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Top tips for home maintenance and safety as your needs change


There are a few simple ways that you can make sure your parents’ home is safe and comfortable as they start to get older, particularly if they’re intending on staying in their home for the years to come.

Here are five of the most important things to keep in mind when getting the home ready for later life.

  1. Ensure all essential appliances (heating, cooling and hot water service) are maintained and in good working order. Often you don’t realise the air conditioning isn’t functioning well until a heatwave, and this is when technicians and replacement units can be extremely difficult to source.
  2. Ensure smoke alarms are in place, preferably hardwired, and working properly.
  3. Have a licensed plumber check all flexi-hoses (the connection from the water main to any major appliance like a sink or toilet) to ensure they are in good condition.
  4. Apply non-slip finish to baths and showers.
  5. Ensure there are handrails or grip rails in place in wet areas, by the toilet and near stairs.

Common problems

If you’re helping your parents to stay comfortable in their home as they get older – whether it’s the family home, a down-sized apartment, or in a retirement village – there are a few common repairs they should be prepared to expect.

These usually include:

  • Small plumbing repairs
  • Heating or cooling system repairs
  • Hot water service repairs
  • Unblocking of drains or toilets
  • Appliances including ovens and washing machines
  • Getting locked out of the house.

Apia Home Assist

Apia Home Assist* provides emergency assistance 24/7 with attendance within two hours for common emergency repairs. It’s a service that can provide comfort for loved ones who live far away from their older relatives in situations such as lockouts, heating and cooling system failures and electricity failures or issues by providing attendance by a trusted Apia-appointed tradesperson. You can find out more or get a quote online here.

Home modifications

Aside from making sure your parents’ home is well maintained, it may be worth considering making some modifications so that they’re able to live more comfortably as they get older. Modifications generally involve improving layouts, adjusting structures and replacing fittings so that an older person is able to move safely through and around the house. They’re also designed to reduce the risk of injury and to alert people if there is an emergency.

Modifications to consider include:

  • Installing ramps and rails
  • Widening doorways
  • Altering bathrooms and kitchens (e.g. lowering bench heights)
  • Relocating light switches and power points
  • Installing emergency alarms and monitoring systems or smart technology to control lighting and blinds.

Importantly, home modifications can also help carers, which may be necessary if your parents end up requiring assistance as they get older. For example, the use of a grab rail to get out of the bath can reduce the load on lifting, and ramps will make using mobility aids easier.

Any modifications to the home should always be designed and built by qualified professionals and tradespeople. An occupational therapist or other allied health professional may be needed to assess the situation and specify the modifications required.

There are some organisations around Australia that can help give you guidance with this.

Home Modifications Australia

Home Modifications Australia is the national peak and industry body that represents home modifications providers for the aged and people with disabilities. They’re the only organisation that operates as a representative and advocacy group for home modifications. The website includes a directory of occupational therapists, consultants and services providers.

Home Modification Information Clearinghouse

The Home Modification Information Clearinghouse was established in 2002 and is an information service tasked with collating, reviewing and creating the evidence base for best practice modification of the home environment.

Livable Housing Australia

Livable Housing Australia is also able to assist people with designing and certifying their current or future home for a lifetime of living. It has a simple self-assessment tool that guides you through many of the design considerations.

To read more about helping your parents prepare their home and lifestyle as they get older, download The Guide to Living Well here.

For more information, call the Five Good Friends and Apia Care Advice line on 1300 50 27 42.

*You must hold an Apia Home Insurance policy to be eligible for Apia Home Assist. Apia Home Assist is available in selected New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland postcodes only. Apia Home Assist is only available to you 24 hours after adding the option to a new or existing policy. Terms and conditions apply. Australian Pensioners Insurance Agency Pty Ltd (Apia) ABN 14 099 50 996-AR 239591 is an authorised representative of AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 AFSL 230859 (AAI), the issuer of home insurance. Read the PDS on this website before making any decisions about this insurance. Information provided is general advice only and has been prepared without taking into account any person’s particular objectives, financial situation or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.

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