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Stay at Home Solutions blogs on topics such as aging in place, universal design, adaptive equipment, home modifications, accessibility, durable medical equipment, legislation, and caregiving.

Posts in accessibility
Do I Really Need a Ramp as I Age?

This answer is: not really. It depends on how well you plan changes to your home!

Ramps are mostly a utilitarian tool for houses with steps to enter. I’ve never known anyone to say that they would LOVE to have a ramp attached to their house. More people would rather have a zero step entry.

But if life sneaks up on you and you have little time to plan, a ramp is a good option to keep in mind to keep that ability to get in and out of your house. Let’s go over what types of ramps exist!

Photo of modular ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of modular ramp by Upside Innovations

Modular ramp:

Modular ramps are cost effective in that they can be prepped in one location and assembled in another. They are reusable, which is great for low income families or people who need to move to a different home. Modular ramps are considered a temporary structure and require no permit to build.

Here’s a link for more information on how to build a modular ramp from a local non profit in Minnesota. You can even add stairs to this model!

Permanent ramp:

Photo of wooden permanent ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of wooden permanent ramp by Upside Innovations

You do need a permit from your city to build a permanent ramp. These ramps are typically made of aluminum, wood, or concrete. Consider building this type of ramp if you are planning to live in your home for a lifetime.

Permanent ramps are the most expensive ones on the list. Make sure that you are satisfied with the design of the ramp before you build! Any last minute changes could be VERY expensive!

I would also double check and make sure the surface of the ramp will resist feeling slick from rain or ice. Have you ever pushed or pulled something with wheels up a hill or ramp when it’s slippery? If you haven’t, it’s NOT easy! I don’t want my ramp to turn into a slide if I can help it!

Transportable ramps:

I grouped the following ramps together because they are all designed to be set up and taken down frequently over a few steps: telescopic, folding, and suitcase. They are typically made of aluminum and some sort of anti-slip tape or treads.

Photo of telescopic ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of telescopic ramp by Upside Innovations

Telescopic ramps have two separate troughs for the right and left wheels of a wheelchair. This is a bad choice for scooters due to the third wheel in the middle!

Photo of foldable ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of foldable ramp by Upside Innovations

Folding ramps come in a variety of different sizes and are either bi-fold or tri-fold. They are foldable in order to conserve space when stored. People typically use these ramps to get in and out of a wheelchair accessible van.

Photo of suitcase ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of suitcase ramp by Upside Innovations

Suitcase ramps are bi-folds with handles to make it less awkward to carry. They vary in length from two to six feet, which makes it convenient to throw in the trunk of a car if you’re travelling or visiting family or friends.

Always check the weight limitations that transportable ramps can support. For instance, power wheelchairs can weigh up to 250 pounds alone! You definitely want to have a ramp that can support the power wheelchair plus a person.

Threshold ramps:

Photo of threshold ramp by Upside Innovations

Photo of threshold ramp by Upside Innovations

This type of ramp is used to maneuver over a small barrier, like a door threshold or a curb. They’re made of rubber or metal and are very lightweight. Threshold ramps work on heights from ½ to six inches, so please don’t try and stack them if you need a height exceeding that (speaking from experience!).

Rampscape:

Lastly, let’s talk about my favorite type of ramp, the rampscape. They incorporate landscaping and grading to create a gradual incline to the threshold.

Photo of rampscape by Innovate Building Solutions. It doesn’t look like a ramp!

Photo of rampscape by Innovate Building Solutions. It doesn’t look like a ramp!

In my case, I would love to make a rampscape to my back door, which is the main entry in and out of my house. I’m planning on grading the dirt and pouring a concrete sidewalk that will make a gradual slope to my back door. This will eliminate the steps and make my door a zero step entry!

Rampscapes are beautiful, have great curb appeal, and stand the test of time. If you put in a rampscape, then anyone with any ability can visit your home! I have relatives who have a hard time walking and climbing steps. A rampscape would allow my relatives and wheelchair users to effortlessly go in and out of my house.

How cool is it to be the house everyone can visit?

Let me give you two tips for consideration when using ramps. First, try to place an overhead cover above your ramp. This helps with weather protection, especially if your ramp becomes slick from rain, ice, or snow. Overhead covers keep you dry and comfortable while self propelling wheelchairs, fumbling for keys, opening the door, etc.

The second thing to remember is that ramps with a rise of one inch to one foot (1:1) is the most ideal.

Why is that?

Well, have you ever pushed anyone in a wheelchair up or down a ramp? If the slope is more than 1:1, you are working VERY hard. This leads to increased physical labor for caregivers and a higher chance of injury.

Heck, I feel my body working harder when I’m walking up a steep hill by myself! I don’t want to work too hard when I’m helping somebody else!

Make sure you have the space for the length of the ramp you need. The rise at my back door is 14 inches, which means I need 14 feet of length for my ramp to be 1:1. Personally, I have the space to do that in my yard.

Now, if you don’t have the space for that, you may need to install something else besides a ramp, like a vertical lift.

Your takeaway from this tip should be: steep ramps are pains in the BUTT! Make sure you’ve got the room to make a ramp with a gradual slope. Steep ramps make it hard to get in and out of the house, which makes it so people never want to leave the house. Not leaving the house is very bad for your health!

I hope this article helps you plan for a ramp (or NO ramp) in your future. Personally, I don’t want to have to deal with ramps to get in and out of my home EVER. With my experience as a caregiver and occupational therapist, I’ve found that ramps can be treacherous.

That’s why I’m planning my rampscape while I can easily climb stairs, not when I struggle getting in and out of the house.

Do you use ramps at home? What type of ramp do you have? Tell us what you think about it in the comments below!

Remember, you better do it before you need it!

(Thank you to Upside Innovations for their great article on types of ramps!)

What Do You Need? A Zero Step Entry!
Front entry with zero step entry. Photo by the Journal of Light Construction

Front entry with zero step entry. Photo by the Journal of Light Construction

A zero step entry is a doorway to get in and out of your house with ZERO steps.

You know what’s a shame though? Less than 3.5% of homes in the U.S. have one zero step entry according to Joint Center for Housing Studies (2011).

