Giving back to family caregivers: Tips to help those who sacrifice for others

(BPT) – No one knows exactly what life will bring, but we all know that there will be joys and there will be challenges. Sometimes, life gives you a combination- as millions of average Americans who are family caregivers can attest. Providing dedicated care to a loved one is a generous way to live one’s life, but it can also brings difficulties, stress and isolation. That’s why giving back to those unsung heroes – caregivers – who give so much can make a world of difference to them, and the people they help.

It’s not unusual for non-professional caregivers to insist that they don’t need a break or a pat on the back. Recognizing their sacrifices, even in small ways, can help them understand the importance of their work. Also giving these caregivers a little time to themselves can help them recharge, ultimately allowing them to take even better care of their loved ones.

If you know a family member, friend or neighbor who is a non-professional family caregiver, consider these ways to give them the recognition and help they deserve.

* Arrange a relaxing day off. Many caregivers are members of the “sandwich generation” which takes care of their children as well as an elderly or disabled family member. Looking after everyone else can easily eat up all of a caregiver’s time. So give the caregiver you know a ‘free day’ that is just about them. Arrange a massage, a trip to a museum, a sporting event, favorite restaurant or park- whatever they will enjoy most. Then arrange for respite care so they know their loved one is well cared for while they’re away.

* Consider making a BRAVE Awards nomination. The Shire BRAVE Awards honor the courage and devotion of non-professional caregivers around the world. These annual awards celebrate the amazing commitment of unsung, everyday heroes – non-professional caregivers. Many BRAVE Award recipients provide care over years and decades, overcoming incredible challenges to ensure that their loved ones have everything they need to live as full and rewarding a life as possible. Nominations for the BRAVE Awards are open and award recipients selected each receive $10,000. For more information, visit www.shirebraveawards.com.

* Offer to help with the little things. There are countless small tasks we all have to finish every day, but for caregivers, that “to do” list can be extra long and overwhelming. Offer to assist with a regular chore, like making dinner, mowing the lawn, picking up prescriptions or putting out the garbage, and you’ll be taking away some of the stress. Even if you can’t lend a hand on a regular basis, let the caregiver know to call on you when he or she needs help. Having others to rely on can help make caregivers feel that they’re not alone.

* An old-fashioned “thank you.” A simple word of encouragement, when unexpected, can have a big effect. A handwritten note only takes a little time, but has a far-reaching impact. Add a small treat, such as a photo or a gift card, and you will surely brighten the caregiver’s day.

Caregivers dedicate themselves to helping others without expecting recognition or thanks, but that makes them all the more deserving of both. By lending a hand, nominating them for an award or offering a few kind words, you’ll be giving them a bit of well-earned care, too.

Courtesy of BPT

Singled out: 3 financial tips for Americans going solo


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More and more people are choosing to live solo. While there are plenty of resources for home improvement, a new survey shows singles could use some help getting their financial house in order.

 
Many single workers lack an adequate financial safety net that would protect their income if they were unable to work due to an illness or off-the-job injury, according to The Hartford Benefits For Tomorrow Study, a national survey of 1,000 full-time workers ages 18 to 64.

 
The annual poll showed only 44 percent of single Americans have disability insurance. This is despite the fact that singles would be hard hit by an unexpected health issue. In fact, 87 percent of single survey participants said they would need to make lifestyle changes to meet expenses if they lost income for three to six months.
“Fifty-nine percent of workers who don’t have disability insurance said they’d rely on their savings or retirement account if they could not work for more than six weeks,” says Mike Fish, vice president of voluntary benefits for The Hartford. “That means singles without paycheck protection are not only putting their current finances – and independence – at risk, but their golden years, too.”

 
Here are three benefits tips for single Americans:

 
1. Educate yourself. Many Americans don’t completely understand disability insurance. “May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month. It’s a good time to get up to speed on paycheck protection,” Fish says.

 
2. Know your risks. According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, one in four 20-year-olds will become disabled during their career. “You might think that you don’t need paycheck protection because you won’t have an accident or you don’t engage in unsafe activities,” Fish says. “But, you still could be at risk. Approximately 95 percent of disabilities are caused by illnesses rather than accidents, according to the Council of Disability Awareness.”

 
3. Get a price check. In The Hartford’s survey, 45 percent of survey participants overestimated the cost of short-term disability insurance by hundreds of dollars; and another 45 percent said they had “no idea” how much the coverage costs.  "It pays for you to check on whether you can get disability insurance at work,“ Fish says. "Group disability insurance costs about a dollar a day on average. So, it can be more affordable than depleting your savings.”
Going solo doesn’t mean going it alone when it comes to your finances.

