If mold is discovered in the home of the person you care for, it’s important to take the right precautions in identifying and removing it. Mold can cause health problems in older adults, as well as damage to the home. If left untreated, it can spread and cause even more damage. And if you don’t ensure it is thoroughly removed, the mold will return. Review these tips for the best next steps.
Call the Right Person
It’s important to know the type of mold you’re dealing with so you can eradicate it correctly. You also need to know how far it has spread. Mold often grows in unseen places, like behind walls, so one of the best things you can do if you find mold is to call a mold inspector. With the proper tools and know-how, a mold inspector will determine the scope of the problem and come up with a plan to completely eradicate it, restoring the home to health. Many will even come back after cleanup and retest to make sure the mold is out of the house.
Find Out Why You Have Mold
Is there a leak in a window or roof? Did a pipe leak inside the wall? Is the home too humid? Figure out why and how the mold made it to the home in the first place, and repair the problem so it doesn't return.
What About Insurance?
The insurance policy of the older adult you care for may cover mold removal. Before taking steps to remove the mold, make sure you involve the insurance company. A disaster relief company can advocate with the insurance company on the homeowner’s behalf to ensure they're fairly compensated.
Should You Remove the Mold Yourself?
This is the big question. Many people want to handle home issues themselves, but in a lot of cases, mold is not something to try and manage on your own. Older adults should be extra cautious, as the act of cleaning up mold can lead to health problems when not done right. If not done properly, the mold can even spread.
However, there are certain specific cases in which mold removal could be handled on your own:
- If the mold is only covering a small area, you may be able to tackle it safely.
- If it’s found on surfaces that are easy to clean — bathtubs, glass, etc. — it can be a DIY project.
- You can also take care of it yourself if it’s growing on surfaces like carpet that can be torn out and replaced.
If you opt to clean up the small mold area yourself, use bleach and water, and let the area dry completely. Make sure you wear protective clothing, rubber gloves, an N-95 respirator, and eye protection.
When Should You Leave the Job to the Professionals?
You should NOT attempt to remove the mold yourself if:
- the mold covers an area larger than 3 by 3 feet,
- if the mold is a result of flooding that involved sewage,
- if the mold is in the HVAC systems,
- if you’re experiencing symptoms of mold-related illnesses, or
- if you are in poor health.
Health Is Paramount
Has the older adult you care for been feeling allergy-like symptoms? Or maybe they’ve been having headaches or a persistent sore throat? These could be related to the mold in the home. Make sure your loved one goes to the doctor if they’ve been experiencing any illnesses that haven’t gone away. Let the doctor know that mold has been found in the home.
Is It Toxic?
The term “toxic” mold isn’t really accurate. Mold spores are everywhere, and mold on its own is not toxic. However, some molds, like black mold, produce mycotoxins, or toxic substances that can harm certain people. Older adults, infants, and people in poor health are at greatest risk of harm.
Common molds can also cause reactions in some people, so whether you’re dealing with black mold or not, it’s worth it to rid the home of any type of mold that is found.
And remember: timing is crucial. Mold spreads, so it’s important to act quickly.
How to Prevent Mold from Growing
Mold grows in moist places, so if you can keep the home’s humidity between 30 and 50 percent, you’re ahead of the game. Use venting fans or open a window in the bathroom or kitchen. Repair leaks as soon as you find them, don’t leave wet spots to sit, and keep gutters and downspouts free of debris. Open windows and doors of rooms that don’t get used often.
Mold is a common issue in many homes, but with preparation, know-how, and fast action, you can make sure it doesn’t harm the home's health or structure. Mold is scary to spot, but handling it quickly provides great peace of mind — to you and your older loved one.
About the Author
Deborah Lamberton is the general manager for New Life Restoration, a 24/7 disaster cleanup company that offers fire & smoke, water & storm damage, mold remediation and more.