Category Archives: Alison Rhodes

Alison Rhodes, “The Safety Mom,” is a nationally-recognized family safety and wellness expert. She is a frequent guest on national TV, the author of the highly acclaimed “Honey I Lost the Baby in the Produce Aisle! The Safety Mom’s Guide to Childproofing Your Life,” and a corporate spokesperson. Alison reaches millions of parents every month with advice on how to keep the entire family happy, safe and sane!

After experiencing the death of her child from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Alison became committed to saving children’s lives. Over the years Alison has expanded her career platform to include a gamut of vital issues facing families. As a mom of a special needs’ child, Alison has become a strong advocate for early intervention and programs that teach tolerance in our schools.

Her blog and newsletter as well as regular articles on popular parenting sites such as Parenting Weekly and Baby Weekly, reach thousands of parents every month with tips and advice that help parents sort through the hype and get to the facts. Her first book “Honey I Lost the Baby in the Produce Aisle! The Safety Mom’s Guide to Childproofing Your Life” has been an instant success with parents and experts alike.

Dealing with the 500-pound gorilla in your aging parents’ home

The relationship between an adult child and her aging parents can best be described by the word “denial.”  We ask the right questions – are they safe, are they taking their meds – but we often don’t dwell too much and we take them at their word.  Because, if we really looked at them and saw how they are aging, it would require us to acknowledge that we ourselves are getting old and we have become the caretaker.

From their perspective, our parents really don’t want to discuss with us what’s going on with them or their spouse.  First, they don’t want to burden us.  They think we have enough on our minds as it is (they’re right.)  But they also don’t want to be told what to do or to admit that their spouse might be in worse condition then you realize.    They’ll deny as long as possible that they need help.

This relationship is the epitome of “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell.”  Neither side wants to bring up the tough questions that must be asked.  Unfortunately, all too often, financial and legal issues such as power of attorney, end of life decisions, estate planning are not discussed.  It’s heavy stuff and certainly not a fun conversation but far better to discuss these things with your parents when they are capable of making decisions rather than being forced to guess what they really wanted.

Seniors also become so comfortable in their own home that they refuse to see the dangers that exist as well.  The carpet that has some holes or the step that’s broken present serious safety hazards.  One fall could mean the loss of their independence yet they can be stubborn as heck about allowing someone to come in and make repairs.  Their rationale is that they’ve never fallen before, why should they worry now?  It’s pretty much the same as a teen saying why should he worry about getting in a car crash while texting as it’s never happened before.

Bringing up these subjects with your aging parents is never easy and sometimes requires a third party mediator such as their clergy member, a geriatric social worker or a trusted friend.   As the CEO of Safety Mom Senior Solutions, I work with adult children to understand the safety risks their parents face and how we can help modify their home to allow them to “age in place.”   My team listens to seniors and understands their objections and concerns.  We review emergency plans, conducts safety assessments and install products such as grab bars, wheel chair ramps, stair rails and automatic lighting.

Having these conversations with your parents might not be easy but helping them stay safe and having a plan is key to avoiding future problems.

Why I Want To Rip President Barbie’s Head Off

Last week Mattel hosted a major press conference in New York City and announced that Barbie was running for President of the United States.  Yes, the blonde icon with the body that launched many eating disorders was, as the press release announced, “standing on her own two feet” and announcing her candidacy.  Apparently the fact that this Barbie is standing on her own two feet…”just like other powerful leaders,” is suppose to be a big deal.  Are you kidding me??

OK, I’ll give Mattel credit in that they tried to spin this as a “girl power story” by teaming up with The White House Project , a national non-partisan, non-profit women’s leadership development organization that will act as her campaign advisor.  At their annual gala in November one lucky girl will be presented with the Barbie I Can Be Award.   I can just see a bunch of PR guys…and I do mean “guys”…sitting around a conference room and dreaming this one up.  “Yeah, this will appease those women who think Barbie objectifies women and promotes an unhealthy idea of beauty,” they rationalized.

