Frequently Asked Questions

Falls prevention is an essential consideration for seniors and represents one of the most important steps we can take when helping elders ‘age in place.’ As we grow older our eyesight, balance, and reaction time may diminish gradually. Our bones become more brittle and injuries take longer to heal. Sometimes, just making a few simple changes around the home can help prevent a fall.

The bathroom is the most common place for falls to occur. For just a few dollars, placing an inexpensive rubber mat on the inside of a tub and a rug with a non-slip backing just outside of the tub can make a world of a difference. Grab bars help get into and out of the tub safely—we recommend 2 bars, one to hold as you step in and out, and one to hold while inside the tub. You should never expect a towel rack to support your weight. Instead, install an attractive grab bar and use it as a towel rack, too. A smaller hand-hold near the sink might also be helpful. Additionally, there are many types of raised toilet seats that can make the restroom easier and safer.

Surprisingly, many falls also occur in the bedroom. When waking in the morning or after a nap, people may be lightheaded at first. Take a moment to get your balance before you step away from the bed. A transfer handle bed rail may also be helpful.

Stairway safety is important, particularly for seniors. All staircases should have at least one sturdy railing running the full length on both sides—be sure the stairs themselves are in good repair. All entry doors and hallways should be well lit. HouseWorks suggests placing inexpensive automatic night lights throughout the home to improve visibility. It’s a good idea to place non-slip backings or double-sided tape on all entryway rugs, as this is a common source of slips and falls.

In the kitchen, reorganizing storage can make a world of difference. Possible measures include placing frequently used items in easily accessible cabinets and putting bulky or heavy items in the base cabinets or open shelves. HouseWorks recommends using the highest shelves for things that are used infrequently, like holiday items.

As we age, simply maneuvering around our home can become difficult. Try to move furniture and household items as needed to ensure there are clear, unobstructed walkways in each room. Make sure all power cords, cable TV and computer wires are neatly run along the walls—never put cables under carpet, as they can fray and cause a fire.

If you are concerned about an elder taking a shower safely, HouseWorks can provide a Caregiver trained to supervise showering while treating your loved one with respect and dignity. Simply call our main number, 617-928-1010 to speak with a Case Manager who can set things in motion. Our Home Modification Department is also a resource for families who want more information or would like to request an in-home evaluation.

Bed bugs are a growing problem in many communities and eradicating them has become a serious challenge. Unlike other pests, they are not a result of poor housekeeping and do not spread disease, but they are very annoying and can be a great source of anxiety. 

Bed bugs can be more difficult to control than other insects, often taking several treatments spread over a period of weeks. Most over-the-counter products are ineffective, and improper use may exacerbate an infestation and can even cause serious health risks. If you think you may have bed bugs, have a pest control professional perform an inspection and determine the most appropriate course of action. The first step always involves prepping the home before bed bug treatment. For a list of local pest control professionals in the Boston area, click here.

What else do I need to know?

The most common method of extermination is a chemical spray of pesticides, which must be applied by a licensed and trained professional. Bed bugs are tiny and hide in the crevices of baseboards and behind outlets. For the treatment to be most effective, the exterminator will need to spray around the perimeter of the affected rooms and furnishings. It may also be necessary to move furniture and belongings away from the walls to treat these hard-to-reach areas.

Most exterminators also recommend washing and drying all clothing and linens at high heat—even items that are clean and stored inside dressers or closets. HouseWorks provides all manner of bed bug preparation. To ensure treatment is as effective as possible, HouseWorks will provide a list of all of the tasks that must be performed before treatment can begin.

Another method of extermination involves pumping very hot air into the affected rooms and sustaining that high temperature for a number of hours.

All of this can be very overwhelming and disruptive, especially for seniors or families with small children. For anyone who may not be able to manage these tasks independently, there are companies—including HouseWorks—that offer services to assist in the necessary preparations, and can coordinate with all parties to help resolve this problem as quickly as possible.

For more information about bed bugs, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, offers extensive information and additional resources.

