Home inspections are essential in keeping our elders safe.
The goal is for them to continue living independently as long as possible. And for that to happen, we need to make sure that we limit potential accidents at home.
So what should you be expecting during home inspections?
And how can you keep your loved ones out of harm’s way while aging in place?
About 90% of Americans aged 50 and older want to stay at home as long as possible according to AARP.
Many choose to stay close to their communities despite the challenges of aging.
The challenge is keeping seniors safe while choosing to age in place. And regular home inspections can make that happen.
There are two necessary types of home assessments. The home evaluation and the home inspection.
A home evaluation is performed by a licensed Physical Therapist or Occupational Therapist. Recommendations are made to improve safety within the home related to mobility and ADL's.
Home inspections are completed by home inspectors and help identify problems with the structure of the existing home.
These can range from minor threats to greater risks related to the safety of the building and its construction.
Professionals who do home inspections make recommendations of what to repair and update to be up to current building codes.
They can set the standards for what is safest and promote universal designs.
Traditional home designs are not as safe as we think. And it was only in early 2000 that cities began to acknowledge the need for universal design in homes.
Houses built in the post-war period were not designed with aging in mind. Many of them are pre-fabricated, and could be ordered out of a Sear's catalog.
The problem is, many of the doorways and walkways are very narrow and lighting is often inadequate for aging eyes. There are many other concerns and issues that arise from a house that is 70+ years old.
We want to make sure that their living space is sturdy and comfortable.
And since most of the homes they live in are older, you need to identify potential hazards with the right inspections.
The goal of inspections is to make sure that the home’s physical structure and systems are working as intended.
It usually takes two to four hours depending on the size of the house.
A home inspector will use a comprehensive checklist to identify potential safety issues.
These can include electrical cords and cables and their positions around the house. Inspectors will check for exposed wiring and fire hazards.
Level flooring is also checked to determine if there has been any settling in the foundation that needs to be addressed. Making sure floors are level reduces risk of tripping, falling and injury.
Moving appliances closer to wall outlets also removes the need for extension cords which lessens tripping hazards.
Floorings and floor coverings such as carpets and rugs are also checked.
Inspectors will suggest removing any rugs that tend to slide on the floor surface. You can replace them with those that have slip-resistant backing.
Some elders are not as comfortable with new technology and still use wired telephones. Because of this, installed phones are also placed in strategic locations around the house.
Ideally, it should be in areas where it can be easily accessed during emergencies. These might include bedrooms, living areas, and kitchens.
Local police and fire departments, doctors’ numbers, family members, and neighbors should be listed where they can see them clearly.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is also more common than you might think.
CDC states that approximately 430 people die from accidental CO poisoning in the US alone. And about 50,000 people visit emergency departments due to accidental CO poisoning.
That’s why it’s necessary to check carbon monoxide alarms regularly, especially where elders live alone.
It's suggested that at least one smoke detector be installed on each floor of the house.
Detectors should be installed near the bedroom and placed away from air vents.
They will also examine electrical outlets and switches to see whether they indicate unsafe wiring conditions.
Inspectors will recommend an electrician if they locate such unsafe outlets.
And, they would suggest that switches and outlets should be fitted with cover plates to eliminate shock hazards.
Light fixtures are also inspected whether they are fitted with bulbs of the proper wattage. Bulbs with higher wattage can overheat and cause fires, especially in ceiling fixtures and recessed lights that trap heat.
Wood burning stoves were also common features in the past. And it’s necessary to keep these things in check.
Note that insurance companies may not cover fire losses if wood-burning stoves do not meet local codes.
So, it's better to have them properly installed by a qualified contractor.
Leaks can go undiscovered for a long time. What you might think are minor leaks can cause huge problems over time.
Water damage causes harmful molds. And drips on electrical panels might even start a fire.
Inspectors will also examine your hot water tank if it's high for legionella risk.
Legionella causes pneumonia. And continued exposure will result in recurrent sickness for elders.
Emergency exit plans are equally important for homes and buildings if a fire occurs. Because of this, windows, doorways, and other exits are checked to see if they meet standards.
A yearly examination allows you to spot problems early and fix them.
Homes fewer than ten years old may only require a home inspection every three years. But a complete house inspection every five years is essential for excellent home upkeep regardless of age.
It is also recommended to do routine checks around the house to fix minor issues. Doing so will help you determine if a professional is needed for the fix.
Keep the receipts for upkeeps and other maintenance tasks you’ve done. This way it’s easier for the inspector to see what else needs an update.
It’s also important to do checks especially when the season is changing.
Check on heating, ventilation, and insulation before winter comes to save on energy costs.
In the summertime, see if the air conditioning units are working well. If you’re in an area where rainfalls are frequent, check the roofs for holes and drips.
Check drainages, airways, and vents for potential fire hazards and sparks.
These can all be minor details in the house. But it can save you thousands of dollars if it's properly maintained.
Read more about safety tips to follow for senior care in winter here.
We’re already familiar with how to keep our elders’ homes safe. But as you know, there are also other areas of the house that need to be seen and evaluated for safety reasons
Here are some of the things you need to check in and around the house for quality home inspections.
Some homes have separate laundry rooms. Other ones are found in basements.
For elderly homes, make sure that railings are installed correctly on both sides of the stairs. It is best to consult a professional to keep measurements up to code.
If stairs are not carpeted, add adhesive stair treads for additional safety.
It’s also practical to paint the bottom step a different color. This will help your elders identify the last step from the basement floor.
Some cleaning agents, detergents, and fabric softeners come in large, heavy packaging. Take time to sort it out and divide it into smaller portions.
Doing so will make it more manageable for them to handle.
It also makes sense to provide your elders with socks with non-skid soles to keep them from slipping.
Make sure to put other cleaning agents and chemicals where they can be seen clearly. If possible, put them in cupboards where they can reach them easily.
Also, check for molds, leaks, or infestations, to avoid future health issues.
Make sure to keep the garage free from clutter.
Power tools and lawn chemicals are dangerous especially for seniors with dementia. Elders might be tempted to fix things inside the house on their own. And this may pose a greater danger for them.
So it’s best to keep your garage organized. Keep power tools and other dangerous substances and chemicals locked up at all times.
Add secure railings if there are any stairs involved. And it also helps to add a layer of security to garage doors if possible.
Garages present an easy entry point for trespassers and break-ins. So if this is a concern installing alarms and cameras in these areas can reduce worry.
Check for potential problems in automated garage doors. And make sure the alarms have fresh batteries every time.
Most seniors love to hang out on porches and front yards. But these also present a huge risk, especially if the porch is aged and made out of wood planks.
Check on railings and steps and make sure they’re steady, not wobbly.
Handrails are also a must, especially with steep stairs.
Repair broken steps and sidewalks as soon as possible. Or have an alternate route planned for them instead.
Be aware of sidewalks with broken bricks or uneven cracks. A petition to the local municipality may help bring awareness to needed repair of walkways.
Make sure the place also has adequate lighting even at night.
Some walkways and driveways are prone to freezing over. Avoid uncovered walkways when there is ice on the ground. Unless there is an emergency, the risk of a fall and fracture is too high.
Here’s a comprehensive home safety checklist you can download from HomeInstead.com.
Home inspections help ensure our elderly parents’ long-term independence.
The goal is for them to move around in their homes without worry or fear.
To do this, regular inspections for minor repairs are needed. Doing so will help you save time and money eventually.
But to make sure things are at par, it’s still best to have a professional home inspector do it for you.
This way, you can breathe easy knowing that your parents are healthy, safe, and happy.
That's all for today.
Take care, keep mom safe and have a great day!