Now, of course, I hope that figure has gone up since 2011. But I highly doubt it!

When I drive around and see new construction for houses and apartments, you better believe I’m rubbernecking to see if they’re putting in one entryway with zero steps!

But here’s the unfortunate truth: I see steps to go inside the front door, back door, and garage door.

Why do builders do this?

Because they do what they know. Builders don’t obsess about accessibility the way occupational therapists like me do!

I understand people think that a couple, two, three stairs won’t hurt anybody from going in and out of their house. But it actually does in the long run.

Let’s try an experiment:

I want you to carry something that requires two hands, like a laundry basket, across level flooring for ten feet.

I’ll wait here. . .

Okay! You’re finished! Great! How much effort did you put into that? How hard are you breathing? Can you still hold a conversation? Are your muscles tired?

Now, I want you to carry that same object up and down at least two stairs. If you have more stairs, try carrying your object up and down all of your stairs.

After all of your stair climbing, how much effort did your body put in to carrying an object up and down the stairs compared to no stairs at all?

As we age, this “simple” task of carrying objects up and down stairs becomes more difficult. Even though I’m in my 30’s, I notice I exert more energy to carry things up and down stairs compared to carrying things across the floor.

I hate to burst your bubble, but there will be a day when it’s harder for you to carry things up and down the stairs. It may be due to a back injury, arthritis, heart condition, etc., etc. You just never know!

So if you DON’T have a zero step entry, what can you do NOW to make sure you’re set for the future?

Start planning your zero step entry for your home!

Front zero step entry with portico and rampscape. Photo by Sutton Group Preferred Realty

Front zero step entry with portico and rampscape. Photo by Sutton Group Preferred Realty

It can be any entry you desire! The front door, the side door, the back door, the garage door, etc. You pick what works best for you and your house.

You can convert an existing window into a zero step entry door! If you’re creating a door out of a non-existing door, make sure to have the doorway width measure 36 inches for plenty of room to maneuver in and out of the house.

An issue that may come up is the fact that the main level of your house is not the same as the ground outside.

I have that EXACT same issue! So let’s dive into the problem solving process for my humble abode.

This is my back stoop with uneven pavers and rubber mats! This is a work in process, my darlings!

This is my back stoop with uneven pavers and rubber mats! This is a work in process, my darlings!

The problem for my house is the front and back entryway both have stairs to go inside. I would choose to make my back door zero entry because it’s closest to our driveway. There are several options I can think of off the top of my dome:

Wooden ramp from driveway to front door. Photo by Wheelchair Special Needs Project.

Wooden ramp from driveway to front door. Photo by Wheelchair Special Needs Project.

1) Install a ramp at the back door and create a minimum 6’x6’ landing for space to open the door and walk inside and outside. The ramp incline would need to gradually rise one foot per inch from the ground level to the height of the door threshold.

In my case, I would need 14 feet of ramp to accommodate the 14 inches from the ground to the top of my threshold. I would also make the ramp width at least 60 inches to allow plenty of room for a wheelchair user.

2) Install a rampscape at the back door. Rampscapes are ramps made by grading dirt to make that gradual incline to the door threshold. They look very pretty when landscaped with whatever materials you choose. I would lay a 6’x6’ concrete patio by the door, a 60 inch wide concrete sidewalk on the rampscape, and add lots of plants around it!

Rampscape from the driveway to the front door using pavers with a gradual incline. Photo by Schafer Construction

Rampscape from the driveway to the front door using pavers with a gradual incline. Photo by Schafer Construction

3) Install a vertical lift. A vertical lift is a platform that takes you from ground level and elevates you to the main threshold, like an outdoor elevator! I would still create a 6’x6’ landing to allow enough room to open and close the back door. This option would definitely require an overhead above the vertical lift to protect it from rain and snow.

Vertical platform lift next to small porch with four steps to enter door. Photo by Mobility Express

Vertical platform lift next to small porch with four steps to enter door. Photo by Mobility Express

All of the options above would cost thousands of dollars. The most inexpensive option would be installing a ramp. Personally, I would install an overhang or portico to cover the landing above the back doorway to avoid all forms of precipitation, especially after witnessing Missouri imitating Siberia this year!

Although I don’t have the funds at the moment, I can discuss this with my family, look for ways to fund a zero step entry, and ask for bids to help me select the best option and plan. Creating a zero step entry is a three year goal for me.

If you’re looking into building a new home, then you will spend the least amount of money to create a zero step entry!

Let’s say you wanted your zero step entry to be your garage door. Tell your builder! They can grade the site to ensure you drive into your garage and effortlessly step in and out of your home.

Sometimes, people are concerned that the only style of house they can build to include a zero step entry is a patio home.

NOT TRUE.

If your builder is not willing to make at least one zero step entry and keep whatever style of house you choose, then they do not have the creativity or desire to move outside of their comfort zone.

You can build ANY style of house and have at least one zero step entry.

Whichever doorway you choose, remember: it’s best to have the doorway covered above and to make sure water will drain away from the door. Water is bad inside of the house.

Contact me to help you create a zero step entry! You better do it before you need it!

Do you have a zero step entry? Show us pics. If not, what are your plans? Share in the comments below!

3 Ways to Store Your Kitchen Goods!

Marie Kondo, the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering, has taken the nation by storm!

Very tidy personal belonging organizer sitting on counter top. Picture by Unsplash

Very tidy personal belonging organizer sitting on counter top. Picture by Unsplash

If you haven’t heard about Marie Kondo or her book, she teaches people how to sort through and organize their personal belongings at home. You only keep items that bring you joy. This process will result in feeling less stressed and more happy in your home!

Another bonus of this method is less cleaning!

Of course there are some people, like my husband, who are scared that the Marie Kondo method forces you to get rid of all of your stuff. Definitely not the point, babe!

You keep what sparks joy! Don’t get rid of everything!

Anyway, I digress. . .

I love the concept of tidying up your space at home because this process makes your belongings more accessible to you.

For instance, Marie Kondo encourages people to sort through their personal items by category starting with clothing. She taught me a new way of folding clothing and storing it where you can see all of your clothes at one time in a drawer, on a shelf, or hanging on a rack. That way you use every single clothing item more because you can see it. You’re reminded that it’s there.

