Health care facilities: Finding the right place

There may come a time to suggest that a relative or other loved one consider moving  into housing for seniors, such as an independent retirement facility, assisted living or a nursing home. These difficult conversations can come when a family is in crisis or stressed due to the loved one’s condition. In a perfect world, we would have those conversations early, long before the crisis point. But for a variety of reasons, that often is not the case.

It’s best to do some homework to find the right place for your loved one. First, know the differences in the types of facilities available and the services they offer. While some states use different terminology, most facilities are of three types:

  • Nursing homes provide skilled nursing care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Assisted living facilities offer assistance with some activities of daily living (ADLs), such as grooming, bathing, meal preparation and taking medications.
  • Independent retirement homes are senior living apartments, condominiums or cottages, often with an alert system to let a main desk know if there is a problem in the resident’s home.

Typically, states inspect and license nursing homes and assisted living facilities. When doing your homework, ask for a copy of the state inspection. Any reputable facility should be glad to share this.

A good resource for researching nursing homes is Medicare’s website. It has a nursing home locator and uses a star rating system to give an idea of the quality of a facility.

No one specific website helps in finding assisted living or independent retirement facilities. One place to start is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging, which offers an Eldercare Locator to connect you to services in your community. The AOA’s Administration on Community Living offers a checklist of things to look for in an assisted living facility.

Once you have identified some facilities, a tour is an absolute must. On the tour, take note of the general cleanliness of the facility. Also, meet the staff and get a sense for the general “vibe.” Is the staff helpful and engaged? Are there activities to stimulate thought and expression?

Although moving  into an elder care facility can be a difficult decision for the individual, and a stressful time for a family, taking advantage of  the many resources available to help in doing the research may aid in finding that right “fit.”

For insurance advice for seniors or for any stage of life, contact your local Ayres Group Agent

 

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company

Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa reviews his insurance policies

Santa is a busy man this time of year, making toys and preparing his sleigh for the big day. Like many business owners, he relies on his local Ayres Group Agent. Santa has the policies he needs to cover his workshop, employees and their products. Do you?

Read Santa’s insurance list, then contact your local Ayres Group Agent to help you check yours.

 

santa-small-infographic

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company

Don’t fall victim to a crime this holiday season

The busy holiday season provides numerous chances for crimes of opportunity.

From robberies to identity theft, criminals are looking for ways to steal your gifts, credit card information, cars and anything else they can take easily.

Safety starts at home

Burglaries increase by 11% during the holidays, and property stolen from vehicles increases 17%.

And there are some risky behaviors that can increase the chances of a robbery claim. More than 50% of Americans say they have left a door unlocked for a friend or family member and 52% have left a key hidden somewhere. This also means easy access for would-be burglars.

Frequently, Christmas trees are near doors or windows, providing burglars with a clear view of the presents under the tree. Consider storing gifts out of sight and putting them under the tree Christmas Eve to make them less enticing to thieves. Use timers for lights throughout the house to make the home appear occupied and help keep robbers away. Make sure doors and windows are locked before leaving or going to bed.

Related: Christmas tree fires: A deadly hazard you can prevent

While you’re spreading some holiday cheer this season, don’t forget to take these precautions to avoid becoming an unintended victim.

Planning a hotel or motel stay? Think about fire safety

An estimated 3,900 hotel and motel fires are reported each year in the United States. Use these tips to ensure that you stay safe during your vacation or business overnight.

PLAN AHEAD
  • Choose a hotel or motel that is protected by both smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system. The U.S. Fire Administration provides a master list you can search to find hotels and motels that adhere to life safety requirements.
  • Pack a flashlight and keep it on your nightstand in case you need to escape in the dark.
FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF
  • Read the fire evacuation plan carefully. If one is not posted in your room, request one from the front desk.
  • Locate the two exits nearest your room and fire alarms on your floor.
  • Count the number of doors between your room and the exits to assist you in the event of an emergency evacuation.
ESCAPE SAFELY
  • If the fire is in your room, get out quickly. Close the door, sound the alarm and notify the front desk.
  • If the fire is not in your room, touch the door with the back of your hand to see if it is safe to leave.
    • If your room door is hot, do not open it. Instead, seal the door with wet towels or sheets. Turn off the fan, heater and air conditioner. Call the fire department to give your location.
    • If the door is cool, open it slowly. Be ready to close it quickly if there are flames on the other side. Take your room key with you in case fire blocks your escape and you need to re-enter your room.
  • Stay low by crawling on the ground, where the smoke is the least dense, to the nearest exit.
  • Always use a stairwell, never an elevator.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
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It happens: Sewer backup

Sometimes sewer backups happen. We look for someone to blame, but often there just isn’t blame to be found. How do we prevent it from happening? And if it does, how do we protect ourselves from the financial storm that follows?