 

Yes, our HouseWorks Home Modification department can help to clean out your house. Whenever a parent dies, it can be overwhelming to think about what your next step should be and harder still to actually take action. Contacting a member of our Home Modification team is the perfect place to begin. HouseWorks goes above and beyond what a typical cleaning or housekeeping service would provide. A HouseWorks team member will come to assess the home and coordinate subsequent cleanout. If needed, we can even prepare the house for sale—making cosmetic upgrades such as painting, minor carpentry, electrical/plumbing repair, as well as heavy-duty household cleaning to ensure the house will show well. 

The HouseWorks team has extensive training working with families. We understand how to help families overcome even the most challenging situations and always treat our clients with respect and compassion. HouseWorks has extensive experience providing help for hoarders and their families, whether addressing serious clutter or health code violations that may have been caused by hoarding. Our Home Modification Team will remove and dispose of trash and unwanted items, including furniture, and can make charitable donations of items on your behalf. That said, we remain sensitive to your wishes concerning what should be saved.

Hoarding is a serious problem, defined as a pattern of excessive acquisition of objects in one’s living space. It is a form of mental illness, not limited by physical or mental stamina.

Also described as ‘heavy cluttering,’ hoarding is a compulsive disorder that impacts a person’s health, safety and social interactions. Those who want to help a hoarder are often faced with a multitude of challenges that can strain the relationship.  

Ask for help.

HouseWorks has supported families in Greater Boston struggling with hoarding and heavy clutter for more than a decade. Oftentimes, it’s best to bring in outside assistance with the training to help hoarders, people who know exactly how to keep your loved one safe and at ease with the cleaning process. Call HouseWorks at (617) 928-1010—we can walk you through it. 

Start the cleanup process.

First, make a plan to break up the work into manageable phases.  Keep in mind that an overly aggressive approach to hoarding can backfire and make matters worse in the long run.  Try to engage your loved one as much as possible, and always be patient.  

Encourage them to donate as much as possible—knowing their treasured belongings will benefit others can make it easier to let go.  Objectively discuss ways in which the hoarding behavior is having a negative impact on the person’s life and talk about the visitors and activities they will be able to enjoy once the clutter has been reduced.

Again – managing a hoarding problem is difficult to do on your own. Ask for help. Look for resources in your area. HouseWorks is here to help. Please call if you need us.

For more information about hoarding from the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), click here.

 

Clutter is in the eye of the beholder. Every home has some degree of clutter, whether it is knick-knacks on a shelf, books, papers, or hobby materials. Most people are able to keep their clutter under control. In homes with serious hoarding, however, there tends to be one or more rooms that cannot be used for their intended purpose because they are so heavily cluttered. This is a sign that intervention may be needed.
 
Hoarding: What it looks like
Hoarding is a pattern of excessive acquisition of objects in one’s living space. It is a form of mental illness, not limited to physical or mental stamina.
 

Signs that it’s more than just clutter:

Rooms and fixtures in the home too cluttered to be used for their intended purpose. 

Profound difficulty deciding what to keep and what to discard.

An unrealistic perception of the intrinsic value of one’s belongings. 

A cognitive disconnect or skewed perception of reality, not unlike that of a person with anorexia.

Deriving a sense of security and happiness from one’s clutter. 

Choosing “stuff” over the people who care for them. 

    Why do people hoard?
    Hoarders is a complex form of mental illness, not just poor housekeeping or time management. Hoarders suffer from a type of compulsive disorder and, as a result, find it much more difficult to manage their belongings. Hoarding is believed to be related to obsessive-compulsive disorders, although the exact causes and mechanisms are unknown. 
     
    Hoarders have profound difficulty deciding what to keep and what to discard and often have a skewed perception of the intrinsic value of their belongings. They feel a strong emotional bond with objects that most of us would only attribute to other humans or pets. Thus, hoarders find it significantly more difficult to let go of these objects and may experience grief when faced with their loss. Obsessive thoughts often plague hoarders and disposing of their 'possessions' can cause extreme anxiety. Loved ones may grow frustrated in their attempts to address hoarding issues, driving a wedge between hoarders and their families.
     
    HouseWorks can help

    HouseWorks has supported families in Greater Boston struggling with hoarding and heavy clutter for more than a decade. Oftentimes, it's best to bring in outside assistance with the training to help hoarders, people who know exactly how to keep your loved one safe and at ease with the cleaning process. Call HouseWorks at (617) 928-1010. We can walk you through it.