So now, I fold all of my scarves like this:

Organized scarf drawer a la Marie Kondo method! Picture by Maria Lindbergh

Organized scarf drawer a la Marie Kondo method! Picture by Maria Lindbergh

Today, I can see all of my scarves, so I’ve been wearing more of them lately instead of my top two!

Tidying Up is inspiring me to rethink how I store my personal items in a way that’s accessible to me. Which brings me to my most troubled spot: the kitchen!

A huge problem I have is storing my cast iron skillets. I have like six of them in skillet, griddle, and biscuit mold form. They are super heavy!

Semi-organized cast iron skillets, pots, and bowls in lower cabinet. Picture by Maria Lindbergh

Semi-organized cast iron skillets, pots, and bowls in lower cabinet. Picture by Maria Lindbergh

I can’t store them in an upper cabinet because I’m klutzy and might drop them on the counter or my foot. I’d definitely break something.

At the moment, my cast iron cookware sits on the lowest shelf in my bottom kitchen cabinet out of pure fear of hurting myself.

The other problem is my lower cabinets are deep. They go way back! I have to practically put all of my upper body inside the cabinet to reach things I’m looking for.

Needless to say, I put the least used items in the back of the cabinet and more frequently used items up front. This is a go to strategy for organizing any household items: put the most used items within reach!

But my cabinets still seem cluttered and don’t fit my Marie Kondo aesthetic! It’s not pretty. See for yourself:

There are some excellent storage solutions for cabinets that work well to make things more accessible so that I’m keeping my pots and pans in their assigned place and not overreaching.

One of these solutions is pull out shelving! Click here to see a video!

Kitchen with lower cabinets, drawers, and open shelving. Picture by Unsplash

Kitchen with lower cabinets, drawers, and open shelving. Picture by Unsplash

Pull out shelving allows you to install a drawer-like system inside of your cabinet. That way you open the cabinet door and pull out the shelf inside to reach your things that are waaaayyyyyyy deep back in the cabinet.

You don’t have to worry so much about putting the least used items in the back. You simply select where on the shelf you want to put your stuff and you can pull everything out at once.

That makes it easier to see all of the things you own too! What a concept to use the stuff you already own more often!

Hell, I might bake more biscuits if I can see my cast iron biscuit mold more often! That would spark joy in my husband!

As with everything else, there are tons of different options for pull out shelving. You can really make a big difference with a small budget depending on if you want custom or made-to-fit organizers.

Since made-to-fit is less costly, I would simply measure out the dimensions of my lower cabinets. I could go online or to a retailer, like Home Depot or Lowe’s, to select the best pull out shelving for my cabinet.

Personally, I really like wire pull out shelving. Why? Because it’s easier to see everything you have.

Also, it doesn’t tempt to me store small, little items in the pull out shelving. I can’t stow away stuff in lower cabinets with the risk of them falling underneath the shelving and being stuck there for life!

If I have to bend down and pull out a shelf to retrieve something, it’s easier if the cookware is larger. Small kitchen ware would better be suited for drawers and organizers that are counter height so you’re not exerting as much energy.

Work smarter, not harder!

The second way to store your kitchen items is through pull down shelving for upper cabinets (AKA One of the greatest inventions ever of all time and space!) Click here for a video!

Man reaching into upper cabinet with standard shelves. Think about how nice it would be to have pull down shelving! Picture by Unsplash

Man reaching into upper cabinet with standard shelves. Think about how nice it would be to have pull down shelving! Picture by Unsplash

If you have any shoulder, neck, or upper back problems, you should really consider pull down shelving! Again, no overreaching here! You just pull down all of the shelves in your upper cabinet to the counter level.

You never have to worry about putting your most used items on the lowest shelf again!

For people who are average height or shorter, pull down shelves make it so I can get the things I need when I need it! I don’t have to wait for my six foot tall husband to help me.

Talk about independence!

Now, it seems as though pricing for pull down shelves are more costly. So you may want to do more shopping and research when selecting the best product for you.

The last and least expensive strategy for kitchen storage is using under cabinet organizers, under shelf baskets, or shelf risers. This allows you to maximize the space you already have in your cabinets by storing items vertically. Check out these examples from Bed, Bath, and Beyond (I’m not affiliated with triple B! I just like showing you examples!)

Galley kitchen with minimal cabinet and counter top storage. Shelf risers and under shelf baskets would work perfectly here! Picture by Unsplash

Galley kitchen with minimal cabinet and counter top storage. Shelf risers and under shelf baskets would work perfectly here! Picture by Unsplash

This is a great option for apartment living where you typically have small kitchens with minimal storage.

Do you have pull out or pull down shelving? What kind of kitchen organizers do you use? Have you been tidying up?

Tell us about your experience! Share pictures! We don’t care if your stuff is clean! (It’s not our kitchen!)

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Worried About Dad?
Grandma wearing glasses and hat scowling at camera. Photo by Unsplash

Grandma wearing glasses and hat scowling at camera. Photo by Unsplash

Oftentimes, it’s difficult to know exactly how to help your family member at home. You may have noticed Grandma starting to drop her spatula more frequently. You see Dad trip on the door threshold every single time he enters the house through the garage.

In the back of your mind you start to worry about your family member’s safety. What if Dad falls and hurts himself or what if Grandma drops something sharp on her foot? But then you brush it off with, “Maybe those problems will go away on their own.”

Are you sure those problems will disappear?

Or perhaps you do bring up your concern with your family member and they say, “I’m doing fine. I don’t trip all the time” or “I don’t drop stuff every day.” In almost the same breath, your Dad trips again. Grandma drops a ladle on the floor.

What’s going on?!

You’re fighting between pushing your family member to talk to a professional or letting go of the issue altogether.

It’s very difficult when your family member insists they’re okay. But deep down inside, you know they’re not.

I urge you to go with your first instinct! Encouraging your family to talk to a professional is a great start to figuring out how to keep dear old Dad or Grandma at home. But what kind of professional do you talk to?

Me on a windy fall day!

Me on a windy fall day!

