As our loved ones age, they might become less likely to have the energy or money to deal with the hassle of home repairs. For those who used to routinely fix things themselves, you might be surprised to notice small problems going unchecked over time.
Your loved one’s house is a form of retirement plan, in that it continues to grow in equity that can be taken out as cash if needed or sold if your loved one decides to downsize. Maintaining the home is a vital way to preserve their nest egg, but sometimes elderly relatives and neighbors need a helping hand.
The most troublesome repairs are roof and foundation repairs. In states where hail damage is common, the roof repair might be all or partially covered by insurance.
As seniors lose mobility, they may need to make some changes to the bathroom such as foregoing a tub for a walk-in (or roll-in) shower. They may need to create a master bedroom on the first floor to avoid climbing stairs, or they might need to install a wheelchair ramp and a wider exterior door for accessibility.
If a major project or renovation isn’t covered by their insurance, there are several other ways to pay for it. Habitat for Humanity has an elder care division to assist with volunteers, supplies, and funding for projects like this, although they can have long waiting lists or lead times. There are also government grants that can provide assistance, but it may take some time to apply and process.
Keep in mind that seniors are often targeted for a wide variety of scams, so they should be wary about supposed contractors that approach them offering a deal. Their insurance company can usually suggest reputable contractors, but there are also volunteer groups across the country that specialize in helping seniors as well.
Seniors may need assistance filling out forms, submitting them online, or attending meetings, but they might also need some encouragement while they go through the process. For homes that might still be classified under USDA’s Rural Development program, there are special loans available to the elderly for home repairs and renovations as well.
If your loved one has suffered a debilitating or terminal illness and doesn’t have time to wait for the government approval process, the first question you might ask is, “Can you sell your life insurance policy?” This process, sometimes called a viatical settlement, can happen much more quickly and can give them the funds they need to make necessary livability repairs, take the vacation they always wanted to take, or pay for medical expenses not covered by insurance.
Help them stay on top of small repairs that could turn into big problems down the road. Inspect for plumbing leaks, clogs, appliance issues, and deteriorating or flooding walkways/driveways that could become dangerous in inclement weather.
Ensure they have enough insulation in the walls and attic to help keep their utility bills low. Check for broken glass in windows and overgrown shrubs that might impede the entrance and exit. Lastly, ensure there is a safe path to and from the mailbox.
Enlist the help of a trusted neighbor if you cannot visit frequently enough to mow and landscape, and ask if a monthly full-house cleaning would be helpful.
Schedule a visit for annual maintenance to clean gutters, replace batteries and HVAC filters, and put out a sealable container of ice melt or cat litter prior to the arrival of ice and snow. Discuss annual HVAC maintenance and things like chimney cleaning, and watch the exterior for peeling paint or caulk that can lead to water infiltration.
If you don’t live nearby, search for a local volunteer group that can perform routine wellness checks on your loved one and ask them to observe the condition of the home and provide suggestions for repairs. As you make repairs and maintain your own home, think about whether your loved one’s home needs the same work completed.