main features:

  1. Good Light output. (We measure light levels in Lux)
  2. A High Colour Rendition score. (This is how accurately we see the true the colour of something under the artificial light, when compared to the same object in daylight)
  3. Low flicker (Even imperceptible flicker can cause eye fatigue)

And then on top of this you can choose what kind of colour ‘temperature’ the lighting has. Do you want Warm white lighting (a yellow-gold glow) that is reminiscent of dawn and dusk or a fireside? Or do you want Cool white (a blueish light) that more closely replicates daylight, or something in between?

A particularly good example of a light-bulb manufacturer and range is the Philip’s Eye Comfort Lighting Range. They are available from most good retailers.

And if you are looking for top-quality reading lamp, you should take a look at Serious Readers, the specialist reading lamps company.

This is the first in our series of 3 Lighting articles to help you bring a bit more brightness to the darker days.

In another series of articles we also look at the benefits of Daylight and sunlight on our health and well-being.

Click here if you missed our article Adjustment #1: Rugs and Mats

Age-Friendly Homes – Small Changes Series – Tip #1 – Rugs and Mats

Rugs and Mats are useful but can create a real trip hazard if they don’t sit flat to the floor, are too thick or slip and move.

Adjustment #1: Rugs and Mats

Although rugs and mats are brilliant at giving a room personality, soaking up muddy pawprints or keeping your feet warm – they are also one of the biggest trip risks in a home.

And tripping means trouble if the impact of a fall results in injury.

What should I do, I love my rugs?

You don’t necessarily need to get rid of rugs, but move them out of the main routes, especially if they are thick or shaggy pile.  

An example of keeping the main routes clear of trip hazards at the stunning Calamansac Accessible Holiday Home by Cowan Architects

The best kind of rugs to have are short pile rugs with rubber backing, such as the range by Turtle Mats.  But if you don’t have these, then add a non-slip underlay underneath the ones you do have, such as the Foxi Rug Tamer range – making sure this non-slip underlay goes to the edges, or use corner sticks.

As soon as your rug starts to curl at the edges then it is time to upcycle it!

Want the next Small Changes idea? Read here for Adjustment #2: Lighting