If I hadn’t read the press release myself I wouldn’t have believed it.  Having been in PR, I realize it’s their job to promote the product as best they can, but was the poor publicist who wrote this release really able to keep a straight face as he/she talked about how this doll promotes and inspires girls to be leaders and reach for their dreams and in the next sentence talk about Barbie’s “glam-paign” on her quest for “The Pink House?”

What platform is Barbie running on might you ask?  It’s the B Party with the slogan “B inspired”, “B informed”, “B involved.” I guess grammar shouldn’t be a concern for young girls or POTUS Barbie.  Probably what most disgusted me was the description of President Barbie:   “A true fashionista both on and off the campaign trail, Barbie® keeps her political style classic and sophisticated, wearing a pink skirt suit with red, white, and blue trim.  She accessorizes with a sophisticated pearl (their italics, not mine) necklace and earrings and proudly sports a B Party campaign button, representing girls nationwide. Vote for Barbie!”

Once again the message coming through to our girls is that brains and substance don’t matter, as long as you can accessorize, you’ll be a success.  Shame on you Mattel!

Community Awareness of Autism Must Grow

April has been designated as National Autism Awareness Month but, with the recent report from the Centers For Disease Control that every 1 in 88 kids is now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), spotlighting this disability one month out of the year is certainly not enough.

Here are the new statistics:

  • The diagnosis of an ASD has risen by 78% in the past decade. That’s not to say that there’s been a dramatic increase in ASD but probably better diagnosis.
  • For boys, the rate of an ASD diagnosis is 1 in 54 – almost 5 times higher than in girls
  • More children are being diagnosed at an earlier age (3), but still most are being diagnosed at 4 or 5 years of age.  Early diagnosis is critical.

While my son doesn’t “officially” have a diagnosis of ASD, he has special needs and, in my opinion, the label doesn’t matter because his disability is quite similar.

As many of my readers know, I’m pretty much of an open book.  I talk about all the issues and challenges that I deal with because it is my hope that I can help someone else not feel as isolated or even share some insight.  I realize this isn’t true for many parents with special needs children.  For many reasons they wish to remain private and I understand that.  Unfortunately too often our kids are still labeled, judged and discriminated against.

That needs to change.

Here’s something that I’ve been thinking about a great deal lately.  This population of ASD kids is going to grow up and need to become productive members of our society.  They will want to go on to college, work, drive, live independently, have personal relationships, get married and have kids.  I know that I want that for my son and he wants it for himself.  Not too much to ask in my opinion.

In order for this to happen though, neuro-typical peers need to start gaining a better understanding for what it means to have ASD or some other disability.  I’m so proud of the Top inclusion program at Wilton High School.   For those of you not aware of this program, it was started by a few high school students who recognized the importance of helping every student feel included.  Their mission statement is simple: “To encourage students to work together to promote the inclusion of all students in our school and community.”    Participants team up with special needs kids as buddies to support them both during school and at after school activities.  This has also led into another great program, TOP Soccer, which works under the same principal.

These types of programs need to happen all over the country and the stigma of ASD and other special needs must be eliminated.  Both adults and children need to become more aware of the characteristics of ASD and how they affect someone socially.  I’ve felt the pain as kids, not understanding my son’s special needs, laugh at him behind his back.  As our kids grow up, these challenges will become even greater.  Imagine how frustrating it must be to be turned down for a job because, even if you’re qualified, you’re unable to effectively manage a job interview?  Think about trying to navigate through ordinary tasks such as grocery shopping or asking for directions when interacting with people is difficult.

This is not an issue that will only affect a few families, this is now an issue for our society.  How will we embrace these special needs young adults and allow them to have the same opportunities that everyone else has to lead a happy and productive life?

Passion4Life Vitamins – The multi I've been searching for!

I’m usually the type of person who’s willing to try anything.  I tend to be a bit naïve and believe the claims made by many products.  But I’ve grown skeptical and weary about this when it comes to multi-vitamins.  They all swear they’re different but, to me, they all seem to be the same. 

So when I was sent a bottle of Passion4Life liquid vitamins I wasn’t very hopeful but I did immediately like the fact that it was a liquid.

I know through my research that absorption is a huge factor and traditional pills just don’t do it as well.  Typically only about 10% – 20% of the vitamins and minerals are absorbed from pills and tablets.  I wanted to find something that really made me feel energized so that I knew it was working.  I also wanted to find a multi that didn’t make me feel nauseous after taking it. 