The most bang for your buck would be talking to an occupational therapist. All we do day in and day out is problem solve ways for people to do their daily activities. In fact, click on this link to read research on how effective we are at helping people out! Occupational therapists figure out how to help Grandma stop dropping her spatulas and how to keep Dad from tripping when he walks into the house. (Of course, we look at other issues too!)

People tend to think, “Well, I may have a hard time with X now, but it’s not a big deal.” Wrong! This kind of everyday stuff seems little until it adds up to an injury at home.

Man laughing. Photo by Unsplash

Man laughing. Photo by Unsplash

Occupational therapists break it down by looking at your personal abilities, the demands of the task, and the environment. Let’s take Dad’s case of tripping when he walks into the house from the garage. An occupational therapist ( also known as OT) would assess Dad and find out his knees are worn out by years of playing flag football with his friends. Dad has neuropathy, a symptom of diabetes, and cannot feel his feet very well when he walks around. These two factors can make it more difficult to walk and regain your balance if you trip.

Walking into the house from the garage requires Dad to go up two stairs and over the door threshold. Upon examining the environment, the OT would see this entry is poorly lit, the threshold is 2 and ½ inches high, there is no handrail, and the depth of the steps are very shallow.

At this stage, the OT informs your Dad that although his knees will never be quite like the 6 million dollar man’s knees, he can make some changes to the doorway that will make it easier and safer for him to enter the home without tripping. The OT offers ideas like adding motion-sensor lighting, removing the door threshold, installing two handrails on both sides of the steps, deepening the steps, creating a ramp in the garage, installing a vertical lift, creating platform steps, etc.

Next, the OT coaches Dad to select the options that he likes the most. We know that people who choose their own solutions are more satisfied compared to people who don’t have the ability to choose.

Briefcase full of money. Photo by Pexels

Briefcase full of money. Photo by Pexels

Your dad is financially savvy and acutely aware that your mother wants to move to Florida in the next ten years or so. He doesn’t want to spend a ton of money and he wants to increase the value of the house.

Dad chooses to pull out the threshold and install platform steps with handrails and a motion-sensor light to help him get in and out of the house for years to come. “I have enough room in my garage after tidying it up!” #KonMari

After the garage entry is modified, you notice your Dad never trips when getting in and out of the house! Is this what peace of mind feels like?

OTs have the medical background and practical mindset to help your family stay safe in the home. We understand how medical conditions and aging can impact our ability to do the things we need and want to do!

In addition to our professional expertise, most of us have personal experience as caregivers with our own family. I helped my grandparents live in their home for thirteen years. We sympathize with your deepest desire to keep your family safe!

Despite the medical background, OTs never want your home to look like a hospital! We enjoy helping you create spaces that are functional for you without visitors ever knowing the reasoning behind your home design.

We’re also relentlessly optimistic, much to the chagrin of some people. There is never a problem too tough to solve.

“Yeah!!” written on a sign with confetti. Photo by Pexels

“Yeah!!” written on a sign with confetti. Photo by Pexels

The big takeaway is there are professionals to help you keep your family safe. Reach out to others and ask questions. If you can’t find an occupational therapist right away, talk to a social worker, case manager, your local area agency on aging, senior centers, or your county’s senior service department.

In the Kansas City area, you can visit the Mid-America Regional Council, Wyandotte/Leavenworth Area Agency on Aging, or the Johnson County Area Agency on Aging to learn more about resources available to help people live in their home and community as long as they like.

There is so much information available, sometimes it’s difficult to navigate through everything and keep a clear idea of who does what. Don’t worry! You will find the answers you need. But remember, you better do it before you need it!

Eight Steps to Find the Right Contractor!

[This post is written by Sharon Ugochukwu, a former occupational therapy assistant student from National American University.]

Pexels

Pexels

Now you’re home after a stay in rehab after breaking your leg. You realize how hard it is to get around the home. A friend recommended you have an occupational therapy evaluation to make it easier to do what you need to do. The occupational therapist listened to your needs and gave great ideas for home modifications (i.e. changes in the home). You are excited to turn those ideas into reality.

Now, all you have to do is find the right contractor for the job. It’s important for the occupational therapist and contractor to work together to make the changes that are customized to you. Although the occupational therapist knows contractors to work on your home, you want to find one.

Even when you decide you want to find a contractor on your own, the thought of doing this can be overwhelming. Leon Harper of AARP states, "While there's a growing need [for home modifications], there's also been a growing fear, as a result of the unfortunate work of a few unscrupulous contractors.” People choose to scrap the plans for home modifications because of this fear.

For instance, you heard Susie’s story of the contractor who took her money and was never seen again. Uncle Bill’s contractor left a huge hole in the roof and a toilet that fell through the floor. No one wants to have these experiences! So how do you wade through the sea of contractors to find one who is honest, trustworthy, and does quality work? In this blog, we will give you eight steps to do just that!

1) Organize your project on paper. First, make a list of what you want done. Be specific regarding what changes you want in which rooms. What materials are you interested in using? List them by priority to you. This will help keep you focused and determine what kind of contractors you need.

2) Compile a list of contractors. Next, ask friends or relatives for their recommendations on contractors. Talk to employees at a lumber yard or hardware store if they know of anyone reputable. Ask a trusted realtor who they call first to fix homes. Social service agencies often partner with reputable contractors. Contact a few and get recommendations. In the Kansas City area, call up Rebuilding Together and United Way.

Pexels

Pexels

Rebuilding Together works with these Kansas City contractors:

Always Plumbing
Bart’s Electric
Billings Construction
Climate Control Heating & Cooling
Clinton County Trailer Sales
C. M. Mose & Son
Full Nelson Plumbing
Geiger Ready-Mix
Homes By Chris
Jamison Plumbing
L&M Electric
Larry Brown Excavating
Liberty & Northland Plumbing
Moffett Electric
Owen Homes
Paul’s Heating & Cooling
Professional Pest Solutions
Richard Huber Plumbing
Rite-Way Gutters
Western Specialty Contractors

3) Choose contractors willing to work with your occupational therapist throughout the entire process. Research shows that occupational therapists are the most effective at home modifications for you in your home because of their medical training (Stark, Keglovits, Arbesman, & Lieberman, 2017). Occupational therapists work with you on your priorities. We are a client-centered profession! Not to mention, clients report more satisfaction with home modifications if an occupational therapist is involved.


