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Fire Safety Tips for Older Adults Aging at Home

When it comes to fire safety for older adults, what you don’t know can be deadly.

According the the Centers for Disease Control, adults age 65 and older are twice as likely as any other age group to die in a home fire. And for adults 85 and older, the fire-related death rate is five times the national average.

Protect yourself or your aging parent from with these fire prevention safety tips:

• Install working smoke alarms on every floor, outside every sleeping area, and inside every sleeping area. Warning from smoke detectors have been shown to almost double fire survival rates. Test all smoke detectors months monthly. Replace all batteries twice a year, when clocks are adjusted for Daylight Savings Time.

• Create an escape plan with your elderly parents. Practice it at least once a year. If your parents have limited mobility, hearing, or vision, your escape plan must take these limitations into account. Consider contacting your local fire department for suggestions.

Pay particular attention to the kitchen. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries for older Americans.

• Unattended cooking is the leading cause of cooking fires. If your aging parents cannot stay in the kitchen while cooking, get them easy-to-use timers. Another tip: Suggest they carry a spoon or potholder with them to remind them that something is still cooking.

• Check the burner, oven, and any overhead exhaust fan. Are they clean? Or are they grease fires waiting to happen?

• Is there a fire extinguisher in the kitchen? Is it still charged? Do your aging parents know how to use it? And CAN they still use it?

• Keep dish towels, paper towels, potholders and other flammable material away from the stove. And never ever cook over the stove with loose or dangling sleeves or scarves.

• Smother any cooking fire with a pot lid. Never throw water on a grease fire.

• Do not put metal objects or aluminum foil in a microwave. If a fire starts in a microwave, do not open the microwave door.

• Always check the kitchen stove and make sure all knobs are in the off position before you leave the house or go to bed.

• Never use a stove or oven to heat your home.

Losing a home to fire is a devastating event at any age. But it can be especially traumatic for the elderly, who may find it extremely difficult to cope with sudden displacement from familiar surroundings and the loss of irreplaceable family keepsakes.

For more fire safety tips to keep yourself or your aging parents safe, click here to download a copy of Fire Safety Checklist for Older Adults from the U.S. Fire Administration.


Contractor Steals More Than $200,000 from Elderly Widow

A western New York contractor has admitted to stealing more than $200,000 from an elderly nursing home resident with dementia. Recently, in Monroe County Court, Ronald Molinari, Jr. confessed that he billed Clementine Nelson for work on her home that he never did or didn’t do right.

According to Nelson’s brother, Molinari was hired to work on his 88-year old sister’s home in 2006…

“He kept conning her. He told her the house was in bad shape, that it was going to fall apart. He took down a perfectly good roof and put up a horrible roof. He put up vinyl siding that is coming off. A 5-year-old could have done better.”

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Molinari’s theft was discovered during an audit of Nelson’s finances when she moved to the Jewish Home of Rochester after being diagnosed with early stage dementia.

The court sentenced Molinari to five years probation and ordered him to repay $50,000 of face prison. Nelson’s family will have to pursue a civil suite to try to recover the rest of her money.

Nelson, a widow with no children, had lived in her Irondequoit, NY, home for more than 40 years. She may now have to sell her home — valued at less than $85,000 BEFORE the housing market went to hell — to pay for her nursing home care.

Don’t take the risk that an opportunistic predator will take advantage of your aging parent the way that Ronald Molinari, Jr. has admitted to taking advantage of his elderly victim.

If your aging parent or loved one is beginning to show signs of cognitive impairment or possible dementia, along with a proper medical evaluation, make sure someone looks over their finances, too.

Older adults can be extremely vulnerable to scams, fraud, and financial elder abuse. This is especially true if their judgement or memory has been affected by mild cognitive impairment, which may or may not be diagnosed.


New Study Has Serious Message for Elderly Drivers

Even if  your aging parent is perfectly healthy and has a clean driving record, their advanced age may still affect their ability to drive safely. That’s the conclusion from a study on elderly drivers recently published in the journal Neuropsychology.