Now I need to digress and tell you a bit of my back story.  Four months ago my husband was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis.  This causes him fatigue and a loss of balance.  There are no drugs available to help this particular kind of MS but there are some alternative treatments which include, among them, a raw food diet high in kale and other leafy greens and Vitamin D3.  We’ve been eating healthier than ever, consuming a great deal of kale and numerous multi-colored vegetables but I’m always looking for an extra boost. 

Back to Passion4Life.  When we received it I immediately went to the website to get more info.  I was impressed that not only are there tons of non-paid testimonials from athletes but also from physicians.  I also was impressed that part of the proceeds goes towards Passion for K.I.D.S. (Kids in Desperate Situations), a non-profit that was established by the founder Charles Van Kessler. 

Passion4Life has 135 vitamins and minerals including Liposomal Resveratrol.  Resveratrol is the compound in red wine that is beneficial for heart health and anti-aging.  I still think I’d like a glass of red wine with dinner but this definitely is a nice bonus!  What really impressed me was the whole food juices from vegetables and fruits especially the kale that my husband needs.   It also has four times the amount of D3 recommended by the US RDA. 

That all sounds OK but then it came down to two things – does it work and what does it taste like?  My husband took it first.  I can tell you that he’s not a big fan of the taste.  I don’t find it too bad but I certainly wouldn’t call it delicious.  But here’s what sold me.  By that evening my husband told me he felt “different.”  I asked him to define “different.”  He said it was easier for him to move and his legs felt energized!   So huge DISCLAIMER here!  I can only relate how my husband felt.  I have no idea what effect it will have on anyone else but I can tell you he now LOVES it.  And, I can tell you that it’s also made me way more energized.  I just feel better!

I didn’t realize that kids can take this as well.  My son has ADHD and I saw that there’s an article on the site about the benefits for kids with ADD/ADHD.  It has no sugar, only stevia and agave to sweeten it.  And it’s caffeine free, gluten free and dairy free.

I never would have imagined that I would say this but we definitely have found a multi-vitamin that we love and works! 

Disclaimer: I was sent a free bottle of Passion4Life to try but, as always, the words and opinion are mine.

Mary Poppins or Cruella Deville? How to know which babysitter you’re hiring

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Recently there was an issue in my town where a nanny was arrested for abusing two small children in her care.  She was at the local pharmacy when apparently she was screaming at the children and grabbed the 2 year-old by the neck.

The police arrested her and called the mother who was at work to inform her of what had happened.  Can you imagine getting a call like that at work!?!!  I’m sure this mom had checked the woman’s references and felt that she was safe but it just goes to show, you never know.  I don’t know if it’s because of the stress of the economy or something else, but it seems that people are literally “snapping.”  And the last person you want to snap is the person entrusted with caring for your kids.

Of course, there are those isolated incidents – those momentary lapses in judgement that we all have where we just lose it.  Whether as parents or caregivers, they happen.  But what about when it’s more than that?  What about the nanny or babysitter that we learn is stealing from us or truly neglecting our child?  And particularly, what about those of us who have a special needs’ child where we absolutely must find someone who is highly qualified to care for our child?  Sure, there are nanny agencies out there but often they’re extremely expensive and not all of us need someone full time.

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So, what’s a parent to do?  I’ve often relied on recommendations from friends or asked around in my local community but I know many instances where the person came with glowing references only to turn out to be a disaster for the next family.  Even if you’ve received the reference from a trusted source, you still should do a background check.  A great place to start is Free Public Record Sites (www.publicrecordsources.com) .  This lists available resources by state including driving, criminal, civil and financial records.  Prior to starting your search however, find out the privacy laws for your particular state.  Each state’s laws are different.  Some require written consent from the person for whom you’re conducting the background check but others don’t.  If you inform the person and get their date of birth and social security number you can run a check through the Federal Bureau of Investigations (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/background-checks ).  I’ve had people say to me that this is insulting but the bottom line is this is my family’s safety.  They are free to refuse and I am free not to hire them.

