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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 aging in place
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!

KC, Are You Slipping and Sliding? Seven Tips to Prevent Winter Falls!
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One of my favorite topics of all time is how to prevent falls when there’s ice and snow out the door! If you live in the Kansas City metro, I reckon you’ve noticed some of the white stuff sitting outside your door.

It’s incredibly important to me to repeat repeat repeat how to prevent falls in the winter. That’s because more falls happen in the winter resulting in injuries and even death! Think about it: are you walking a little faster to get out of the cold? If you are walking faster, it’s easier to miss potentially dangerous ice on the ground!

The word is there’s going to be even more ice and snow soon. So with that being said, let’s talk about how to prevent falling while getting to and fro during this time of year!

1) Before you leave home, what’s on your feet? Athletic shoes, crocs, or slip on shoes should not be the answer! (Unless you WANT to fall on your butt!)

You need sturdy footwear that will combat against slippery ice! I recommend shoes with a rubber sole to create friction when contacting ice.

Wear shoes with rubber soles, but please make sure to tie the laces!   Photo by Unsplash

Wear shoes with rubber soles, but please make sure to tie the laces!

Photo by Unsplash

I also LOVE traction cleats because you can put them on shoes you already have at home. The traction cleats keep your body upright no matter what you’re walking on. I ain’t scared of no hilly driveways or sidewalks!

2) Put ice melt or kitty litter in sandwich bags when you’re on the go! If you drive or walk to a place that has a patch of ice, take out your bag and throw the ice melt/kitty litter in front of you. It’s a convenient way to make sure you don’t fall at the drug store or doctor’s office when you’re running errands!

Besides, you’ll be a hero to others who walk on the same pathway. Look at you!

3) Carry a small flashlight or use the light on your cell phone to lighten dark places.

You probably won’t be traversing through the wilderness. Although, it’s still nice to have a flashlight!    Photo by Unsplash

You probably won’t be traversing through the wilderness. Although, it’s still nice to have a flashlight!

Photo by Unsplash

Who likes black ice? No one does. We hate driving and walking on it because it’s completely invisible to us. Increase your chances of seeing black ice while walking outside by flashing a light in front of you. You may see some reflection or wetness on the ground that will let you know you need to be careful!!!!

I like flashlights that are small enough to stow in my purse, backpack, coat pocket, or attach to my keys. How could you ever forget a flashlight that’s attached to your key ring?

If you’re more tech savvy, using the torch function on your smart phone is a really easy way to light up the darkness. How could anyone ever forget their smart phones nowadays?

4) Speaking of light, make sure your outdoor lights are on at home when it’s dark. I love automatic motion sensor lights that simultaneously conserve energy and ensure your safety. You shouldn’t work extra hard to see where you’re walking when you leave or come home!

Don’t have outdoor lights? Contact me so I can help you locate the best places to add outdoor lighting! (Remember, I’m a Missouri Medicare provider!)

5) Rethink how you get in and out of the car.

When you get out of the car, place both feet flat on the ground outside the car before standing. This helps your balance! Getting in the car? Sit down on the seat first before turning your body to put both feet inside on the floor board.

Balancing on one leg while getting in and out of the car spells trouble for falls! I can’t tell you how many people I know (including myself) fall getting in and out of the car on one leg! What is this? Cirque du Soleil? I don’t think so!

6) Do you use a cane or walker? No problem! There are cane tips for ice that you can place on your cane/walker to grip the ice and snow better when you walk outside. The cane tips look like little spikes! Your cane/walker is now a legitimate weapon and tool to keep you on your feet!

People tell me they feel very secure when they don’t feel their cane slipping all over the place. And a few individuals shared how powerful they felt with their spiky canes!

7) Add a cover over your main entry door to protect you from the elements.

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Who can identify struggling to place your key to unlock your door while it’s snowing, sleeting, or raining? What a miserable time! You feel frozen and frustrated while trying to simply get inside of your home!

A simple solution is placing a cover over the doorway to provide dryness while unlocking the door. I am a huge fan of porticos, which are usually an extension of the roof over the entry. You could also look into an awning, but I would be careful to see if it can withstand the harsh conditions of winter!

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I hope these seven fall prevention tips will help you stay safe and intact! I’ve worked with people who’ve suffered horrific injuries from falls in the winter. Sometimes the injury is so life changing, that people cannot return to living at home like they used to! Since my goal is to help you stay at home, I need you to try at least one of these tips today to keep from falling.

After you try one the tips, contact me and let me know what you think! Did it work? Did you change something about the tip? What other ways do you prevent falls in the winter?

Remember, the best way to avoid falls and injuries is to follow these tips! Share this information with your friends and family. Be proactive! You better do it before you need it!

New Year Resolution 2019 for Your Home
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Happy New Year, my friends! Here at Stay at Home Solutions, we really enjoyed celebrating the holidays, but we’re even happier to get back on track with our purpose to serve the Kansas City area and beyond.

Our mission is to help people figure out what changes they need to live at home safely and independently as long as they choose.

What do I mean by making changes in the home? They could be as simple as putting an automatic sensor night light next to the bed or placing the most used dishes closer to your reach. Some changes in the home may be more extensive like installing a barrier free shower or making one entryway stepless.

