How to prevent slip and fall accidents

Kathy Jurgens’s 77-year-old dad fell when he tripped over the phone cord. Turns out, Jurgens’s brother had moved the phone away from the wall to fix the air-conditioning and didn’t put it back in the same place. Luckily, her dad, who lives in Houston, about three hours from her, wasn’t seriously hurt. But now the family never moves anything without asking Dad first. Says Jurgens, :”I realize now that if you change anything, you can be in real trouble.”

As many as 12,800 seniors die each year as a result of a fall. Dizziness or weak muscles caused by certain health conditions are sometimes to blame, so check with your parent’s doctor. But there’s plenty you can do to help prevent everyday mishaps. Start by following Kathy Jurgens’s advice to keep things in their place. Then by the following:

  • Make sure there’s a secure banister on both sides of all stairways. That way, if your dad has weakness in one hand or on one side of his body, he’ll be able to support himself with his strong side when going up or down the stairs.

  • Install grab bars in the bath and shower. Make sure the one you pick says “meets ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Guidelines” on the package. That’s your guarantee that with proper installation, the bar can hold the weight of an adult. And never use towel racks as a substitute–they’re not designed to hold anything heavy.

Try the Moen Decorator (shown) and Kingsley series. They’re sturdy, available in an assortment of sizes, and more attractive than traditional grab bars.

  • Take out the plastic mat in the tub. When these mats lose their suction, they can slide around and cause a fall. Instead, use adhesive safety strips on the bottom of the tub or shower floor. Try Home Care by Moen Decorative Tread Strips.
  • Outside the tub, use a nylon floor mat with nonskid backing. Skip the 100 percent cotton mats. They slide easily, get heavy when wet, and are harder to keep clean.
  • Consider replacing any plush wall-to-wall carpeting. Thick carpeting can become a tripping hazard for some older people. Flat, tightly woven carpet is safer.
  • Remove throw rugs. These are a common cause of falls because they can bunch up and slide around.

With these tips, you’ll clean up faster

MICHELLE SINATRA, Employment manager at a center for handicapped adults in Norwalk, Connecticut; married with three kids

Her obsession: laundry

Why she loves it: “Housekeeping is a source of therapy for me. When times are stressful, some people go to the gym, some garden, some shop; I clean the house … a lot. I try to save laundry for evenings, after the kids are in bed. That way, I can fold while watching TV and having a glass of wine with my husband. If I’m feeling overwhelmed by my hectic schedule, this is a practical way to get relief.”

Cleaning confession: “I admit it, one of the reasons we bought our home was that it has a laundry chute! While we were house hunting, I saw that chute, and I just turned to my husband and said, ‘Sold!’ I could hardly wait to move in.”

Top tips

  • Group baby clothes. “My younger kids are a toddler son and a year-old daughter. When I’m putting their clothes away, I always organize them as outfit ‘bundles.’ That way, when I’m getting one of my kids dressed–or rushing to grab some clothes for day care–I can just reach for a ‘bundle,’ and it’ll have a matching shirt, pants, socks, etc.”
  • Remember the key to perfect jeans. “To avoid weird creases, shake the pants out vigorously before you toss them in the dryer. They’ll come out beautifully every time Fold all clothes while they’re still hot from the dryer.”
  • Don’t roll your socks. “Fold them instead. Rolling tends to stretch out the elastic.”
  • Teach kids to dress themselves. “I make clothing piles for my almost-ten-year-old stepson, Nick–one pile for school, one for play, and one for church or dress-up. Now he usually doesn’t have to ask us ‘What should I wear?’ and we don’t have to lay out his clothes anymore.”

ANN SOLLI, Special education teacher in Lutherville, Maryland; married with two kids

Her obsession: ironing

Why she loves it: “It reminds me of my morn. And I find it relaxing. I was ten years old when my mother taught me to iron pillowcases and place mats. She would lower the ironing board to my height, and I loved helping her. We were very, very close, and I guess I inherited her craziness for ironing. When my girls were little, I thought there was nothing better than putting them in freshly pressed sundresses-that was just heaven! Now I’m so busy, I often have to iron while I do something else, like talk to friends on the phone. It must be contagious, because some of my friends will be ironing away on the other end of the line while we catch up.”

Cleaning confession: “My family teases me about it, but when I’m getting ready for a vacation, I iron everything before I pack it in the suitcase even though it may get wrinkly all over again.”

