Exterior Safety Fixes for Your Parent’s Home
Last week we took care of questions and some fixes for interior home safety. Today I’ll address the questions asked in Wednesday’s post regarding exterior home safety for your aging parents or elderly clients.
Q. Standing at the street observe the front of the house. Are there any objects attached to the house which could fall and hit someone on the head or cause injury? Walk around the house and look at it from all sides for similar objects.
A. The objects you are looking for are loose rain gutters, window sashes, roof shingles,, decorative cornices, or any other object that could become a hazard if it were to come loose. Obviously, if you notice something either remove it or get it tacked firmly in place to prevent injury. Make this type of simple and quick evaluation every time you visit especially if there has been heavy rain, accumulated snow, or strong winds.
Q. As you walked around the house did you notice any broken or cracked windows? Were there torn screens, loose window sashes, or shutters that needed attention?
A. Torn screens invite household pests and bugs so get them repaired. Broken windows can cause cuts and allow easy access for burglars or other uninvited guests. Keeping the home in top notch shape at all times means less repair work that will need to be done if you ever need to sell the home.
Q. Do the same walk around the house after dark. Are steps, entryways, and pathways illuminated so that an elderly person would be able to see easily?
A. Remember that aging adults may have cataracts, glaucoma, or other vision problems that do not allow them to see as well as you do. Alleviate areas of potential danger for falls by having proper illumination. In order to avoid complicating things you can now install lights with timers or light sensitive switches that will turn on automatically. Instead of installing with electrical cords there are now also options for solar powered battery cells which save money and do away with electricity costs.
Q. Are there tree branches or shrubs rubbing against the house or windows? When the wind blows is it possible for a branch to come too close to a window and cause breakage?
A. This is another obvious fix. Keep tree branches trimmed so they are not rubbing against the house or windows. Shrubbery should also be pruned back so it doesn’t cause rubbing or rotting of the wood or siding and also prevents hiding places for animals or unsavory characters.
Q. Are there stairs leading down to a driveway, garage, or front walkway?
A. There is nothing wrong with stairs. Just make sure they are well-lit and attended to in wet or snowy weather. Arrange for someone to shovel, keep them ice-free and provide strong hand rails for safety?
Q. If the home is located in an area where there are cold winters who shovels the snow or deals with the ice?
A. If you, or another family member, do not live close enough to handle this task arrange for someone to handle these chores so your elderly parent, or client, has the security of knowing the task is taken care of and they do not need to strain themselves with this chore.
Q. In winter are there icicles that hang over walkways or stairs that could create a threat of injury?
A. Icicles breaking off can cause severe injury to anyone of any age. Arrange for whoever is shoveling the walkways to clear icicles from over stairways and walkways to prevent injury.
Q. Is the area prone to flooding?
A. Check that there is adequate flood insurance on the home if the residence lies in a flood plain. Also work with your parents or elderly client on an evacuation plan in case of flooding. Have backpacks with water, food, flashlights, batteries, a few days worth of medication, some clothing, emergency phone numbers, and cash packed and ready for easy pick-up if the home needs to be evacuated quickly. Have a checklist of items (including identification and credit cards, glasses, and credit cards) which should also be grabbed quickly on the way out. Be sure your parents, or client, has a plan of where they will go and who they will notify in case they need to evacuate. This plan also applies if the home is located in an area where hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes may occur.
Q. If there are large trees around the home when was the last time they were trimmed of any dead branches? Who does this work?
A. Trees need regular care to rid them of dead or broken branches. Regular attention to this will provide a much safer environment for all concerned.
Q. Who cleans the drains of leaves and how often?
A. At a minimum this task should be completed at least twice a year, although monthly would be preferable. If you, or a family member, are not available to do it arrange for whoever mows the lawn to check regularly to prevent build up of debris in the rain gutters. This saves wear and tear on the gutters, prevents back up flooding which can cause roof damage, and prevents larger maintenance issues from developing unseen.
Q. Are there hoses lying around that could be tripped over?
A. Anything that can be tripped over is an accident waiting to happen which can lead to a broken foot, injured leg, or broken hip in an elderly adult. Be sure all items are out of the way and stored for ease of use as well as safety.
Q. Where are the yard and gardening tools kept? Who sharpens them?
A. Tools should have a designated home in the garage, barn, or shed. With each use they should be returned there. Regular sharpening not only extends the life of tools, but allows them to function properly thereby potentially avoiding unnecessary injury.
Q. Who mows the lawn and handles other yard work chores if there is a yard?
A. We’ve addressed this a few times already in this post. If you, or a family member, cannot do the work then make arrangements to hire out the chores and make a plan with your parents, or client, about payment. Be sure the details are clear, get a contract in writing if possible, and follow through to be sure all parties are happy with the work being done.
Q. Is there a garage? Is the door electrically operated or manually? Is it easy to open and close?
A. Believe it or not many people still feel they can out run a closing automatic garage door. Review safety principles with your parents, or client, and make sure the controls work properly. If the door sticks in any areas or is hard to open or close make sure to grease the runners or get repairs done to avoid potential injury.
Q. Are there motion sensing lights strategically placed?
A. Motion activated lights deter uninvited guests such as racoons, skunks, and humans. They also serve as an early alert that someone, or something, is approaching the home. Other benefits were mentioned earlier in this post.
Q. Where are the trash cans located? Are they easy to get to? Do they have properly fitting lids?
A. Trash cans should be easily accessible from the home with tight fitting lids to deter marauding cats, raccoons, or other animal life. Be sure your parents, or client, is aware of trash pick-up day and a weekly phone call as a reminder from you, or another family member, may be in order to be sure the trash is taken to the curb on the appropriate day.
Q. Is there a pool or other body of water on the property or a creek running through it?
A. Review safety issues surrounding any body of water. Be sure gates are locked securely if young people will be around the home. Be sure any pool skirting, docks, or pathways are not slippery and with proper hand rail support.
Q. Do either of your parents (or your client) use a wheelchair or walker? Is there a ramp leading to at least one entrance of the home?
A. If ambulation is compromised there should be proper hand rails and a ramp if a wheelchair is utilized. Check to be sure that wheelchairs can fit through entry and exit doors easily and that doors swing out for quick exit from the home. Ramps should be built according to local building code instructions. Speak with the county building inspector if there are any questions about installing a ramp.
Q. Does the home have a forlorn look of abandonment or disrepair?
A. Allowing a home to look run down and uncared for is an open invitation to trespassers.
Q. If your parent (or clients) have pets is there an accumulation of animal feces in the yard?
A. We’ll address the issue of pets in depth during the month of July, but for today’s post consider the amount of animal feces the pet deposits in the yard or litter box. Feces attract bugs and can cause a health hazard if left unattended. If your parent, or client, is capable of cleaning up after their pet be sure they have tools and supplies that make the job easier. If they are unable to do the work themselves then consider hiring someone to “poo scoop” and walk the pet. As a last resort consider finding another home for the pet although this is not a good idea since the pets provide socialization, company, and comfort for your aging parents, or client.
Once again, this is not an exhaustive list of all the areas to look for when doing safety checks around the home of your aging parents or your client. Use your common sense, add additional items to this list and perform the checklist at least once a year, but preferably more often.
I invite you to get out there and do this as soon as possible. I’d love to hear what you’ve found and how you’ve fixed a problem area. Thanks for sharing this post with others who may find it beneficial.