You can find more information about disability insurance at The Hartford’s MyTomorrow website www.thehartford.com/mytomorrow

Courtesy of BPT

Bathroom remodeling ideas that add style and space


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Now, more than ever, homeowners are adding to the value and comfort of their homes by renovating bathrooms into private retreats with luxurious touches that rival those of an upscale spa or resort.

Ron and Susan Bishop of Adams Township, Pa., recently completed an extensive remodel of the master bathroom in their 20-year-old home. The remake covered nearly every square inch of the space, including the installation of new cabinets, tile, floor coverings and lighting. The couple says one of the biggest highlights is the custom shower enclosure, made from Clarvista glass by PPG, which uses a fused-on coating to keep its showroom appearance over time.

“Few things detract from the appearance of a luxurious bathroom more than a shower door covered with water deposits and soap scum,” Ron Bishop says. “Susan and I made it a point to find a product that would keep its good looks and be easy to maintain. We completed the renovation on our master bath more than a year ago, and the glass on our shower enclosure still looks brand new.”

When considering an update for your bathroom, whether you choose to do an extensive remodel or a smaller project, most kitchen and bath designers agree on these tips:

* Consider the size of the bathroom. If you have a small room, look for ways to make it feel more expansive. A sleek, stylish glass shower enclosure helps your bathroom appear more spacious, and in most instances, a frameless shower enclosure will provide the cleanest, most open look. If you decide to go with a framed shower enclosure, you’ll have two choices: frameless sliding doors or framed doors. For framed doors, be sure the finish of the metal framing and handles matches your bathroom fixtures.

* Think outside the box. Taking a creative approach to bathroom necessities can help you make the most of your space. For instance, the majority of shower enclosures are square or rectangular, but today’s designers encourage you to think about other shapes. Don’t be afraid to consider a circular or oval-shaped enclosure, a triangle or even a standard shape with an artfully bowed glass door, which can redefine the space and make your bathroom more versatile.

* Don’t skimp on the glass. All glass used for shower enclosures is safety glass, which means it is tempered to make it stronger and more shatterproof. That doesn’t mean all shower glass is alike, though. Most shower doors and enclosures are fabricated from conventional clear glass – which typically has a light, almost imperceptible green cast – or some variation of frosted glass. If you want a look that’s chic and ultra-clear, ask your bath designer or showroom retailer about Clarvista on Starphire glass.

* Brighten things up. Repainting your bathroom with light colors can make it feel more spacious. If your bathroom has windows or skylights, use window treatments and accents that maximize the amount of light that comes through to give the room a more airy feel.

* Find the best use for your space. Move bathroom cleaning items to a hall closet if you are stretched for storage space in your bathroom, especially if you have freestanding storage units that are taking up valuable floor space. If you need more storage space, consider adding built-in compartments if possible between your wall studs to maximize usable space.

It’s been shown time and time again that remodeling a bathroom can add to a home’s value. Whether you want to sell or just enjoy your home more, it’s one of the most practical and dramatic ways to make your home more appealing. To discover more great ideas and inspiration for bathroom remodeling, visit www.ppgclarvista.com.

Courtesy of BPT

Top winterizing tasks for your home

(BPT) – If you shudder at the thought of shivering through another frigid winter, building industry experts say now is the time to consider winterizing your home. Several simple and cost-effective measures can yield both immediate and long-term benefits.

While instinct may prod you to increase the heat during winter and keep your home toasty all day long, that’s not always cost-effective. Investing in a programmable thermostat allows you to adjust the temperature remotely, lowering the setting when the house is empty, and save money in the process. Modern thermostats let you monitor the indoor temperature of your home remotely via your smartphone or online. By keeping the temperature low when no one is home and programming the thermostat to increase the temperature when everyone arrives home, you could notice a 10 percent drop in your heating costs.

Fall is also an ideal time to ensure your furnace is functioning optimally. Schedule an appointment for a professional to inspect and clean your furnace once a year. By doing so, you’ll help your furnace function more effectively and last longer.

If ice damming on the roof is an annual problem, consider taking measures to completely stop dams from forming. Major damage can result from ice damming, so it’s never too early to start thinking about a long-term solution. Ice damming occurs when warm, indoor air escaping through the roof melts snow on the shingles. The water then refreezes as it runs off the roof, creating a barrier of ice at the edge. Shovelling snow or chipping ice away can threaten life, limb and roof, so it’s best to consider more permanent solutions.

While caulking or weather-stripping can help address the gaps allowing the air to escape, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Home Energy Saver website says that proper air sealing, insulation and attic venting are the best methods to stop ice damming from occurring. Spray foam insulation is one modern material that both insulates and seals to stop ice damming. Installed by professionals, spray foam insulation, like that available from Icynene, works well in all climates to completely seal the building, filling every gap to stop air leakage and stop ice dams from forming.