Suppose for a minute that you just spent $10,000 converting an unfinished basement into your awesome new recreation room. Somehow, the sewage backup that occurred three weeks later, ruining your new carpet, furniture and recently installed drywall didn’t factor into your vision of awesomeness. What a horrible, stench-filled mess. You’re disgusted, angry and someone’s going to have to pay for this affront. Wait until you find out that someone is you.

Let’s start with your local sewer utility: wouldn’t it be their fault? The answer is “maybe,” but more likely it is “probably not.” Because sewer utilities provide a public health service, and in many cases are governmental entities, even when they are responsible they may enjoy some form of immunity or cap on damages that limits their liability. State laws vary, so this scenario could differ based on your location.

Next, the backup might not have occurred in the sewer main at all; it could have been an issue with your lateral – the sewer line running from the building to the sewer main. In almost every case, the sewer utility is not responsible for the maintenance and working condition of the lateral; the property owner is. Repairing or replacing the lateral is expensive. Thankfully, many plumbing contractors can perform a camera inspection to determine its condition. Often clogs, including root balls from trees, can be removed at a reasonable cost.

So it’s nobody’s fault, but the homeowner’s insurance policy will cover this claim, right? Again, it depends. Many homeowner (and for that matter, business) policies exclude sewer backup. Unless your policy has been endorsed to specifically provide this coverage, there is likely no coverage. Fortunately most companies are willing to add coverage for a modest premium. Check with your agent to confirm that your policy includes this coverage, or add it if you don’t.

Could this loss have been prevented? There are multiple backflow prevention devices available that can be installed by a plumber. Check with your local plumber to see if this is a sensible option for you; particularly if your property has a history of sewer backup issues. Your local sewer utility can often be a helpful resource for prevention ideas as well. These devices aren’t 100 percent effective, so you’ll want to do your homework.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
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Bright idea: Check your holiday lights

Holiday lights can brighten the season – literally and emotionally – but they also present potential risk for fire and shock hazards. Before installing holiday lighting, take extra time to do a safety check to protect people and property.

Holiday lights and other decorative lighting contribute to an estimated 150 home structure fires per year, according to the National Fire Protection Association, with an average of nine deaths, 16 injuries and $8.4 million in direct property damage per year. Electrical failures or malfunctions were factors in 64 percent of the fires.

Reduce the risk of fire and shock from holiday lights by taking these steps recommended by theConsumer Product Safety Commission:

  • Use indoor and outdoor lights that conform with safety standards and that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Use only lights that have plugs containing fuses.
  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
  • Ensure extension cords are rated for the intended use.
  • Forego electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Check labels before using lights outdoors to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
  • Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles.
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples (not nails or tacks) to hold strings in place. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
  • Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights – this could cause stress on the connections that could create a fire hazard.
  • Plug outdoor electric lights and decorations into circuits protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to protect against electric shock. Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can also be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends switching to LED lights to reduce heat and the risk of combustion or burnt fingers. In addition to being sturdier and more resistant to breakage, LED holiday lights last longer and consume 70 percent less energy than conventional incandescent light strands. It costs only $0.27 to light a 6-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days with LEDs compared to $10 for incandescent lights.

A new safety rule for seasonal and decorative lights went into effect in June, allowing the CPSC to remove hazardous seasonal and decorative lights from the market faster and more effectively. If lights do not meet safety standards, the agency can require the manufacturer to recall the lights and can block imports of unsafe lights.

As you inspect newly purchased lights, check for:

  • wires that appear frayed, damaged or inadequate to carry the current according to the manufacturer’s instruction
  • strands that do not remain intact and functioning or pull out of the plug when stretched
  • lights that do not shut off to guard against excess current – such as with a fuse or ground fault circuit interrupter

To report a dangerous decorative or seasonal light, go online to www.SaferProducts.gov, call CPSC’s Hotline at 800-638-2772 or use its teletypewriter for the hearing impaired at301-595-7054.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International, a nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety at home and in the workplace, offers additional safety tips for Indoor Lights and Electrical Decor.

 

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
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Prep your car for travel in winter weather

Smartphones offer drivers a sense of security, with the promise that help is just a phone call away. But especially in extreme conditions, don’t count on your phone alone to keep you safe or to share your location in an emergency situation. Keep in mind that location services are not always accurate depending on network coverage in your location, the cell tower your phone connects to and other variables.