Contractors + occupational therapists = SUPER TEAM! Together, these professionals can help you live safely in your home!

Bonus tip: Some contractors receive specialized training for remodeling a home to fit different needs and stages of life. These contractors are called certified aging in place specialists also known as CAPS. Several websites where you can find them are listed below:

National Association of the Remodeling Industry

Find remodelers in Missouri

Find remodelers in Kansas

Certified Aging In Place Program (CAPS) members can be found here:

Missouri

Kansas

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Pexels

4) Don’t allow yourself to be pressured by family members. Ah, families! Do you have a cousin, Mike, who tells you, “I do great work and can beat anybody’s price out there,” but really doesn’t? Yeah, that’s a difficult spot to be in. It can be hard to turn them down. But after all, you are paying money for your home modifications and want to stay safe in your home. Let’s not compromise the work in any way! You can just say, “Thank you, Mike, for offering your services. I want to check with a couple more contractors. I will get back with you” or, “I appreciate your offer, but I prefer not to do business with family” and leave it at that.

5) Make some calls. Once you have assembled a list, make a quick call to each of your prospective contractors and ask them some quick questions (Tom Silva, 2018):

• Do they take on projects of your size?

• Are they willing to provide financial references, from suppliers or banks? (Here you want to find out if they paid their suppliers on time and if they are maintaining a bank account in good standing. This will give you clues on their business, money management, and an idea how they will handle what you are paying them.)

• Can they give you a list of previous clients?

• How many other projects would they have going at the same time?

• How long have they worked with their subcontractors?

Per Tom Silva, “The answers to these questions reveals the contractor’s availability, reliability, how much attention they'll be able to give your project, and how smoothly the work will go.” If a contractor seems defensive or does not want to answer these simple questions, they are probably not a contractor you want to work with.

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Pexels


6) Narrow your list. From that list, pick at least three contractors you liked. You will invite these contractors to your home to ask more questions such as:

  1. How long have you been in business?

  2. Do you have experience in doing home remodels for people who want to stay in their home as they age?

  3. Are you licensed, bonded, and have worker’s compensation insurance? Check for proof.  

  4. Get a written bid from each contractor.

7) Call the references! Ask previous clients what their experience was like with the contractor. Some questions to ask include:

1) What were the contractors work habits on your job?

2) Did he/she stick to the contract?

3) Did your project stay on budget, or at least close to budget?

4) Did anything go wrong?

5) What was the working relationship like between the contractor and any subcontractors?


8) Compare. Now compare the responses, provided references, and bids of these contractors. You should be able to decide on the contractor to work in your home!

Some final words:

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Pexels

  • Expect the good contractors to be busy and not immediately available. Good contractors are the busy ones!

  • Avoid contractors who just show up at your door offering services at an unbelievably low rate. A common ploy is for contractors to come to your house and say they just finished a job down the street. They have some leftover supplies and wanted to offer you a great deal! More than likely it is not trustworthy. These people are often scammers.

  • Do not work with a contractor who asks for the entire cost or even half of the cost up front. They could end up taking your money and disappearing. Experts recommend you pay no more than 10% of the cost up front (Tom Silva, 2018). Scheduled payments should be made at particular points along the home modification process.

  • Do not make a final payment unless the job is 100% complete and you approved the work. Contractors have been known to leave the final touches unfinished after a final payment.

  • You can’t depend solely on online reviews to choose a good contractor. Some companies pay people to post a positive review. This should not be a substitute for checking references!

  • Likewise, you cannot depend on the online referral lists, such as Angie’s List.  Companies are supposed to be listed on this site according to their performance. However, Consumer Reports wrote that a contractor can move up the list of preferred contractors by paying an advertising fee (McGrath, 2013).


While nothing is guaranteed, these steps will help you choose a trustworthy contractor with the skills you need for your home modifications. Rest assured you will be confident while choosing the right team to make your home beautiful and accessible. Tell us about your experiences with contractors! What tips do you have to add?

References:

McGrath, M. (2013, September 19). Why Consumer Reports Says You Can't Trust Angie's List. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/maggiemcgrath/2013/09/18/why-consumer-reports-says-you-cant-trust-angies-list/#920de771bfa7

Stark, S., Keglovits, M., Arbesman, M., & Lieberman, D. (2017, March 01). Effect of Home Modification Interventions on the Participation of Community-Dwelling Adults With Health Conditions: A Systematic Review. Retrieved from https://ajot.aota.org/article.aspx?articleid=2601471

Top 8 Pro Tips on How to Hire a Contractor. (2018, January 06). Retrieved from https://www.thisoldhouse.com/ideas/top-8-pro-tips-how-to-hire-contractor

Ways to Set Yourself Up to Age Where You Are

Foreword:

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We the people of Stay at Home Solutions fully believe that you should remain in your home and community as long as you like no matter the circumstances. Although we focus on home modifications, or making changes in the home, we understand that there are many components to helping people make changes for aging in place. Our lovely guest author, Hazel Bridges, shares a common mission with us.

Hazel Bridges is the creator of AgingWellness.org, a website that aims to provide health and wellness resources for aging seniors. She’s a breast cancer survivor and challenges herself and others to live life to the fullest.

Settling down in Florida isn’t as popular as it seems. In fact, almost nine out of 10 people over the age of 65 want to enjoy their retirement at home. Are you among them? If so, you likely have numerous reasons for staying put. You’ve been there for years, put down roots, and gotten so used to the locale that anywhere else would just seem foreign. Plus, you likely have plenty of relatives and friends nearby, and it would be too hard to bid them all farewell. Nonetheless, aging in place is more than just carrying on as you are. you need to adapt your home to the changes ahead so you’ll stay secure and comfortable well into your golden years.

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Establish a Budget

The renovations you make will likely run into the thousands of dollars, so it’s good to have a plan in place for how you’re going to pay for them, along with an upper limit so you don’t go over your budget. You may want to consider a home equity loan or reverse mortgage, both of which are popular means of financing an extensive remodeling. (For specific financial resources in Kansas and Missouri, CLICK HERE!)

