Household Maintenance Check for a Home-bound Senior
When you are a caregiver looking in on a home-bound senior who lives alone, whether you do so every day, or just occasionally, it is good to do a simple household maintenance check for that senior. This is especially important when the senior has poor vision or hearing or mobility, which would cause them to be less observant of their own safety and security and more vulnerable to risks.
Often, safety risks occur because things around the house are worn out and have never been replaced, like burned out light bulbs. Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms may be in place in the home, but do the batteries still work? They need to be tested regularly. Often repairs are not done because of lack of funds or the need has slipped someone’s attention.
Time for a Visit
Are there obstacles in the pathways around the home which are fall risks to the senior? Can the senior with a mobility impairment get to the mailbox or take the garbage to the curb? These little tasks of household maintenance can make a difference in living independently at home for a senior.
That’s why your visit is very helpful. Spend a few minutes noticing things that can be problems. Let’s make a list of a few household maintenance checks that can make a big difference in a home-bound senior’s safety.
Household Safety Check Inspection:
- Locked front door and back door. Do these doors lock and stay locked? Can the senior work the locks independently? Do they check them to make sure the doors lock before leaving the house or going to bed? Can they find the keys for these doors?
- Outdoor lighting around the entrance and exits. It is so important to keep a light on the front porch or steps to the entrances and exits. Yes, lighting can keep away burglars, but lighting also protects the homeowner when they are coming and going also. Sometimes a senior can’t reach the light fixture to change the bulb. Would you do that, please?
- Handrails on steps. Handrails should be used to climb stairs anywhere on the property, outdoors and indoors. Having a reliable handrail along stairs helps the senior to be active and as independent as possible around the home. Take a look at the handrails. Are there handrails where they are needed? How stable and steady are they? Missing or unstable handrails around steps are just accidents waiting to happen. Seniors and their visitors need handrails in place. These can be purchased at most home building stores, or they can be built by a carpenter.
- Smoke alarm, carbon monoxide alarm and fire extinguisher. Check the batteries every time you visit. Buy some extra batteries and keep them on hand. Is there a fire extinguisher in the home and does it work? Can the senior reach it in an emergency? Often, a local fire department or Scout group will give away free smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and fire extinguishers and will even come to your home to install them.
- Check the distances. Can they reach it? For mobility impaired seniors, the distance to the garbage container outdoors may be an obstacle. Can you find a better location for it? What about clothing storage in the house? Are they able to reach their winter sweaters and coats when they’re needed? Often, just a few rearrangements of bars or shelves in a closet can put what they need in front of them. Ask the senior how they get their mail or their newspaper deliveries. There is a way to arrange for the mail to come to their front door. Read our article “Hardship Mail Delivery” about how the Post Office can assist in this situation.
- What needs to be fixed or replaced? Have you found dripping faucets, burned food, water on the floor near the washing machine, or a moldy smell in the fridge? These are the sights, sounds, and smells of trouble in the house. Are there home appliances and fixtures that need to be fixed or replaced? Ask the senior about these things, and then follow-up to get some help in the house with this. Your Area Agency on Aging or Seniors’ Center may be able to help you find low-cost repairs or appliance discount programs for seniors.
Your visit is very important to your loved one. When you come over, take time to sit and talk with them, and remind them that they are important to you. One way to show you care is to notice the little things that could help them be safer and more comfortable, and by giving them some of your time to a household maintenance check.