Home inspections can help older adults safely age in place
As Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.” According to a survey from Capital Caring Health, older adults overwhelmingly prefer to age in place rather than move to an assisted living facility or nursing home. The problem is that sometimes our homes aren’t the safest place. There are trip hazards, fire hazards, and a myriad of other things that can go wrong. A home inspection can help uncover serious defects that pose a risk to older adults—and you may even save money in the long run. Here’s what you can expect.
How Does a Home Inspection Help Older People?
The purpose of an aging-in-place inspection is to identify hazards or defects in a home that may pose a risk to older adults. Some of the most significant issues are trip, slip, and fall hazards. According to research, every $1 spent modifying a home to reduce the risk of falls saved $1.50 in medical expenses for those aged 75 or older.
According to Dan Howard, president of the Pittsburgh-based home inspection company Envirospect, home inspections are crucial for older adults because even if you think your home is well-maintained, contractors may take shortcuts. A home inspector won’t, and they’ll give you advice about how you can make your home more accessible.
Overall, staying home lets older adults maintain their routine, remain close to family and friends, and live without the possible limitations of care facilities. It also helps them avoid or delay the additional cost. According to AARP, the average monthly cost of a one-bedroom unit in an assisted living facility is $4,300. That number more than doubles if you need nursing home care.
What to Expect From an Aging-in-Place Home Inspection
During an aging-in-place home inspection, inspectors will look for a broad range of potential hazards and defects. Some of these are akin to what you can expect from a regular home inspection. Others are more specialized to identify and eliminate risks for older adults. They’ll also consider your unique health considerations and suggest ways you can make your home more accessible.
Identifying Trip and Slip Hazards
Falls are the leading cause of injury and death in adults over 65, but you can mitigate your fall risk by removing specific hazards. During your inspection, a home inspector will look at potential areas that pose a risk of tripping, slipping, and falling. They may suggest:
Removing shaggy carpets; slippery rugs, runners, and mats; loose electrical cords, and other potential hazards
Repaving walkways and driveways
Removing entryway floor seams
Installing non-slip coverings on tile or hardwood
Repairing broken or loose flooring
Suggesting Accessibility Modifications
Installing a ramp and widening doorways for wheelchairs and walkers
Installing shelving near the front entryway so you can easily put down your belongings while locking and unlocking the door
Replacing doorknobs and faucets with levers
Replacing your oven door so you don’t need to bend over
Examining Your Home for Fire and Carbon Monoxide Risks
A home inspector will examine your home for fire and carbon monoxide risks. This includes:
Ensuring that light fixtures are fitted with bulbs of the proper wattage
Ensuring that smoke detectors are working and up to par with safety regulations
Checking outlets and switches to identify faulty electrical wiring
Checking wood-burning stoves for proper installation
Checking HVAC systems for gas and fuel leaks
Ensuring that chimneys aren’t loose or blocked
Checking Plumbing for Leaks
Leaks can easily go unnoticed, but it’s not uncommon for minor leaks to cause big problems. Water damage leads to mold, which can cause health issues, and a leak that’s dripping on an electrical panel can ruin appliances or even cause a fire.
Examining Your Hot Water Tank for Legionella Risk
Legionella causes pneumonia, especially in people with compromised immune systems. Continued exposure will cause repetitive illness. Since older adults can be at an increased risk, home inspectors will look at your hot water tank. At low temperatures, water tanks can be breeding grounds for that type of bacteria.
Preventing Contractor Fraud
Older adults are most at-risk for home improvement fraud. An inspector will help identify what work needs to be done and if past work was done properly. Ask plenty of questions and search for a single inspector with specific experience in home inspections for older adults.
How can I get an Aging-in-Place Home Inspection?
Home inspections typically cost between $200 and $500, but you’ll pay the most for a larger home in an area with a high cost of living. You can go about hiring an inspector for an aging-in-place home inspection in a couple of ways. You can search for a qualified, licensed inspector on your own, but you can also tap an organization like the Senior Home Safety Network (SHSN).
The SHSN, based in Pittsburgh, is a national network of inspectors who help older adults and the relatives of older adults who want to safely age in place. The network operates in 50 different cities, and you can call a regional office to schedule an inspection.