Perform a Safety Check

Modifications should address whatever dangers are present in your home. Many of those are the same regardless of the age of the residents, such as a clogged chimney or faulty water heaters, so make sure those are addressed, as well as the ones that are related to your health condition in the future. You may need to call in the help of a professional.

Make a Plan

Having scoured the house for potential dangers and sources of discomfort, make a list of all the renovations you need to make, with the most important on top. You’ll need to interview potential contractors and apply for permits if you’re making any serious structural changes to the home. All of that takes time, so make room in your schedule for it.

Improve Mobility

This should be a major focus, as getting up and down stairs will be more difficult in the years ahead. A ramp at the entrance way would solve that problem nicely, though they generally run between $3,500 and $8,000 according to Networx. Doorways in the interior can be made more accommodating for much cheaper with the installation of expandable hinges.

Prevent Falls

Taking steps to prevent falls is equally as important as improving mobility, if not more. Focus on the kitchen and bathroom, both of which can be particularly hazardous largely due to moisture. Slip-free flooring would be ideal for both areas, whereas safety modifications such as grab bars, walk-in shower, and shower chairs make keeping clean a much less risky endeavor.

Enhance Overall Comfort

With your safety addressed, you can have a little fun, as your retirement is supposed to be enjoyable. Be creative. Awesome Inventions does precisely that in proposing doors that double as bookshelves or a shower area for you dog. While you’re at it, you could transform an entire room into a library or hobby space for paining, reading, and writing.

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Find Some Help

You may not need it now, but there are numerous professionals offering custodial care in your city. For a small fee, caregivers help out with whatever chores need doing around the house, as well as things such as bathing, dressing, and meal preparation. Familiarize yourself with the costs, as you never know when you’ll need the services.

Once you’ve taken these measures, there’s nothing to stop you from enjoying your retirement in safety without picking up your roots and moving. And that makes it a wonderful time to be alive.

Afterword:

Thank you, Hazel, for bringing up great points for people to consider! Money is one of the biggest barriers to home modifications, or making changes in the home. People balk at the price of remodeling for good reason! It’s pricey!

It’s important to look at home modifications as an investment for your health and safety throughout life. If you’re a Kansas or Missouri resident, click here to look at financial resources for our area. Be aware that home modifications do not always mean changing the structure of the environment, like ripping out a step in shower and putting in a barrier free shower.

Home modifications can also be home repairs, purchasing household items (i.e. a night lamp to see the pathway to the bathroom), and adaptive equipment, like a reacher or grabber. The big takeaway is you need an occupational therapist to help you decide what’s going to work the best for you. Occupational therapists save you money! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen time and money wasted on home modifications because there wasn’t an occupational therapist involved! I’ve seen grab bars put in the wrong spot for the person using it, slippery flooring, all white bathrooms (bad for people with low vision), etc., etc., etc.!

When considering making changes at home, call me to help you navigate the best option for you. I’m happy to work with the contractor of your choosing to customize your house to your needs. My favorite part about my job is helping people fulfill their ultimate wish: the ability to remain in the comfort of their own home.

Hooray for planning for a safe and independent future at home! Today’s the day! You better do it before you need it!

How to Make the Bathroom Safe: A Case Study

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

-Socrates

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In my line of work, I find that people fight “the old” constantly. I help people find ways to live at home as long as they want, no matter what happens to them in life.

Now you may think that I’m referring to “the old” as in old people. How dare you?! On the contrary, “the old” isn’t people who are getting older! “The old” is how houses are built and set up in the past and today.

Do you have arthritis? Did you get injured in a car accident? Did the doctor inform you that you have a chronic disease? I can help you live at home despite any of those things.

“Building the new” means a couple of things to me too! Of course, “building the new” could refer to professionals in the housing industry creating accessible homes right now. But “building the new” also refers to having a new way of thinking!

Instead of thinking, “Oh, I’ve lived in this house for thirty years, and I’ve always done things this way”, I ask people to be open to the idea that you can live in your house by making minor changes that ensure your safety and independence.

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One of my clients, let’s call him Tom, asked for a home evaluation to see what he could do to feel safer while using his bathroom. During assessments, I ask personal questions like, “Do you get tired when you’re showering?”

Tom told me he did feel tired while showering.

Hard fact per the CDC: the most falls that happen at home occur when people step out of the shower.

I told Tom that feeling tired while showering could make it easier for him to fall in the shower and get hurt! Tom quickly countered that he has always stood to take a shower!

My inner dialogue started engaging. I thought, “Oh no, Tom is not accepting the fact that his body is changing and he has different needs then he did decades ago.” Instead of panicking, I knew that I could come to a perfect solution for Tom to provide the support he needed.

During my assessment, I noticed Tom had no place to safely sit in his step in shower. Even if Tom did sit in the shower, the shower head would constantly spray him in the face and he would have no control of where to aim the water!

Well, I don’t want Tom to drown in his own shower!

Tom and I discussed different options on what to do with the shower. An inexpensive way was to use a shower chair that was not attached to the wall. This would allow Tom to stand or sit during the shower depending on how he felt that day. I let him know at least the shower chair would be there if he felt tired and needed to sit and rest. Shower chairs with backrests and armrests are ideal to let Tom lean back to relax.

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Next, I recommended Tom install a handheld shower head on a height adjustable mount. The handheld shower head allows Tom to aim water where ever he likes while sitting or standing in the shower. A height adjustable mount gives Tom the ability to put the shower head down and adjust the shower head at the height he wants. If Tom wants to stand and shower, he would adjust the shower head above his head. If he prefers to sit and shower, Tom would lower the height of the shower head.

Arthritis can be very nasty to our grip strength as we mature. To make sure Tom could always manage the water controls, I suggested replacing the water control that depended on twisting wrist action to a lever style handle. Lever style handles require very little effort to use.

As a rule of thumb, I help people prevent twisting their backs while reaching for soap and shampoo in the shower. I told Tom he would benefit from placing shower storage within reach in front of his body while sitting in the shower chair. Tom agreed and decided to install a corner shelf in the shower at his shoulder height. This is a great technique to prevent falls as well!

