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AARP AARP States Home & Family

Home and Helping for the Holidays

Twice a year, Bart Cooke packs for vacation time in Alabama during which he and his wife Beth visit family. But, unlike most vacation packing lists, Bart’s includes tools.

Nationwide, more than one-in-four people are providing some level of care for a loved one, and Bart is among those, although he doesn’t identify himself as a caregiver. Yet, with every trip to Alabama, he is presented with a new “honey-do” list for his mother-in-law’s home or vehicles.

“I like having something to keep me busy,” he says, brushing aside the idea he is doing anything special.

Cooke’s father-in-law passed away several years ago, and since then, the Houston resident does what he can to help around the house when visiting.

In recent visits, he said he has helped with heating and air conditioning issues, built shelves and moved furniture, among other tasks. He also has come to see some regular maintenance as “his” during his twice-yearly visit.

“It’s a habit now. The air conditioner filters and the smoke detector batteries are my jobs when I’m there,” he said.

Beth said Bart’s help has helped fill a huge void.

“My dad took care of all of the household maintenance throughout their 50-plus-year-marriage, and my mom had never written a check when he passed away. She has done a great job being on her own for the first time, but at 75 years old, it’s overwhelming.

“Bart uses a number of his vacation days every year doing things around my mom’s house. There are times when I don’t know what we would have done without him,” Beth said.

Are you visiting family members for the holidays and looking for ways to help? Here are a few ideas.

Inspect, repair and replace faulty insulation in the attic, basement and stripping.  Check the caulk and plaster to ensure that the holidays are warm.

Examine holiday lights and decorations.  Pull out the tree, make sure lights are properly working and throw away broken and dangerous ornaments.  This can be fun, and will encourage conversation and a trip down memory lane.

Make sure bulbs are bright and do not produce excessive glare.  Check and replace blown bulbs and closet bulbs.  Install nightlights in heavy traffic areas.

Clean out gutters, rake leaves and put away seasonal lawn furniture.

Sweep off the walkway, driveway and porch areas.

Change door handles.  Update your door knobs to make them user friendly, or change door knobs to prevent loved ones with dementia from easily wondering off without supervision.

Use tape to secure throw rugs and carpet corners. Relocate or remove throw rugs to help prevent slips and falls.

Update your loved one’s address book, then help get holiday cards ready for delivery. This activity will be fun, and will help your loved one reconnect with some old friends.

If you’re visiting family for the holidays and would like to help around the house, click here for a list of additional seasonal tasks.

(Photo courtesy of Rosie O'Beirne/Flickr)

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