Take additional precautions before winter travel in case you become stranded in your car. Before setting out, tell your family or a friend which route you will be taking. If you become stranded, it’s better in most cases to stay with your car and let rescuers find you. Keep your phone plugged in and fully charged during your trip to better ensure it operates when needed. But if your smartphone location sharing lets you down, your preparations can keep you safe and comfortable while you wait for help.

SERVICE YOUR VEHICLE

Before heading out in the winter, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready.gov website outlines items a mechanic should check on your car:

  • Antifreeze levels – ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
  • Battery and ignition system – should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
  • Brakes – check for wear and fluid levels.
  • Exhaust system – check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
  • Fuel and air filters – replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Heater and defroster – ensure they work properly.
  • Lights and flashing hazard lights – check that all are functioning properly.
  • Oil – check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
  • Thermostat – ensure it works properly.
  • Windshield wiper equipment – repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
  • Install good winter tires – make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
EMERGENCY KIT

In addition, carry an emergency kit in your car:

  • a shovel
  • windshield scraper and small broom
  • flashlight
  • battery-powered radio and extra batteries
  • water and snack food
  • matches
  • extra hats, socks and mittens
  • first aid kit with pocket knife
  • necessary medications
  • blanket(s)
  • tow chain or rope
  • road salt and sand
  • booster cables
  • emergency flares
  • fluorescent distress flag
IF YOU BECOME STRANDED

If you are broken down or stuck in your vehicle in a winter storm, stay put and wait for help. Consider these tips from the Montana Department of Transportation:

  • Keep calm
  • Indicate to others that you are in trouble if you are on a well-traveled road. Use the signaling devices in your survival kit, emergency lights on your vehicle or raise the hood and tie something bright to your antenna
  • Remain in your vehicle unless you see a house or building within walking distance
  • Run the engine to keep warm, but do it sparingly
  • Check the exhaust pipe of your car to ensure snow has not blocked it. If this happens, you risk carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Exercise, clap your hands, move your arms and legs vigorously or do other isometric exercises to keep your circulation going
  • Take turns on watch if possible
  • Stay awake if you are alone
  • Ensure other drivers can see you if you are pulled over. Use hazard lights or auxiliary warning devices such as reflective triangles or flares; place the first one 10 feet from your car, the second 100 feet away and the third 200 feet away. On an undivided road, put one triangle 100 feet in front of your car, one 10 feet behind and another 100 feet behind.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
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Tasting rooms and tours: Consider guest safety first

Most breweries, wineries or distilleries offer tours and a tasting room where guests can enjoy a sample of the product or purchase drinks made on-site. These operations present a different set of exposures than a typical beverage manufacturing facility. If you own a beverage business, closely evaluate your operation to ensure guest safety.

The most common source of liability claims for these businesses are slip-and-fall hazards. To complicate this exposure, many establishments also offer tours that lead guests through the manufacturing side of the establishment, the vineyard or storage areas.

Tours are a terrific way to display your establishment, help guests understand how the product is made and further engage them in your craft. Use caution when creating your facility tour to ensure guest safety.

Here are some items to consider when planning your tour route, tasting room or taproom space:

  • Use nonskid flooring wherever possible, and make sure all spills are cleaned up immediately.
  • While it’s best to have a level flooring surface throughout, if there are changes in elevation, make sure all steps are marked appropriately and are well lit.
  • Ensure that handrails on stairways are secured, that stair treads are a solid surface or that carpeting is properly secured and free of tears.
  • Be sure walkways around the exterior of the establishment (including parking areas) and outdoor gathering areas are in good condition and well lit.
  • Use surveillance cameras where possible.
  • Assign guides for all tours, and train them in safety procedures. Limit the number of guests per tour. Keep guests at a safe distance from operational traffic, moving machinery and hot surfaces.
  • Don’t permit guests to carry food or beverages with them during the tour.
  • Post warnings and liability disclaimers at the tour site and on your website to assure visitors understand potential physical and operational hazards.
  • Provide any necessary safety gear, such as safety glasses or hearing protection.
  • Be sure to follow any state or local safety regulations or health restrictions, including occupancy restrictions for fire evacuation.

By ensuring a safe visit, you protect your business while building customer goodwill. Contact The Ayres Group for more information on specialized insurance solutions for your brewery or distillery.

Don’t let equipment breakdown ruin your day

Imagine coming home from a weeklong vacation to find that an electrical outage damaged the air-conditioning compressor, and your AC is out.