We also discussed installing one grab bar in the shower and one grab bar outside of the shower to give Tom stability while stepping in and out of the shower. Although the shower lip was only several inches high, it’s very easy for people to trip on the lip and fall. We placed the grab bars at heights that were specific for Tom’s anthropometrics. After all, Tom’s the only one using the shower!

I love customizing people’s homes!

Tom agreed to these inexpensive options. He liked the idea of being able to stand or sit when he wanted. Tom kept his freedom and dignity to shower while feeling safe at the same time.

I can’t express the satisfaction I feel when I help people get what they want. Tom chose the fixtures he wanted to keep in line with the aesthetics of his bathroom. Nothing looked like a sterile hospital or nursing home. If Tom had a visitor look at his bathroom, no one would have any idea that we made changes in order to prevent Tom from falling while showering.

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While we gather with our loved ones this holiday season, I encourage you to talk to your family members about how their needs may be changing. We know that you and your family are dealing with “the old”, or the way houses are currently set up to be inaccessible. Let’s talk about “building the new”, making those changes in the home that can allow your family members to live safely and independently at home.

Call me or email me for ideas on how to talk with your family members about how they are doing taking care of themselves and their homes. I hate to brag, but I’m very good at talking about these personal things with people! In fact, let me talk to your family members for you!

With that being said, I wish you all a lovely Holiday Season! I will see you on the blog in January!

Can You Relate?
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Breaking a bone in your body is one of the worst experiences you can have in your lifetime. Trust me. I know this experience firsthand!

When I was eight-years-old, I climbed the wobbly, rickety chain link fence in the backyard at home and toppled over to fall to the ground breaking my left elbow. I remember passing out from the pain after seeing my mother’s scared facial expression.

At the hospital, I was given pain medication that completely knocked me out. The radiology tech had to keep prodding me to stay awake while taking x-rays of my arm. Eventually, I had surgery to realign my bones with two pins.

I remember the whole experience vividly! I was small and nimble enough to not need any home modifications. BUT I needed help with getting dressed, going to the bathroom, taking a shower, and brushing my hair. The pain from my arm would wake me up sometimes at night. I had to sleep lying on my back with my arm propped up on pillows.

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I HATE sleeping on my back!

Luckily, I am right handed and had all the benefits of youth while waiting for my arm to heal! I was able to easily manipulate brushing my teeth, drawing, feeding, playing card games, and anything else you can think of with my right hand. Recovery took no time at all for me as a child. As soon as I was able to use my left arm, I quickly returned to dance lessons and playing piano.

I could never forget how my injury impacted my life in such a profound way. My mother was wary and extra protective while my arm healed. She made sure my sisters and cousins were careful when they played around me. Mom did not want me to be hurt again!

Looking back, I not only see the physical impacts a broken arm had on my life. I also see how I changed the way I took care of myself and how my family members and friends treated me.

As an eight-year-old, I was very independent in taking care of myself prior to the injury, especially as the oldest of four children. When I broke my arm, it felt like going in reverse needing even more help from my mother. She even tied my shoes again. I saw myself as an independent person changing into an interdependent person.

That’s hard even for an eight-year-old child.

I can’t tell you how happy and relieved I was to resume my independence again after my arm fully recovered. But not everyone can experience this type of relief.

As an adult, injuries like broken bones can be more damaging and long lasting than what children experience. This is where it gets deep, people!

Adults have decades of being independent in taking care of themselves and others. A broken bone drastically changes how they view themselves. Accepting help can sometimes be seen in the same vein as becoming older or aging.

Of course, as occupational therapists, it’s easy for us to reassure adults with injuries that they are not old people (there’s nothing wrong with that anyway!). We educate them on all of the ways they can still do what they need and want to do. However, we do need to remind ourselves that when people break a bone, they are grieving the loss (temporary or permanent) of their independence and the way they used to do daily activities. Even little eight-year-old me grieved over not being able to play tag and ride my bike for a couple of months.

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Whoa. Grief? Yes. Here’s an example!

Dave broke his tibia stepping off a sidewalk into the street while heading to a coffee shop. He had surgery and needed to use a walker to help balance while hopping on one leg to get around. He quickly realized he needed a lot of help with getting in and out of his house, bed, shower, and going up and down the stairs. Dave was frustrated he could not move easily around his house anymore.

Pistola squat by Workoutlabs.com

Pistola squat by Workoutlabs.com

He thought, “Dang, I never thought I would need to do a pistola squat to get on and off the toilet! I don’t want my wife to help me with this every day!”

Dave even needed help picking up his dog’s bowls to put water and food in them! He felt like he had to rely on his wife to do everything. Dave started to feel depressed while his leg was healing because he wanted to do more by himself. Dave loved his wife, but he didn’t want to be soooo intimate with her while toileting and bathing.

He missed his ability to move around and take care of himself on his own time. Dave wondered if he will be able to continue living in his current house as it was. “What if I could never walk again? What will I do?”

In this situation, it’s easy to see why Dave would grieve the loss of his privacy, caring for himself, and moving around. He feels frustrated on how much effort he has to put in to simply move around the house. These emotions are very normal for any person. Have you every had this type of experience? Can you relate to Dave?

There are some things we cannot control whatsoever, like accidents. But we certainly can control our environment! Since we know breaking bones is such a challenging physical and emotional time, I am happy to say there are ways we can prevent lessen some of the pain and maintain our dignity by making changes in the home.

Yes, as a kid, I easily navigated my environment with a broken arm. However, poor adult Dave struggled to move around in and outside of his house with a broken leg. Let me tell you three things he could do to his house to make recovery better:

Stanton Homes

Stanton Homes

1) Create one entrance at home with ZERO steps. This will make it easier to use a walker to hop on one leg in and out of the house. Dave will be able to escape the home in case of emergency, see the doctor, go to outpatient therapy, spend time with friends at the ball game, etc. Dave can just enjoy not struggling to get in and out of his own house! He will not feel like a trapped prisoner!

Barrier free shower by Accessible Solutions

Barrier free shower by Accessible Solutions

2) Build a bathroom on the main floor of the house. Preferably this will be a full bathroom, but a half bathroom will certainly suffice! Put blocking in the walls in order to install grab bars later if needed. The blocking will allow you to install grab bars at any height! How neat! Grab bars could help Dave get on and off the toilet by himself, but there are a lot more options I can talk about with Dave and his wife.

