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Helpful Hints

01 |  Helpful Hints: General

Helpful Hints: General

  • Instead of spraying chemicals into the air when "refreshing" a small room, try lighting a match.  It works like a charm.  Also, simmering spices like cloves and cinnamon sticks in some water on the stove is an excellent way of creating a warm scent to freshen up a larger area.
  • Try going back to basics with cleaning products. A solution of vinegar and water can be used to clean most surfaces in your home.  Baking soda works as a gentle abrasive cleaner as well as a deodorizer.  Used with vinegar, baking soda is excellent at helping unclog drains.  Lemon juice works well to remove soap scum and hard water deposits.   These three items are inexpensive, effective, and won't harm the environment.
  • Crack eggs on a flat surface, rather than the edge of a bowl, and you'll keep the shell out of your recipe.
  • To reduce waste when shipping items, in lieu of packing peanuts and bubble wrap, utilize used newspaper and the smallest box possible.
  • In nice weather it's tempting to take your pet for a ride while you run errands.  However, a car can reach a temperature of 120 degrees, even in the shade with the windows cracked. Pets can suffer from heat stroke, heart and liver damage, heat exhaustion, brain damage, and can even die when left in vehicles.  It's best if you leave your pet in the comfort of your home.  And, if you happen to see an animal in a car alone on a hot day, contact the store manager or your local police.
  • Cut down on electricity by unplugging radios, toasters, blenders, can openers, etc. when not in use.  They draw power even when turned off. 
  • Light hard-to-reach candles with a piece of raw spaghetti.
  • Forego plastic straws at restaurants, as they are rarely necessary, and millions end up in landfills.  Be brave, go strawless! If you must use a straw for health reasons, reusable ones are available in glass and stainless steel.  Visit  or .  You can also make your own candy straw out of a piece of licorice with the ends cut off.  Sweet!
  • Spray your snow shovel with nonstick cooking spray, and the snow will slide off with ease. 
  • To prevent static cling, rub nylons with a dryer sheet.
  • You can save up to 40% by purchasing large appliances like washers, dryers, and refrigerators in the month of October. 
  • To loosen dried on splatters from inside your microwave oven, place water and lemon juice or a slice of lemon in a microwave-safe bowl or mug, and heat until boiling.  Let sit for several minutes with the door closed.  The steam will loosen the mess and make wiping it out a cinch.
  • Hair conditioner works very well as a shave cream.  It's inexpensive, there is one less bottle in the shower, and leaves skin silky smooth. 
  • Lifesavers candies are a fun, edible way to hold birthday candles in place.
  • Use this restaurant trick to clean your coffee carafe: Swirl a mixture of Kosher salt, vinegar, and some ice cubes in the pot for 30 seconds or so.  Rinse with warm water. 
  • To remove water rings on furniture, try rubbing the area with non-gel toothpaste, then buff with a soft cloth.  Or, try applying full-fat mayonnaise, leave for an hour, and wipe clean.
  • Rather than using tape, try clear nail polish to seal envelopes.
  • Leftover wine can be frozen in ice cube trays, and used for recipes that call for vino. 
  • To remove blood from white clothing, soak the stain in hydrogen peroxide.  Let sit for one minute, and rinse with soap and water.  Repeat if necessary. 
  • Freshen your garbage disposal by throwing in a wedge or two of lemon or lime before turning it on. 
  • That unused Bundt pan in the cabinet works well to freeze juice or ice for floating in your punch bowl. 
  • If you have a problem with clutter, try removing three items from a room when you leave it.  You'll be amazed at the difference it makes.
  • Grating cheese is easier if you place it in the freezer for about 30 minutes first.
  • If you close the damper on your fireplace when it's not in use you can save up to $70 per year in heating and cooling costs.
  • To clean pots and pans with baked-on foods, fill with hot water, add a fabric softener sheet, and soak overnight.  In the morning, cleanup will be a snap!
  • If you're not one for heating up leftover coffee, pour it into ice cube trays and freeze.  Use the cubes to flavor cold drinks.  It's a delicious new way to make iced coffee.  Just add milk!
  • According to recent studies, only one in four households recycle plastic water bottles.  This results in mountains of waste.  Investing in a Brita water pitcher for your home can drastically reduce plastic from ending up in your local landfill.

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02 |  Helpful Hints: For Your Health