Or, you arrive home from work on a Friday after a long, hectic week, planning to settle in to enjoy the latest movies. As soon as you kick off your shoes and click the power button on the remote, you realize something is wrong. You discover that a power surge during a storm earlier in the day has fried your home entertainment equipment.

Sudden and accidental breakdown of your home’s mechanical systems and electrically powered equipment can disrupt the peace and relaxation you enjoy at home. Equipment breakdown insurance can help you manage these unexpected events.

While insurance does not cover wear and tear, it may be available to cover the cost of diagnosing and repairing insured equipment and to reimburse you for additional living expenses when you are displaced by a covered loss.

Your insurance agent can advise you on whether equipment breakdown coverage is included in your homeowner policy or whether you should consider broader coverage available by purchasing an endorsement or policy addition.

You can purchase equipment breakdown insurance that includes coverage for heating and cooling systems or equipment that generates, transmits or uses energy:

  • computer equipment
  • home theater and audio system equipment
  • wine cooling units
  • swimming pool equipment
  • refrigerators
  • other appliances

Also consider coverage that extends to the equipment used in another structure on your premises, such as a pool house or outbuilding.

Equipment breakdown coverage generally excludes coverage for: piping that is part of a fire protective sprinkler system, water piping other than boiler feedwater piping, boiler condensation return piping or water piping forming a part of a refrigerating or air conditioning system; appliances other than those permanently installed; personal electronic devices; software; and pinball machines, arcade electronic games or video gaming systems. It also generally excludes business property, property not owned by the insured and property not at the residence.

Be aware that equipment breakdown coverage offered through your insurer is not a home warranty. Home warranties generally limit covered property or charge additional premiums for each item. Equipment breakdown through a policy feature or endorsement would cover your equipment and personal property for one premium.

Give yourself the peace of mind and convenience of insurance to help manage life’s unexpected events.

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your Ayres Group independent agent.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
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Life insurance: A tale of three automobiles

People have a variety of needs when purchasing life insurance. Term insurance answers some of those concerns, and permanent insurance addresses others. I always ask clients, “Are you concerned about ‘if you die’ or ‘when you die’?”

  • If you are worried about “if you die,” then you’re probably thinking about what happens to your loved ones if you die unexpectedly, or at a time that doesn’t fit with your life plan. In this situation, the conversation should probably start with term insurance.
  • If you are concerned about “when you die,” then you’re probably thinking about when you die after a long and complete life, with concerns for your heirs and assets. When this is the case, I start the conversation discussing permanent insurance.

However, the answer can often be yes to both concerns. So what should you buy first? Let me tell you about a friend of mine with three cars:

  • He drives a small, four-door sedan as his everyday car. It’s leased, and he uses it for basic transportation to and from work and for trips around town. When the car gets too many miles on the odometer, he’ll just trade it in for another one.
  • My friend also has a big sport utility vehicle on hand for when he needs it: family vacations, trips with his son’s lacrosse team, or when he has to haul something or tow a trailer. If he takes care of this SUV, it’ll last a long, long time. In fact, it has already logged over 200,000 miles and is still going strong.
  • Finally, my friend has an old German sports car. This is his baby, his toy. He drives it only once in a while, but each year it’s worth more than it was the year before. I know he plans to keep it forever.

I realize not everyone is fortunate enough to have three cars, but if they do it’s a safe bet that each vehicle serves a different purpose. This is a lot like life insurance  ̶  many people have multiple policies, and usually each policy was bought at a different time during their life and serves a different need. It’s completely reasonable that a person would have both term andpermanent insurance.

First and foremost, a person with no life insurance needs straightforward, inexpensive protection  ̶ for “if you die” unexpectedly. Think of the man with no car  ̶  what he needs most is simple, inexpensive transportation.

A first-time life insurance buyer might not be able to meet all needs right away. Instead, strive to meet the biggest need (basic, inexpensive protection) probably with term insurance. Once your immediate needs are met, you can come back at a later time and work to make your insurance plan more complete with permanent coverage  ̶  just like that family who buys a pickup truck or mini-van for when the car just isn’t enough.

Think about it  ̶  would you ever expect someone to buy a huge SUV or sports car for their first vehicle? Not unless money were no issue…and money is almost ALWAYS an issue. Don’t make that mistake with life insurance.

If you’ve already met your basic needs, then absolutely strive to complete your insurance program. But if you are considering your first life insurance policy, your first goal should probably be to meet your most immediate and basic needs. Your local independent agent can help you examine your needs and set your priorities.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com