3) Install a barrier free shower. Dave can easily use this shower with or without a broken leg! A barrier free shower lets you walk in and out without stepping over anything! This type of shower is perfect for all ages and abilities from wheelchair users to people who walk on two legs. Learn more by clicking here or here!

If you can relate to Dave, you may want to consider planning on making changes to your current home. Life is unpredictable, but if you do it before you need it then you are setting yourself up to maintain your independence and dignity in your own home. Please comment below if you or someone you know has had Dave’s experience of grieving the loss of taking care of yourself.

Midwest Ability Summit Experience and EXCITING Announcement!
Photo: Amanda Pearman

Photo: Amanda Pearman

(FYI: This post is an overview about my experience at the Midwest Ability Summit this last Saturday. BUT if you want to skip down to the bottom to read my exciting announcement, I wouldn’t blame you!)

Oh my! This past Saturday was fantastic! I had a booth at the Midwest Ability Summit at the Overland Park Convention Center in Overland Park, KS. This event is an ability expo that showcases various resources in the Kansas City metro for people with disabilities, their family members, caregivers, and health care professionals. There were educational classes, non-profit organizations, service providers, and tons more from law groups to home health companies!

Check out midwestabilitysummit.org to see all of the exhibitors from this year! Also, click here to learn more about the purpose of Stay at Home Solutions!

Personally, I felt so happy for my booth to sit right next to the KSDS Assistance Dogs because I got to sneak over and pet the doggies in training! For you animal lovers, there were also adorable therapy mini ponies at the summit. Never discount the health benefits of our four-legged friends!

Photo: David Groves

Photo: David Groves

There were many other sights to take in at this event. I enjoyed watching the tennis demonstration area directly across from my booth. The happy expressions on the children and adults lobbying tennis balls to each other felt palpable! In fact, I tossed a couple of stray balls back into action. In addition to a sports viewing, I saw children and adults test recumbent bikes and power wheelchairs and standing frames around the convention center floor with huge grins. Everybody was having fun!

To add to the festivities, my booth offered candy amid other freebies like pens, sticky pads, and chapstick. I heard many parents bemoan the fact that the summit was like Halloween because of the vast amounts of candy within reach for the children! My booth neighbors came and grabbed candy for a quick snack every once in a while in between people. Visitors hauled tote bags full of goodies and information around the venue while talking to exhibitors.

The summit impressed me with the consideration of their guests! For instance, they provided a quiet/ sensory friendly area for people who needed a break from the stimulating sights and sounds. The displays were fantastic too! My friend and frequent project collaborator, David Groves of Accessible RehabWorks, set up a barrier free shower, patio, and wooden ramp. It looked amazing and added to the atmosphere of this event.

I was also delighted to see organizations represented at the summit that contribute excellent services to the community and I deeply support, like Minds Matter!

I felt so pleased to have many people come visit at my booth! I was happy to answer questions about my business and home modifications. Here are some of the most frequent ones:

Question: “How far out do you visit people?”

Answer: I see everyone in the Kansas City area in about a 50 mile radius. I am willing to Skype or do some other type of video communication with people who live outside of the area. For people who live outside Kansas City, I offered to help find home modification occupational therapists for people, like in Texas and Colorado.

Question: “Do you read blueprints?”

Answer: Yes, I do! I am happy to consult for people planning on building houses in order for them to live safely and independently.

Question: “I live in an apartment/townhouse. Can you help me?”

Answer: Absolutely yes! The Fair Housing Act ensures landlords allow reasonable accommodations be made for their residents. I recommend home modifications that will benefit you and make your landlord happy.

Question: “Do you see people of all ages?”

Answer: Yes, I am happy to see everybody! Everyone deserves to live in their home safely and independently without worry of moving to a facility!

Photo: Amanda Pearman

Photo: Amanda Pearman

Question: “Do you take insurance?”

Answer: I take Missouri Medicare and am able to bill all of the managed care insurance companies for Medicare beneficiaries like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, Coventry, etc.

Question: “Are you an occupational therapist?”

Answer: Why yes I am!

There were visitors who asked specific questions about their home. For example, I helped a lady problem solve how to prevent water from spreading all over her bathroom floor from her barrier free shower. Another couple discussed options for downsizing their current home to make sure they could age in place in the community as opposed to going to a facility. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to people and learning about their needs and concerns for staying at home.

Photo: Pexels

Photo: Pexels

Hear ye! Hear ye! Okay, now are you ready for my EXCITING announcement!

I have a RAFFLE for a FREE home evaluation! This is for all ages! If you win, I will come to your home and give you options on what you can do to live safely and independently! There are no prerequisites for a home evaluation (like a history of falls or disability). Every single person on the planet benefits from a professional like me to come give you ideas!

How do you enter? Like my Facebook page (@stayathomesolutionskc) by August 30th at 9 PM to enter the raffle! If you have already liked my Facebook page, please follow me on Instagram (@stayathomesolutions) or Pinterest (Stay at Home Solutions) to enter the raffle! Remember, I also post videos on YouTube at Stay at Home Solutions.

If you win the free home evaluation and you would like to gift it to a friend or family member, you sure can!

The winner will be announced this Friday, August 31st at noon on Facebook! Tune in to see who wins this amazing prize! Contests like these make me feel so excited!

I promise to shoot the Facebook video in landscape this time!

Lastly, I just wanted to say how honored I am to be included in the Midwest Ability Summit. The organizers are lovely, big-hearted people to create a one-stop shop for people of all different conditions and backgrounds. The summit was all inclusive and fun for attendees! I look forward to being a part of this event next year!

Guess Who's on My OT Spot?
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Holy moly! My OT Spot posted my article here! Take a look at it!

My OT Spot is a fantastic website dedicated to people interested in becoming occupational therapists and current practitioners to learn how to succeed and thrive in this field! The article I wrote gives occupational therapists a list of highly recommended home modifications for their clients when they go home from rehab.

At the end of the day, I want to help people stay at home safely and independently. I love love love helping my fellow occupational therapists serve their clients! 

If you read this article, please comment down below on what you think!