Top tips

  • Be selective. “I always send my husband’s shirts to the dry cleaner. They take the longest to do yourself and are the hardest to get just right.”
  • Mist it first. “I love a heavy steam iron–mine is a Black & Decker. But you get better results if you fill a spray bottle with water and lightly moisten clothes before pressing them.”
  • Rediscover your clothesline. “If you know that a certain shirt always gets creased in the dryer, hang it up to dry. It’ll wrinkle less that way and make ironing easier.”

LAUREN BRIGHT, 37 Attorney in Washington, D.C.; married with one child

Her obsession: organizing the kitchen

Why she loves it: “I like to open the cabinets and see everything labeled and neat–it makes cooking dinner so much easier. As soon as I get home from the supermarket, I take things out of their packaging and put them in containers, like Tupperware or Click-Top Storers. Everything has a home. There’s a baking section, lined with containers labeled flour, sugar, brown sugar, chocolate chips, nuts. There’s a snack area, with containers designated chips, pretzels, tortilla chips, and my mom’s special label that says Grandma’s baby snacks, for my son, Aaron. Even the meat in the freezer is organized! My sister says I’m a nut, but she didn’t turn me down when my morn and I offered to give her kitchen an overhaul.”

Cleaning confession: “Periodically, I do a total reorganization–after which I give my husband, Bill, a tour of the ‘new’ kitchen. He’s learned to put up with my madness because he knows that my system keeps me sane.”

Top tips

  • Organize by food type. “I group my staples: soups, veggies, breakfast supplies, etc. Store things where you use them; for example, keep spices and oils near the stove. My baking goods go above the counter where I roll out pie crusts.”
  • Label early and often. “I can’t live without my Brother Label Maker … even though my husband jokes that I’m dangerous with that thing.”
  • Use a soda can dispenser to hold canned foods.
  • Create a coffee bar. “My husband’s a coffee fiend, so we turned a shelf at one end of the kitchen into a storage spot for everything he needs: mugs, filters, sugar, creamer. While I’m getting breakfast, he’s happily brewing coffee just the way he likes it.”

Calling all candle lovers! Bright ideas on what to look for, plus tips for safer burning

Which wax? It matters

  • Paraffin. The most common type of wax, it’s also generally the least expensive. Paraffin keeps its shape really well, so it’s great for pillar candles–the tall, wide kind.
  • Beeswax. The airy honeycombed kind burns faster than paraffin because it contains less wax. These candles are delicate, so make sure they re well wrapped before you carry or store them.
  • Soy and palm. If a candle is made with either of these vegetable waxes, you may see a note on the label. The candles are often found in jars.

Watch your wick

  • Test quality by gently tugging on the end of the wick to make sure it’s secure (you’d be surprised by how many slip out right in the store). A loose one may burn unevenly or, if it falls into a pool of melted wax, not at all.
  • Look closely at the shape of the wick. You want one that’s braided, not twisted. The braid will help the candle burn slower and with a more controlled flame.
  • Avoid wicks that have metal cores (a sliver of metal in the center). Wicks made with a lead or lead-alloy core were banned in 2003 because they give off unsafe emissions. But these wicks may still turn up on store shelves.

The goods on glass containers

  • Buy heavy, thick jars. Wax–especially the gooey, transparent-gel kind–can get really hot, so you need a sturdy holder. Make sure you check the glass for cracks and bubbles too.
  • Throw away the candle when there’s an inch of wax left in the container. When the flame nears the bottom, it can heat the jar enough to leave a burn mark on furniture. To be safe, always place candles on a heat-resistant surface, such as a ceramic dish or tile.

Burn with care

  • Keep candles away from windows, air-conditioning vents, fans, and drafts to prevent soot from forming: Every time a candle flickers, that black substance is emitted.
  • Limit burn time. If you let a jar or pillar candle stay aflame for too long, it can end up lopsided. To avoid that, follow this general rule: Burn up to one hour for every inch of the candle’s diameter (so you’d burn a three-inch-wide candle for a maximum of three consecutive hours).
  • Trim the wick to a quarter of an inch before you light it. The smaller and more controlled the flame, the less the chance of smoke.
  • Use a snuffer. It can keep wax from splattering when you extinguish the flame.
  • Be careful with decorations. Trimmings on the outside of candles or items like dried leaves embedded in the wax can catch fire.