Overall, 17 percent of the elderly drivers in the study made mistakes such as veering or failing to use check blind spots that caused the professional driving instructor accompanying them to hit the emergency brake or grab onto the steering wheel.

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The research showed that the older the driver, the more likely they were to make serious driving errors. Participants between the ages of 85 and 89 made four times as many critical mistakes as those aged 70 to 74. None of the participants had dementia. All lived independently and still drove at least once a week.

Another key finding: Elderly drivers who had been involved in an accident within the past five years were the participants most likely to make a driving error. And for the record, the elderly male drivers made as many errors as the elderly female drivers.

Here are some safe driving tips for elderly drivers who want to stay behind the wheel as long as possible:

• If you’re an elderly driver in good health, at the very least it makes sense to take a defensive driving course and learn how to adjust your driving habits for slowing reflexes and diminished vision. For a nominal fee, AARP offers its well-respected Driver Safety Course in a classroom or online.

• If you’re the adult child of an aging parent whose had one or more driving-related accident in last few years, stop rolling the dice! It’s time for a more formal driving assessment. Check out the American Automobile Association’s Roadwise Review self-assessment software here. The online version is free or you can order a CD for a nominal fee.

• Ask your doctor to review your prescription and over-the-counter meds for interactions or side effects that can cause dizziness or confusion.

• Get your vision and hearing checked once a year.

• Don’t eat, drink, or blast the radio while driving! And don’t even think of dialing your cell phone. Distracted driving is a problem for drivers of all ages — but when combined with delayed reaction times, it’s often deadly.


Why Seniors Become Victims of Scams

All too often, seniors are scammed by strangers who approach them under the pretense of doing them a favor or a kindness. In fact, one of the reasons that scammers love to target seniors is that they may not be as naturally suspicious as the general population.

Hence, the success of  the “You Have A Dent in Your Car” scam…

The scammer will approach a senior and point out a dent in her vehicle and claim he can fix it. The scammer will offer to follow the senior home to fix the dent but often will charge far more than was agreed upon. In the meantime, the scammer has the senior’s address and gained the opportunity to learn other valuable knowledge about the senior for future scams.

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Important: The real reason that the “car dent” scam works isn’t because the seniors who fall for it are too gullible and trusting. It’s because predatory scammers are counting on their elderly victims to be more vulnerable and easily intimidated, especially if they live alone.

In the car dent scam — and countless variations of it — the predator exploits their vicitm by jacking up the agreed upon price for a service. The intimidation doesn’t have to be explicit. It’s implied with the demand for money. “You don’t want to pay me what you owe? I know where you live.” That’s why it’s called financial elder ABUSE.

What’s the easiest way to help your aging parents avoid these kind of scams? Tell them to follow the advice they gave you: Don’t talk to strangers. And NEVER let anyone you don’t know follow you home. No matter how friendly they seem. Even if they promise to fix the dent in your car.


Guilty! Another Caregiver Convicted of Financial Elder Abuse

A former caregiver has been convicted of financial elder abuse through forgery and fraud for stealing from a 74-year old stoke victim from Long Beach, Calif.

Li Ching Liu, also known as Susan Liu, had been wanted by police for more two years when she turned herself in last August…

Police and prosecutors alleged Liu stole more than $4 million from the victim and abused the elderly victim, including withholding food to make her comply, after the victim hired Liu to help her following a massive stroke in 2002.

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Liu’s victim was unmarried, with no children, and had gained a fortune through commercial real estate when Liu began isolating her from extended family and business associates.

She then began withdrawing large amounts of cash, much of which was given to her boyfriend and son, both of whom were also convicted of financial elder abuse. Liu was also accused of selling a strip mall owned by the victim and using the proceeds to buy herself a jewelry, a Porche, and a house.

Despite the accusations, the jury found this predatory caregiver guilty of ONLY stealing less than $1 million from her victim’s savings. Liu will be sentenced on May 27.