We Want Our Seniors to Stay in their Homes,
But Are We Keeping Their Homes Safe?!!
Those of us of a certain age remember Walt Disney as the wonderful man who made us smile. He was on TV welcoming and entertaining our families on Sunday nights. He was creator of some of the happiest places on earth. Yet, he was haunted with the burden that the home he and his brother, Roy, bought for their parents killed his mother and almost killed his father. Neal Gabler, in his book ‘Walt Disney’, relays the story of the home the Disney brothers bought for their parents. One of the features that sold them on that home was a wonderful “modern furnace.” As soon as their parents moved into the home, the furnace began to malfunction. Walt sent a maintenance person from his studio to repair the furnace but the repairs were not properly made. Soon after, Flora, his mother died in that home from carbon monoxide poisoning.
There are programs to help seniors and others in need such as with doctor visits and with prepared meals. A child might send in visiting nurses to help seniors, but what are they doing to make sure that their homes are safe? The Center for Disease Control states that home hazards are one of seniors’ most significant health risks. There is no better program to fund than keeping people safe within the confines of their home. Are we dedicated to our seniors?
As senior citizens age or become ill, it becomes more difficult to keep up with the demands of home ownership.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be confused with the flu. Electrical hazards, frayed wires, bad extension cords or unsanitary plumbing conditions are ignored. Walt Disney’s mother died from carbon monoxide in a home her sons bought for her. They never got over it. Would you?
Calling a contractor to repair or remodel an area is not a safety check. Specialized contractors almost never look at safety hazards in the entire home. The electrical contractor does not “see” the sewer or roof leak. Walt Disney’s repair man didn’t look past the question of “did the furnace turn on.” Some contractors even defraud our seniors with bad, inappropriate or unneeded repairs.
There’s a story about a guy named Louie. He was the sweetest man you would want to meet. After he retired, he fixed things for people. He and his wife lived in their own home in a senior community in Florida. That is a long way from where his children lived in Pittsburgh PA, but it was also away from snow and ice which is what mattered to them.
Louie was the person who made the coffee in the community building at 6:00 AM. He fixed roof leaks, broken outlets, and loose steps. You name it, he fixed it. Then the Alzheimer’s got worse and that is one thing he could not fix. His children were surprised when he asked them to come down and fix things in their home. There were several outlets with the wires hanging out of the boxes. The paddle fan over the bed was “sort of” hanging on one side. The children fixed a lot of things that week. That was the first time that the children learned that their parents had driven their car through their neighbors’ yards a few times and that they had gotten lost while walking on the road they had lived on for decades. They had no idea about this behavior. The phone calls and previous short visits seemed normal. The children soon moved them back to Pittsburgh.
Louie’s story has an important lesson. Our seniors need their homes checked for safety. The ironic thing is that most homes get inspected and repairs made when the home is sold. Think of it. Seniors could be living for long periods with unsafe conditions. Sometimes these conditions result in injury and sometimes it diminishes their health. Roof or basement leaks can cause the mold that affects the lungs. The resident contracts pneumonia and that leads to congestive heart failure. The loose rail results in the broken hip and that is the injury that keeps the resident from returning to their home. Repairs happen before a new owner takes over a home and by the same token seniors should also be living in a well-maintained home. Don’t wait until they are dead before you make the necessary repairs.
Every year more and more adult children are living away from their parents and do not realize the conditions of their parents’ homes. Even if they do, they may not have the time or knowledge to correct the home safety hazards their loved ones are living with.
Our Senior Safety Audit is the answer. This is a checkup that addresses the needs of our seniors and other “staying in place” individuals. There are also other populations now living in their homes that previously were forced to live in institutions or group homes that will be served by this program.
Our inspectors understand the needs of seniors and other at-risk individuals. They are equipped to deal with safety and other problems of the home environment. They understand that the health and safety of our “staying in place” citizens can be fragile and needs to be handled with extreme tenderness and care.
Here are some examples of what is included in these checkups:
1. Railings need to be on every set of stairs. Loose railings are more of a hazard than no railing at all and these need to be secured. Railings need to be on the open side of stairways when there is a place to fall to the side. Proper lighting is also required for all stairways.
2. Oil and gas fueled furnaces need to be checked for proper venting. Gas and oil lines need to be checked for leakage. CO and smoke detectors need to be appropriately installed. The issue of kerosene heaters that are filled with liquid fuel on combustible flooring needs to be addressed. Placement and use of space heaters or unsafe practices such as use of a stove to heat a home needs to be checked and corrected.
3. The issue of too high of a hot water tank temperature can result in a burn injury to a senior. On the other hand, too low of a temperature can allow Legionella to grow in the hot water tank resulting in Legionnaires’ Disease, often misdiagnosed as pneumonia.
The bottom line is that while we were young, our parents kept us safe at home. They value the security and warmth of being in their home as much as we did as children. Now it is our turn to keep them safe.
Some of the Many Reasons For Home Safety Checkups
Auxiliary & Space Heaters
Missing or inoperative CO & Smoke detectors
Trip and fall hazards
Improperly stored chemicals
Loose or missing stairs and rails
Unsanitary plumbing conditions
Improper hot water temperature
Improperly stored chemicals
Moisture intrusion, leaks
Environmental health hazards
Everyday seniors are injured, become ill or even die because of hazards in their homes resulting in fires, carbon monoxide poisoning, falls and many other tragic events . It happened yesterday and it will happen again tomorrow if we do not do something about it.
Other seniors will not get well because of health issues in the home, such as mold - making their respiratory problems worse or Legionella in their hot water tank causing pneumonia.
HAWKEYE SENIOR SAFETY AUDITS IS HERE TO HELP
The Hawkeye Companies is a company of inspectors dedicated to keeping seniors safe in their home. PLEASE CONTACT US AT 978-897-70130 for more information.