Six innovative appliances that make it easier to get dinner on the table

First for safety

  • Kenmore Gas Range 75024

No need to worry about toddlers fiddling with the knobs on this range. A special safety touch pad on the backsplash can prevent the burners from igniting. Another plus: The self-cleaning cycle automatically shuts off when the oven is clean, so you won’t heat up your kitchen longer than necessary. In bisque, white, and black. www.sears.com

Smart looker

  • Sharp Over the Range Microwave Oven R-1501

Those who prefer a streamlined kitchen will appreciate that the control panel on this powerful over-the-range microwave is concealed behind the door. And the 1.5-cubic-foot oven has a turntable large enough to hold a two-quart lasagna dish. Also in white. www.sharpusa.com

Talented toaster

  • Krups ProChef Digital Toaster Oven 286

The ProChef’s electronic controls give you a new level of cooking precision for a countertop appliance. In our tests, it broiled four burgers or two salmon steaks to perfection and flawlessly baked an eight-inch chocolate chip cake. This is also one of the safest toaster ovens we’ve tested: A timer automatically turns off the unit. www.krupsusa.com

Budget beauty

  • Maytag Performa Electric Range PER5710BAC

Although Performa is Maytag’s bargain line, this stylish brushed-chrome range has features of models costing hundreds of dollars more–including a smoothtop cooking surface and a self-cleaning oven. The range brought pasta water to a boil faster than most others and evenly baked four cakes at once. Also in white and bisque. www.maytag.com

Gentle giant

  • Panasonic Inverter Microwave Oven NN-S961WF

This 2.2-cubic-foot countertop microwave lets you simmer gravy on Low (without splattering the inside of the oven) or warm a platter of baked ziti without drying out the edges. And at 1,300 watts, it’s fast–we heated a frozen chicken dinner in half the recommended time. Also in black. www.panasonic.com

Clean cooker

  • GE Profile Performance Spectra Gas Range JGB920WEC

Here’s a newsmaker: a gas range with an easy-to-wipe glass ceramic surface. Other conveniences previously found only on electric models include a cooktop warming zone (for a latecomer’s dinner plate), a warming drawer (to keep seconds toasty), and a quick-cooking convection oven. Also in black, bisque, and stainless steel. www.geappliances.com

* Model numbers and prices may vary slightly depending on color.

30 ways to get things done faster: try these tricks to speed through your everyday tasks

Want to spend less time on snore-inducing chores? Try these creative tricks and you’ll have the best gift of all: more time for you.

1 “Faster to me means more help. So if I have a big, tedious project to do (like rearranging my kitchen cabinets), I figure out a way my kids can help, such as getting them to stack all the canned goods by category (vegetables, fruits, juices, etc.). Then I reward them with an allowance bonus.”

2 “The trick to getting the dinner dishes done lickety-split is to rinse as you go. As soon as you finish with one bowl while you’re making dinner, rinse it out and toss it in the dishwasher. Washing pots and pans is much easier when they don’t sit out and dry.”

3 “I never seem to have time to bake from scratch, but I hate using box mixes, too, so I was thrilled when a girlfriend recommended a cookbook called The Cake Mix Doctor. It features recipes in which you use a box-cake mix as the base, and then add in extra ingredients. The results are always tasty–and unique. Yum!”

4 “I feel so lame for never trying quick-dry nail polish until recently, but now I’m a total convert! It really is so much faster.”

5 “In our household, grilling is not just a summer thing. It’s much quicker to cook dinner on a grill. Those Reynolds foil bags are great–just toss in meat, chopped-up veggies, seasoning, and voila! Of course, what makes grilling superfast is that I usually make my husband do it!”

6 “I’m sure everyone says this, but I don’t think many actually do it (just thinking about it is not the same thing): Laying out my clothes the night before has proved to be a tremendous time-saver for me. Every night before I go to sleep, I pick out my entire outfit, right down to my stockings and shoes. I get the kids to choose their outfits the night before too. It makes the morning routine go so much faster when no one has to spend time thinking about what they’re going to wear to work or school.”

7 “This may be a no-brainer, but having sharp kitchen knives on hand makes preparing dinner faster–and safer. So either buy a knife sharpener to keep at home or find a local place that will do it for you.”

8 “Before you clean your bathroom floor tiles, run a hot shower with the door closed for five minutes so the bathroom fills with steam. This will loosen the dirt and make your tiles much easier to clean.”

9 “I keep a box of baking soda in the bathroom closet, and every night after I give my kids their baths, I sprinkle some in the tub and do a quick rinse with water from the shower. This keeps the bathtub clean and smelling fresh, so I can let more time pass between full cleanings.”