The relationship with a caregiver is different than any other one.  I mean after all, they’re caring for your kids and, while it’s a business relationship, it’s far more personal than any other.  Sometimes it’s hard to maintain the level of professionalism that’s needed.  They become a part of your family and you want to trust them.  But unfortunately that trust can be abused.  That’s why I firmly believe in nanny cams and security systems that provide video monitoring.  Again, I have people tell me they think this is an invasion of privacy but, if it gives you a sense of security when you’re away from your child, that’s your right.

Have you had nanny nightmares?  Share them here.

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Five signs your aging parents need help

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For many people, going home for the holidays means facing an unpleasant reality.  Our parents are aging and, in fact, could be rapidly declining to a point that intervention is required in order to keep them safe.

It’s hard to face.  After all, this means admitting that we’re getting older as well but, more importantly, the people who have cared for you all your life are now going to require your care.  And sometimes, the situation is made even worse because one parent is “covering” for the other and refuses to admit that caring for their spouse is becoming increasingly difficult.

If you live nearby these changes might not be as apparent but if you visit infrequently, the decline might be dramatic.  How do you know when it’s time to intervene?  Here are some clues:

  • Becoming forgetful, depressed or disoriented – Your parent could be feeling isolated and alone.  A change in behavior could also signal an underlying physical condition.
  • Forgetting to pay bills or leaving mail unopened – If daily responsibilities are not being managed the financial ramifications can be immense.  Balancing a check book may have become too overwhelming.
  • Had one or more car accidents – One of the most difficult decisions is when it’s time to take away a parent’s car keys.  This is a loss of independence that is profound but the potential of a life-threatening accident in which your parent is hurt, or someone else, is too great to ignore.
  • The refrigerator is empty or full of spoiled food – Whether  your parent has forgotten to grocery shop or feels that it is too overwhelming, not eating properly or getting sufficient nutrition can lead to severe health issues.
  • The house is messy and your parent is not taking care of personal hygiene – If your parent has always been a tidy person and now the house is cluttered, daily chores might be too difficult.  Your parent also might fear slipping in the bath tub and avoid bathing.  Falls are the leading cause of injury for older adults and clutter is a big culprit.

If you’re friendly with your parent’s neighbors, ask them if they have notice a change in behavior.  Make sure that you are aware of any prescribed medicine and check that your parent has been taking it regularly.  Check that smoke detectors are in good working order.  If you don’t live nearby, it’s also a good idea to check with local community organizations that can check in on your parent and provide meal delivery and transportation if required.

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Organizing Your Home For Safety

As I’ve told my kids, everyone has at least one area of “weakness.”  For me, it’s organizing.  I admit, my desk is a mess and I spend way too much time trying to find misplaced keys or other items in the morning.  Part of the problem is I get distracted easily.  As I’m organizing one thing, another “to-do” comes into my mind and off I go – leaving one project half-finished as I move on to that other thought.

But I’ve come to realize that organizing is about more than just having a place for everything.  It’s about making sure that my home is safe from dangers and I’m prepared for an emergency.  I’ve committed to taking at least one day this week to do nothing but organize and make sure I’ve got my act together.

Even if you’re the most organized person and your best friend is a label maker, here are a few safety tips to keep in mind:

–          Rearrange linen closets so that dangerous items such as medicines and cleaning products are kept on the top shelves away from toddlers.  Linens and towels which won’t hurt them if they get into them are better positioned on the lower shelves

–          Do a quick inventory of all toys to make sure that there are no missing or broken pieces.  Store small toys that could present a choking hazard to smaller children in see-through bins with lids on them.  Take a photo of each toy that is kept in the bin and tape it to the outside so your child knows exactly what belongs in there.

–          Check cold medicines and other prescription drugs to make sure that they have not expired.  Stock up for all of these items you will need during the upcoming cold and flu season.

–          Check that smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are still in good working order and, if you don’t have a CO detector, place one outside every bedroom and one on each floor of the house.

Now is also a great time to prepare and practice emergency evacuation plans with your family.  Keep all emergency numbers on a laminated card attached to your refrigerator, plan an alternate escape route and assign a meeting place outside of the house in case of an emergency.

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