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Believe it or not, many people don’t have the choice of living in their own home.

Falls and injuries in the home are often the culprit to why someone needs to move out of their private abode.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of well meaning friends and family members make the unwanted decision to move their loved one into a senior living community or a nursing home. It’s hard for every party involved in this situation. No one wants to have their loved one move into an institution.

Let me help you prevent this scenario in your life! There are many preventable actions you can take today to avoid having someone else decide when you move out of your house. Make it your resolve to call us to help you navigate what actions to take!

I’ll tell you what actions Esther took to help her live in her home safely. When I saw Esther, she explained that she barely took showers because she was scared to death of falling while getting in and out of her shower.

I didn’t blame Esther at all. Looking at the shower I wondered how she managed to get in at all! The shower required her to step up eight inches and had a small, slippery built in seat.

Now, I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you if you’ve never had problems moving around. But it’s a BIG deal to a lot of older adults.

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During my evaluation, I noticed Esther was weak and needed quite a bit of help from her caregiver to get in and out of the shower. The chronic pain in her back and legs made it more difficult to shower without falling at a moment’s notice.

Esther lives in a senior living community. The director of the community explained that the shower Esther had was newly installed. It was their version of a “walk in shower”. Naturally if Esther wanted a new shower, she could pay for it out of pocket.

Sidenote: Why don’t these communities consult with occupational therapists? We can help them save so much time and money by not installing these step up showers!

Not to my surprise, Esther was not interested in installing a barrier free shower with money from her own pocket. “What am I going to do? Not shower at all?”

During my assessment, I measured the dimensions of the shower and noted that a shower chair with a backrest and armrests could easily fit inside. The shower chair would provide firm seating for Esther instead of the slippery built in seat. I recommended she install a couple of grab bars: one outside the shower and one inside next to the shower chair.

Sadly, the bathroom did not allow enough space for us to make changes to the step up inside the shower. Esther said she would just deal with it, “Maybe it will strengthen my legs.”

Esther already had a long handled shower head to aim water wherever she needed while sitting down. Sitting down while showering saves energy and prevents falls. It also gives caregivers peace of mind to not worry about catching a slippery body!

When the contractor came to install the grab bars, I worked with him on the best placement based off of Esther’s height and reach.

I love customizing changes at home to the client’s exact needs!

Once the project was completed and everything was installed, Esther took her first shower. She gushed about it over the phone to me, “I love it so much! I feel much safer!”

On my next visit to Esther’s home, she was late to answer the door. I felt concerned at first thinking Esther had an accident and was injured. Much to my relief, Esther came to the door and told me, “I felt so good taking a shower this morning that I asked my caregiver to let me sit in there longer.”

I can’t describe how amazing it feels to help someone feel safer doing what so many of us take for granted. Every day, we bebop along getting dressed in the morning, making coffee, driving to work, vacuuming, etc. We don’t think about what it might look like when we get older or if we were to have an injury.

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Now, Esther takes more showers during the week because she feels safe and comfortable. Her caregiver doesn’t worry about her falling as much while getting in and out of the shower. My work helped two people and gave peace of mind to Esther’s sons.

This anecdote is just a small slice of what I do for people in my community. It’s amazing to tell people what I do for a living: I empower people to live in their home safely. This is my purpose on this planet.

I’m challenging you to make a resolution at the top of 2019 right now. Your resolution is to take one action step towards helping you live at home for a lifetime. That action step could be many things: call me, look at my blog for ideas, watch my videos, or learn about financial resources for home modifications by clicking HERE.

Just learning about your options for making changes at home can be tremendously helpful in the future when you need it. Why wait? 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!

Tis the Season for Granny's Holiday Gift Guide!
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Happy holidays, fellow adult children or adult grandchildren of the world! I created a lovely holiday gift guide for your consideration when purchasing a gift for dear Granny or Grandpa.

Naysayer: “You’re too late! Why didn’t you post this gift guide before Black Friday?”

Well, naysayer, I understand your frustrated cries, but I do know that there are procrastinators out there like me. If you’re taking care of yourself, your kids, and your parents, how do you even have time to plan Black Friday shopping? Haven’t you heard about how hard caregivers have it in life?

Or maybe you just need extra time to digest your holiday shopping options before making a money-based commitment. Either way, I’m trying to make it easier for you to get what your mature relatives need and want!

After much conversation with several grannies in my life, I compiled a list for your consideration this holiday season. Let the gift giving begin!

1) Roomba

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Amazon

The Roomba almost did not make the list this year because it’s a little controversial for people who have a hard time walking in the house.

You see, Roombas can be a little too quiet and difficult to see for grannies and grandpas. They could become a potential trip hazard! We don’t want to give the holiday experience of going to the ER!

The reasons why we decided to place Roombas on the holiday gift guide outnumber the risk for falls. As we get older, it can be harder to sweep and vacuum in your home. It’s nice to have a cute little robot scurrying around and cleaning up crumbs off the floor!

