Sandra Davies is a Care & Repair Caseworker covering the Swansea and Neath Port Talbot area. She visits older people needing help with their homes to carry out free Healthy Homes Checks.

Care & Repair do 14,000 of them each year, but what is a Healthy Homes Check? We joined Sandra on a client visit to find out.

It’s early on a warm June morning and Sandra is visiting Margaret, a 91-year-old lady in Port Talbot. Margaret has lived in her small semi-detached home for 65 years.

Margaret’s daughter is there when Sandra arrives, and they all take a seat in the lounge among Margaret’s photos of her late husband, children, and grandchildren.

Sandra has been asked to visit because Margaret had tripped on her back step and was lucky not to hurt herself. “I will have a look at your back step for you to see what we can do”, Sandra explains, “but I will also do a Healthy Homes Check, which will help find other ways we can help you and stop you from tripping anywhere else.” Margaret is a bit unsure about this and does not want to cause any fuss. “It just means I will ask you a few more questions.” Sandra says, so Margaret agrees.


Sandra checking the bathroom for hazards

A Few Questions

The first few questions Sandra asks are about health, such as: have you recently been discharged from hospital, and what types of medication are you currently on? This is important because it helps Sandra understand how mobile Margaret is and if any health conditions could impact her safety at home, such as dementia or arthritis.

Next is falls. Has Margaret had a fall in the last 12 months? If so, where has this happened? 50% of people over 80 will fall once a year, and many falls are serious and result in a hospital visit.

Then, a question about cold in the home – does it get too cold for you and does your boiler work properly? This is often overlooked, but a cold home makes health conditions worse and can lead to mould and damp in the home. Sandra also asks if Margaret wants to be added to the Priority Services Register – this is a list the energy companies have of people who they offer extra help to if there is a power cut or disruption to services.

Finally, Sandra wants to know if Margaret is receiving all the correct benefits. She offers to check if she is eligible for Pension Credit, but Margaret says she is content with what she has. Many older people don’t receive all the benefits that they are entitled to. Care & repair Caseworkers can help complete the forms and submit the applications for clients, making it easy and stress-free.


Sandra on the stairs looking at the carpet

Checking the Home

The second part of a Healthy Homes Check is to have a quick look around the home.

Sandra starts in the bathroom, and within a few seconds spots two locations where grab rails would make it easier and safer for Margaret to get around. These can be installed in less than 20 mins by a Care & Repair handyperson.

Next, Sandra inspects the stairs. There is a handrail, but Sandra notes that there is nothing where the steps turn at the bottom. A longer handrail would be better. It is also noted that the carpet is snagging, which is particularly dangerous on the stairs.

Every Healthy Homes Check includes a quick test of Fire and Carbon Monoxide Alarms.A check is done and one seems to be unresponsive. Care & Repair can arrange free fitting of Carbon Monoxide or fire alarms if this is ever needed.

Finally, and most importantly for Margaret, the access into the home is checked. The back step requires a handrail, and at the front it is noticed that the step-down is extremely narrow, meaning that you must turn your foot to step onto it. Sandra says that it can be altered for safety and peace of mind.


Assessing the front entry – is it safe?

Next Steps

­­With the Health Homes Check complete, Sandra needs to discuss what happens next. With Margaret’s permission, it is decided that a handyperson from Care & Repair will come out to install the grab rails, secure the carpet on the stairs and asses the front step to see what can be done. This work is funded by Welsh Government as well as the local authority.

Margaret agrees, and Sandra assures her she can change her mind about the benefits check at any point.

A form is signed, and contact details shared, with Sandra promising to be in touch.

These simple changes mean that Margaret can look forward to her 66th year in her beloved home, and many more to come.

The back door step needs a rail

Healthy Homes Checks are carried out by Care & Repair Agencies. If you would like to request a Healthy Homes Check, then please contact your nearest Care & Repair.

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