This is the third and final installment of what has become an unintentional (but well-received) series on renters and holiday traveling. We looked at precautions you should take before leaving your apartment for a long vacation, as well as things that renters to consider before hosting others. But over the holidays a lot of people will go to visit their parents or family members who may be getting on in years. Some of these seniors may be living in rentals themselves as empty nesters, others may be still living in the family home. Either way, their ability to notice small problems before they turn into larger ones may be lacking, or their ability to repair these problems may be not as good as it once was.
While it can lead to some uncomfortable realizations about the health and well-being of your parents, it's still important for younger folks to take a moment and check the housing of the seniors that they visit over the holidays to make sure everything is in good shape. Here are some things you should look for:
1. Sniff the air. Do you smell anything sour that could indicate a mildew problem? How about sulfur - rotten eggs - which could mean a gas leak?
2. Ask when they last changed the batteries on the smoke detector and CO detector. If they don't have one or either of those devices, install them before you go. Test the sound to make sure they can hear it, or consider replacing beeping detectors with ones that use a bright flashing light as well as a beep. If your folks have a radon mitigation system installed also take a look at that to make sure it's in good condition.
3. Inspect walls and ceilings for signs of leaks. This could be bubbling paint, stained wall coverings or even oddly-placed pictures or wall-hangings that might be covering up damage.
4. Check along baseboards and inside cabinets for signs of pest infestation.
5. Observe how they get around the place. Are they able to handle the stairs? Can they manage cooking in their kitchen without harming themselves?
6. Make sure all drains clear fully and that hot water arrives at the tap in good time, with good pressure.
7. Take a look at the fusebox and then count up their electrical devices to make sure that nothing is getting overloaded. If you see any jury-rigged fuse replacements or circuit breakers taped in the "on" position, talk to them or their landlord about getting the wiring sorted out.
8. If they have a washer and dryer, disconnect the dryer's exhaust vent for a moment and check if any lint has built up.
9. If they have an old-fashioned thermostat in the place, make sure that they can still see the numbers on the dial, which can be tiny. You may want to consider marking the thermostat at the high and low temps so they can find it more easily.
10. Make sure all appliances - fridge, dishwasher, stove and microwave, water softeners and exhaust fans among others - are in good working order.
11. Older folks tend to have more stuff in their homes, accumulated over time. Make sure that paths from bedroom and living room to the door are clear of clutter and debris in case of fire.
12. Do your folks live in a snowy area? Make sure the landlord is clearing the walks and, if existent, the parking lot promptly and thoroughly. If they have to shovel their own walks, is there a local neighbor you can talk to about keeping an eye on them?
13. If they live in a community that provides shared facilities such as a health club, pool or even a long-term care facility that serves food, have a look in as many of those areas as you can get into. Check them over with the same scrutiny that you use within your folks' living quarters.
14. If they use oil heat, make sure the tank is filled to an acceptable level.
15. Make sure they know the name and number of someone in their property management office/landlord's family.
If you notice anything amiss while visiting your senior family members this holiday, don't hesitate to bring it up with their landlord on your own. You may not be able to demand repairs if you don't have power of attorney for your folks, but most sane landlords would be happy to know about problems early on so that they can be fixed before they turn into big disasters.
Can you think of anything else we left out? Let us know in the comments, and from all of us here at RentConfident have a great Christmas!
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