As a long-term solution, spray foam insulation helps maintain a comfortable temperature year round while helping to control monthly heating and cooling expenses. Thanks to spray foam insulation’s air-sealing qualities, homeowners can reduce the size of their heating and cooling equipment since less effort is required to heat or cool the home, according to InsulationSmart.com.

While air leakage can cause energy bills to sky-rocket and ice damming to occur, a well-insulated home and economical winterizing can help you get through the cold winter months. Learn the five easy steps to choosing the right insulation by visiting icynene.com.

Courtesy of BPT

Three green trends for home remodeling


For some homeowners, remodeling projects are regular occurrences to keep their homes looking fresh. Sometimes, that means smaller changes like a new coat of paint or changing a light fixture. Other times, more substantial changes are needed. Determining those changes can be a challenge, but looking at the potential return on investment is a great way to prioritize.

Bathroom remodeling offers a 68.7 percent return on investment, according to a National Association of Realtors survey. One way to add value to a bathroom remodel is to pick bathroom fixtures that are more efficient than what you currently have installed. People are going green in many areas of life, whether with more energy-efficient light bulbs, hybrid cars or by recycling more regularly. Bathroom fixtures are no different.

Here are three reasons why you should consider going green with your bathroom modeling project:

* Products may be outdated. Toilets made before 1994 use anywhere from 3.5 gallons to 8 gallons per flush (gpf), while new EPA WaterSense labeled high-efficiency toilets can work beautifully on a modest 1.28 gpf. Not sure of your toilet’s vintage? Look at the underside of the tank lid – the date of manufacture is often stamped into the porcelain. In the shower, the typical showerhead installed in California homes built after 1994 uses as much as 2.5 gallons per minute. At that rate, your eight-minute shower consumes a whopping 20 gallons of water.

* Savings to be had. Compared to 3.5 gpf toilets, TOTO’s Aquia One-Piece Dual Flush High-Efficiency Toilet has a flushing system that enables homeowners to select the level of water used each time the toilet is flushed – 1.6 gallons for bulk waste or .9 for liquid. The approach provides exceptional water savings paired with outstanding performance. A family of four can save more than $90 annually on their water bill, and $2,000 over the lifetime of the toilet.

If you replace a typical 2.5 gpm showerhead with a TOTO high-efficiency Trilogy Showerhead, you will experience the same luxurious shower, yet consume a responsible 14 gallons, saving 20 percent of the water used by older models.

Even something like a faucet can contribute to water savings. TOTO’s Silas Widespread Lavatory Faucet is a WaterSense labeled lavatory faucet that consumes a responsible 1.5 gallons per minute without sacrificing an ounce of performance. Its design has a classic contemporary elegance with a graceful, curved spout.  

* Be a trendy homeowner. A whopping 68 percent of builders surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders say that energy-saving technologies and features including low-E windows, energy-efficient appliances, and LED lighting will be common along with other green features like engineered wood products, and water-saving plumbing fixtures such as dual-flush toilets and low-flow faucets by 2015. Start now and you’ll be ahead of the curve.

Courtesy of BPT

Three helpful tips for renting out your home


(NewsUSA) – Home ownership has always been a part of the American dream, but that may be changing. 

According to an online survey commissioned by the National Apartment Association, 76 percent of consumers think that renting is preferable to owning a home in today’s market.

Likewise, some homeowners believe it’s better to rent out their home than to sell it for less than its worth, if they can sell it all. Those considering renting out their property shouldn’t make a hasty decision. Neglecting to weigh the costs and potential risks could put first-time landlords in a poor situation. Moco, Inc., a company that provides screening services to property owners, managers and employers throughout the United States, offers the following tips:

* Look at the numbers. Renting might not be the best option. If you’re going to lose money each month, it might make more sense to sell, even if you won’t get your asking price. Consider all potential costs, including property taxes, income taxes on your tenants’ rent, maintenance, and the normal wear and tear your property will experience. Remember that you won’t be able to pocket all of the rent money; you will have to put a portion of it back into the property.

* Find quality tenants. Nightmare tenants can be, well, a nightmare. Prepare for a careful screening process. Many private landlords can’t access the quality screening products available to larger businesses without going through a lengthy certification process. However, you can avoid time and expense by asking your applicants to visit MyScreeningReport.com. The report includes a consumer credit report, SSN verification, comprehensive criminal search, eviction search, national sex offender registry search and an OFAC (federal terrorism database) search – everything you need to determine whether a potential tenant meets your standards.

* Use an all-encompassing lease. Whether you use a template or hire an attorney to write your lease, make sure that the lease clearly states your expectations. The lease should state who is responsible for what, when you expect rent to be paid and what penalties you will impose if it is late.

For more information, visit www.MyScreeningReport.com.