Helpful Hints: For Your Health

  • A bag of frozen peas, or corn, makes an excellent ice pack.
  • Wear sunscreen every day, even in winter, to help prevent skin cancer.  An SPF of 25, or higher, is best.  If possible, apply 30 minutes before sun exposure to get the greatest protection.  (See our article "The Sun And You" for more information.)
  • Washing hands with soap and water is important in preventing the spread of germs and disease.  A fun way to encourage children, and even adults, to wash long enough is have them sing "Happy Birthday" or "The ABC's" before rinsing.
  • To reduce the fat in recipes calling for oil or butter, equal parts unsweetened apple sauce can be used as a substitute.
  • Make your own ice pops by blending up fresh fruit (like Mangoes, Strawberries, Blackberries, etc.) and pouring the mixture into freezer molds, or ice cube trays with toothpicks.
  • Don't underestimate the importance of a good, deep breath.  Deep breathing increases oxygen supply to the brain and the rest of the body.  This can decrease stress and increase calmness.  Breathe in through the nose, and out through the mouth.  Repeat as often as necessary.
  • When dealing with a sprain or strain, remember the following acronym: RICE.
    R= Rest 
  • A few days before your next visit, ask your doctor to mail, fax, or email any forms that may need to be filled out.  This is a great time saver!
  • When getting your daily servings of vegetables and fruits, try to "eat a rainbow".  The color of what we eat often indicates the vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants in our food.  (See our article on "Rainbow Foods" for more information.)
  • Green tea is not only full of antioxidants, but it also helps freshen the breath.
  • Instead of flavored yogurt, which is full of sugar, try plain, unflavored yogurt with fresh fruit, or Greek yogurt with no-sugar-added preserves. Bonus: Protein, and Calcium your body needs, without the guilt.
  • Contrary to popular belief, medicines should not be kept in the bathroom medicine cabinet.  Heat and moisture from showers and baths can break down meds and prevent full potency.  Medicines should be stored in a cool, dry environment such as a kitchen cabinet away from the stove, and always out of the reach of children.  The cotton plug should be removed from the bottle as well, as this can draw moisture into the bottle.
  • Experts recommend exercising at least 30 minutes per day.  If you are short on time, three 10-minute increments of an activity throughout your day can build up long-term benefits, and make you feel better.
  • Laughter is a natural stress-reliever.  Endorphins are released when we laugh, and they help pain reduce pain and stress.  So, take a laughter break.  You'll feel better.
  • Restaurants typically serve two to three more food than a single portion size.  To cut down on your consumption, request a to-go box when your food arrives.  Place half of the meal in the container to save for later.
  • A piece of clear tape works well to extract small splinters from hands and feet.
  • To help prevent hot water burns in children, make sure your hot water heater is set no higher than 125 degrees.
  • Drinking fruit juice can be like having a glass of liquid sugar.  Replace juice with whole fruits and berries.  It's a good way to add fiber and antioxidants to your diet.Always wear rubber gloves when cutting spicy peppers to prevent the chemical Capsaicin from penetrating skin and causing severe pain.
  • When cleaning, don't forget phones, doorknobs, kitchen handles, and remote controls.  They are breeding grounds for bacteria.  Disinfecting wipes work great on these areas.
  • To help with declining eyesight, an OttLite is a practical solution.  This high definition natural light provides great clarity while reading or doing needlework.  An OttLite can be purchased at many craft and fabric stores, or online, and are a worthwhile investment.
  • Instead of Potatoes, try mashing steamed Cauliflower seasoned with salt, pepper, and some olive oil.  Great taste, without the carbohydrate overload.

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03 |  Helpful Hints: Caregiving

Helpful Hints: Caregiving

  • When dealing with older people, it is important to give choices. Often they have lost certain abilities and feel that all control has been taken away. Allowing people to make decisions, on even the smallest things, can make a huge difference in their attitude. For example: "Would you like blueberries, or orange wedges with breakfast?" "Do you want to wear the black or striped pants?" Being allowed to decide little things can help others retain what's important: their dignity.
  • If you are the primary caregiver for a friend or family member, it is very important to take time for yourself. Get a massage, take a walk, read a book. You need to first take care of yourself, so you can provide the best care for your loved one. A few hours away can do wonders! Remember, burnout is not your friend.  (See our article "Caregiver Survival".)
  • When using a walker, encourage your loved one to stand with most of their body inside the walker, with elbows slightly bent.  Have them put their shoulders back and pull their abdomen in, while looking straight ahead, not at the floor.  This will utilize core muscles, help with balance, and prevent dizziness.  Prompt them to step in to the middle of the walker before moving it forward.  Also, when assisting someone with a walker, a gentle touch on the lower back is a reminder to stand up straight.
  • Allow others to do as much as they can for themselves.  Remember the motto: "Use it or lose it."  The more individuals do, the better.  Remain sensitive to ones abilities on a daily/hourly basis.  A person may have more strength in the morning than the afternoon, or vice versa. Assure them that you're there if, and when, they need you.
  • When using a chair or wheelchair and coming to a standing position, have your loved one put their hands on the arms of the chair to push up. Try not to grab their hands and pull them up as this not only pulls on their shoulders and wrists, but can throw both of you off balance.
  • To prevent choking when drinking, encourage sitting up and bending forward so there is a clear pathway down the throat for liquids and solid foods.  No talking while eating, and chew thoroughly.
  • For no longer used medications, consider donating to The Starfish Project.  They collect certain medicines to give to clinics in Nigeria. Visit for a prepaid shipping label to share meds with those in need.
  • For someone who is bedbound, it is important to change their position at least once every two hours to prevent pressure sores from developing.   When legs are together, place a pillow between the knees.  Keep the head of the bed as flat as possible, as raising the head causes the body to slump down, which increases shearing force on the skin.  When on their back, use a pillow propped under the ankles to reduce pressure on the heels.
  • Gentle massage two to three times a day, increases circulation and prevents skin from breaking down.  Use lotion liberally, but avoid massaging any protruding bones.
  • For someone who is often sitting in a wheelchair, or lying in bed, cushions made of sheepskin, foam, or gel can be used to make them more comfortable, and reduce pressure on the skin.
  • In case of emergency, it is always a good idea to have a current list of medications, including dosage information, available.  This should include all prescriptions, over-the-counter meds, vitamins, and herbal supplements taken.  Other important records to have on hand: A list of allergies (including medicines as well as latex, etc.), major surgeries, doctors' names and phone numbers, the person's date of birth, and contact numbers for next of kin &/or healthcare proxy.
  • Proper hydration is very important for overall health.  An indication of dehydration is dark urine. Ideally, it should be light to clear, and odorless.  Encourage drinking water.  To make it more appealing, add a slice of lime, lemon, or tangerine, or a splash of fruit juice.  Fruits and vegetables are also good sources of necessary liquids.
  • For someone who is at risk for falling, using a gait belt can provide extra security and stability.  It should fit tightly enough around the waist for only one hand to fit between the belt and the person's body.

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