10 “I store all of my silver jewelry in Ziploc bags. Keeping silver pieces in airtight containers prevents them from tarnishing as quickly, meaning I don’t have to set aside time to polish them before I put them on.”

11 “As someone who loves to bake, I have found that by owning three sets of measuring spoons, I save time in thekitchen. Now I no longer have to stop and wash the spoons before I use them for each new ingredient.”

12 “When buying wine, I just check to see which brands have only a few bottles left on the shelf. Stores restock often, so if there are only two or three bottles left, it’s probably popular and tastes good. It saves me a lot of time reading labels and trying to figure out what everyone will like, and so far, I’ve been pleased with my purchases.”

13 “The fastest way to clean makeup brushes is to buy a special brush-cleaner spray (try Trish McEvoy Makeup Brush Cleaner, $14, order at neiman marcus.com). Spritz some of the solution on a paper towel, and then brush back and forth on that spot. No soaking required!”

14 “I find that by keeping a spoon holder next to the stove, I spend less time cleaning the countertops after I’ve finished making dinner.”

15 “If something is just a little wrinkled and you don’t have time to iron it, throw it in the dryer with a very damp towel and let it run for about five minutes. Another similar idea: ironing goes much faster if you don’t let your clothes dry completely.”

16 “My husband and I are forever trying to come up with ways to make our mornings a little less chaotic. The best time-saver we’ve found so far: cutting out our daily pit stop to get coffee every morning. It took a while, but we finally tracked down a place that sells paper cups with lids (check your local party-supply store), and now we always bring our coffee from home. We save money and time!”

17 “I don’t have a garbage disposal, so whenever I peel fruits and vegetables over the sink, I have to scrape all the peelings and seeds out to throw them away. My timesaving solution: I line the sink with a sheet of old newspaper. When I’m done, I bundle everything up and toss it right into the garbage or the compost heap.”

18 “Whenever I only have a small amount of laundry to do, rather than running separate loads, I wash everything together in cold water–unless, of course, there’s something really dirty or superdark, which could bleed.”

19 “Kitchen shears make cutting up veggies and even meat go quickly and easily–and you don’t have to wash a cutting board when you’re done.”

20 “I couldn’t live without Sock Locks (sock-locks.com), these little plastic rings that hold pairs of socks together in the wash. We use a different color for every member of the family, so sorting socks takes practically no time at all.”

21 “I cut the time it takes to dry my hair in half by wrapping my head in a super-absorbent towel (try Aquis Microfiber Turban, $17, drugstore .com) after my morning shower. I keep it on while I get dressed, do my makeup, and have breakfast. By the time I’m ready to style it with the hair dryer, it’s practically dry.”

22 “To save time in the bathroom, I shave my legs while I deep-condition my hair once a week. The treatment needs to be left on for ten minutes, which is about the same amount of time it takes me to shave.”

23 “When I need quick cash, I use an ATM that also dispenses postage stamps. The machine automatically deducts the price from my bank account, and I don’t have to make a trip to–and wait in lines at–the post office. Nothing like killing two birds with one stone!”

24 “I measure and mix messy dry ingredients (like flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, etc.) for my family’s favorite cookies, cakes, and breads, and then store them in Ziploc bags. When I’ve got to whip up cupcakes for school, or a dessert to bring to a party, I just add eggs and milk. Preparation and cleanup time goes much faster.”

25 “My best girlfriend and I decided to use the same hair salon and put ourselves on the same cut and coloring schedule. Now we have an automatic kid-free date to meet and chat at the stylist every six weeks, and take care of two must-dos at the same time.”

26 “I always keep rolls of wrapping paper in classic colors (red, white, navy, and cream) on hand, as well as several blank cards. This way I’m prepared for any gift-giving occasion.”

27 “I swear by those telephone headsets. I wear the receiver on my belt so I can walk around the house while I’m talking, cleaning, and cooking, because both my hands are free!”

28 “I used to check my e-mail 20 or so times during the workday and it was really distracting. So I turned the audio signal off and limited myself to checking my in-box only three times a day (in the morning, before lunch, and an hour or so before I leave the office). It was hard at first, but without the interruptions I get through projects much fasten”

29 “I chose one dry cleaner over another because their store also houses a shoemaker Now I only have to make one stop when picking up my cleaning and shoe repairs.”

30 “When I make party appetizers, I carve out vegetables (try bell peppers and tomatoes) and fill them with dips and spreads. Since they’re edible, I spend less time washing dishes.”