Just like Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.” The modern version of those famous words is “Aging in Place”. The goal is to be able to live in your home with your memories, freedom and possessions as long as possible.
From a senior citizen’s point of view, no matter how good an assisted living facility is, it’s still not “home.” There is limited space for photos, treasured furnishings, and keepsakes. There are rules about the time to wake and eat meals and how loud the TV can be set. Personal care facilities are often away from familiar activities such as church and shopping. They are usually more difficult for friends and family to visit.
The cost of living at home as compared to a facility is another major reason to live in the family home as long as possible. According to the AARP, on average across the country, the cost of a nursing home averages $75,000 as compared to a cost of care at home of$18,000 per year for each person.
There are many reasons to save money by “aging in place.” The savings can be money available for future health care, a better standard of living or preserving an estate. All of these are worthwhile goals.
As a society, we embrace the importance of helping seniors stay in their homes. There are programs to bring food and company. Services are available to provide home care, transportation and spiritual assistance. However, help with taking care of the physical home itself was a missing piece in the “Aging in Place” puzzle until the Senior Home Safety Network (SHSN) was founded.
Based in Pittsburgh PA, SHSN is a national network of inspectors dedicated to helping seniors and their children too busy or too far away to keep the parents home’s safe. Now in more than 50 cities across the country, their goal is to help seniors to live safely in their homes as long as possible.
No matter who we are, at some point everybody will leave the home they treasure. The home will be inspected for new owners, and most likely be made safe for the new occupants. Why not check a home for safety while seniors are still in the home instead of waiting for the new owners? In addition to increased safety, understanding the condition of a home allows homeowners to do less costly preventive maintenance instead of expensive repairs.
Senior Home Safety Network inspections can also bring peace of mind to the children of seniors.
More adult children live away from their parents and do not realize the conditions of their parents’home. Even if they do, they do not have the time or the knowledge to correct the hazards in their loved ones homes.
Many Types of Serious Defects are Found in “Aging in Place” Inspections
Legionella which often makes the news is more common than most people realize. A low temperature in the hot water tank can allow the Legionella bacteria to grow. Persons with compromised immune systems contract pneumonia from the Legionella, but the cause of the pneumonia is often not diagnosed, the illness is simply treated with antibiotic. Continued exposure can result in repetitive pneumonia episodes. Others with respiratory illness may find themselves unable to recover because of unknown mold contaminations in their home.
Many heating service people check whether a furnace will properly turn on, but do not check for blocked chimneys, carbon monoxide or other gas and fuel leaks. If a shortcut s is taken in a new furnace installation, the service person isn’t going to tell a homeowner, but an inspector will.
Undiscovered minor plumbing leaks can create major problems such as plaster damage or mold if not caught early.
It is not unusual to have leaks into electrical panels or overheating wires go undetected until there are major problems such as damage to appliances or even a fire.
Stairs, decks or brick chimneys can be coming loose and not be noticed. Even if the homeowner knows what to look for, when it is a struggle to get through a day because of health issues, noticing a defect is just not easy.
Many times Senior Home Safety Network inspectors have prevented contractor fraud or provide more economical solutions saving seniors their precious savings.
Suggestions to Help Seniors Live Safe in Their Homes as Long as Possible
Hang a marked medical information bag near the front door. This can be as simple as a canvas bag labeled “Medical Information” with a magic marker in big letters hung on a hook by the front door. Medical information is critical during a medical emergency. Having this bag in plain sight can make a life or death difference in a medical emergency.
Install a keyless combination door lock at an exterior door. A code combination lock can provide access to friends, relatives or emergency personnel without the delay that usually occurs before someone is willing to break down a door.
Add an exterior blinking light for emergency personnel.This does not need to be fancy. It can be an extension cord run through a window with a colored light bulb screwed into a socket that has a built in blinker. Cost for this should be under $20.00.
Purchase a freeze alarm. Snowbirds and winter vacationers alike can avoid the possible flooding and major damage of their home if the heat goes out and pipes freeze. There are alarm units that will call out to another phone number before homes or crawl spaces freeze. Many of these are available for under $ 100.00.
Seniors should learn to Skype. This is great for seeing grandchildren. It also gives peace of mind to relatives by letting family members see that mom or dad is doing well.
Change bathroom doors to open out toward the hallway instead of into the bathroom. Many medical emergencies happen in the bathroom. If the door opens outward, help can enter a bathroom without breaking down a door over a fallen person. A quality carpenter should be able to remove a door, turn it around and reinstall it in less than 4 hours.
Change turning door knobs to lever handles. Everyday living is easier with lever handles and when trying to get through a door to call for help or escape a fire, it can make a life or death difference.
Many home accidents happen getting into or out of the bathtub. Changing from a bathtub to a shower can cost thousands of dollars, but is much less expensive than having a broken hip.
For links to additional information about home safety for seniors, go to: www.SeniorHomeSafetyNetwork.com to find a certified inspector near you.