When you bring your trick-or-treaters over to your parents’ house on Halloween, do you wonder whether the creaking sound coming from mom and dad’s front porch is a spooky store-bought soundtrack or something scarier like termite damage?
If you’re concerned, it might be time for you to take a closer look at the condition of all the floors and steps in the old family home with an eye towards safety for your parents and your kids.
Use the checklist below to help guide your review of the exterior and interior of the property. Many of the safety measures listed can be made at little-to-no cost, but if the home needs more significant modifications it could require a considerable investment.
Keep in mind, there are financial options available for seniors who want to modify their homes to meet their changing needs. Area Agencies on Aging, state and local governments, and some non-profits offer grants, loans, or other assistance programs for eligible seniors in need of home repairs and modifications.
Older homeowners may also want to consider using a reverse mortgage loan to convert a portion of their home’s equity into cash proceeds that can be used for many reasons, including home modifications and maintenance.
Unlike a home equity loan, a reverse mortgage requires no monthly mortgage payments and cannot be frozen or reset.
Borrowers do not have to repay the loan balance until the last eligible spouse permanently leaves the home, or if they fail to meet their loan obligations, which include staying current on property taxes, insurance, and any condominium or HOA fees.
For a comprehensive review of reverse mortgage loans and a Borrower Roadmap to the loan process, visit reversemortgage.org, a consumer education website hosted by the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association.
Start on the outside:
Make sure the driveway and any paved walkways are smooth and stable. Seal any cracks before more damage is created. Crumbling or uneven concrete surfaces should be repaired.
Porch and deck flooring should be flat, even, and non-slip. Any loose or broken floor boards should be nailed down or replaced.
Outdoor steps should have sturdy, easily-graspable handrails.
The porch and entryway should be well-lit and light switches should be easily accessible.
Consider whether the doorway to the home can be converted to a no-step entrance way. There are many creative ways to achieve this.
Check out the inside:
Floors should be flat and non-slip; floor boards should be stable and carpets should be free of holes and tears that could create a tripping hazard.
Throw rugs should be fully fastened to the floor with tacks or double sided tape, or taken out of the house.
All stairs and steps should be flat and even, and clutter should be removed.
Add non-slip treads to stairs that are not carpeted
Stairways should have solidly mounted handrails on both sides of the steps if possible, and should be well-lit.
If your parents face mobility challenges and stairs are an obstacle to accessing different levels of the home, consider installing a chairlift that will enable them to enjoy all of the rooms in the house again.
Pay special attention to any hazards that could contribute to falls, which are the cause of more than half of product-related emergency room visits for adults ages 65-74, and account for more than three quarters of emergency room visits for adults 74 and older, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
This checklist was adapted from resources by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.