If you’re going with a Roomba for Granny this year make sure you pick one that is a contrasting color with her floor. For example if Granny has cream colored carpet, pick a black Roomba! That will help Granny see the Roomba and prevent her from tripping on it.

Also, the internet did not fail me when I researched different ways to decorate Roombas. I saw decal stickers in every color and Roomba costumes. My point is this: you can make Granny’s Roomba stand out while it works to keep her floor clean as a whistle.

Another idea is to copy off Tom from “Parks and Recreation” and mount an MP3 player to the top of Granny’s Roomba. This is like a double bonus because the Roomba is cleaning the house and entertaining your grandma with musical classics from her youth! Genius!

2) Traction cleats

Working Person’s Store

Working Person’s Store

Okay, this is a no brainer. It’s snowed in Kansas City like 500 times already this year. Granny needs some traction cleats to put on her shoes so she doesn’t slip outside!

Granny has a life, you know! She needs to get groceries, see the doctor, and show Dorothy who’s boss at Canasta. Don’t let the snow slow Granny down. Get her some traction cleats so she can make snow and ice her b****!

3) Mini Flashlights

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Zoro

For the past month or so, I’ve looked at my clock in the evening and thought, “Surely, it must be 10:30.” Then I come to find out it’s actually 6:45 PM!

It’s dark out early in the evening. And Granny wants to go to your kid’s school holiday performance and hear Messiah at the local community center. Granny needs more light when she is moving in and out of cars and buildings. She needs to clearly see every curb and uneven paving in the parking lot so she doesn’t fall!

Get her a mini flashlight to stow in her purse or coat pocket for her to take on the run! Granny will appreciate you helping her see the light! (High fives self for the pun.)

4) Magnetic Door Stop

Do you know what’s super annoying? Holding the door open while you’re trying to get in and out of the house with your arms full of stuff!

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Amazon

A magnetic door stop could make life a lot easier for Granny, especially if her balance is not as good as it used to be! Guess who’s not falling through the door (thanks to you!)? Granny’s not falling!

While you’re at it, grab a magnetic door stop for yourself!

5) Bidet Toilet Seat

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Amazon

It’s time for you to become Granny’s favorite family member. Behold! The bidet toilet seat!

This gem will transform Granny’s toilet time! A bidet toilet seat with an adjustable, self cleaning water hose and remote will help Granny feel fresh and so clean even more so than traditional toilet paper can. The adjustable water hose makes it easy for men, women, and children to accurately clean those tricky places. Some models even come with dryers that gently clean your bottom!

Why a remote and not a control panel that’s fixed on the side? Great question! The remote will make it easier for Granny to reach and use compared to a fixed control panel. The control panels are usually placed on the right side. That’s difficult for a left handed user or somebody with a shoulder that can’t reach to the side or back as far as they used to!

If there is no electrical outlet by the toilet, not a problem! There are non-electric options out there as well. Anything to help Granny stay independent with going to the bathroom!

Word of warning: little kids love playing with bidet toilet seats and may need supervision!

Ultimately though, the whole family might want to stop by and use Granny’s throne to try it out. You may feel hesitant right now. But once you try it, you’ll want to install one in your bathroom!

I hope this holiday gift guide will help you find the best gift for your Granny or Grandpa! If you already purchased something, tell us in the comments below! Would you consider buying any of the stuff listed above for your parent or grandparent? Would you buy it for yourself? Need more gift ideas? Contact us to help your parent or grandparent live at home for a lifetime!

Aging-In-Place Safely: How The Lighting In Your Home Can Help
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Foreword:

Hazel Bridges is back! She kindly wrote another article to help you plan for a successful future with aging-in-place. Please click HERE to read the other article Hazel wrote for us in October.

Just a recap, aging-in-place is the idea that anyone of any means can live at home for as long as they choose to safely and independently. Thinking about how you light your home inside and out can affect your ability do the things you need and want to do.

Personally, I’ve worked with numerous adults who have a difficult time looking at medicine bottles or finding something in the kitchen because of poor lighting. It can feel frustrating to not be able to see what you’re trying to do!

Well, lucky for you, Hazel Bridges has some suggestions! She 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. Hazel contributed the information below for you to make the best decisions for you!

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For many seniors, finding a way to safely age-in-place is a priority, but it can be an overwhelming task. Trying to take care of all the changes and modifications your home needs can be costly and stressful, and if you have health or mobility issues, it can be dangerous. It’s important to look for ways you can make your home safer and more comfortable, however, so you can stay there without issue for as long as you want.

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One of the easiest ways to make your home a safer space is to take a look at the lighting in each room to make sure it’s working for you. The lights you use can have a big impact on your safety and comfort, from preventing falls to helping you see more easily when performing daily tasks, and it’s something that’s relatively easy to change without spending a ton of money. Do a little research before making any decisions so you can make sure you have the right lighting solutions for every room.

Keep reading for some great tips on how to age-in-place safely and change up the way your home is lit.

Keep lighting consistent

As we get older, our eyes change and their ability to see well after a drastic shift in light decreases drastically. It’s important, then, to make sure each room in your home has consistent lighting, with no big changes that will strain your eyes. In order to achieve this, you may need to use the same type of lighting everywhere, whether that means hiring a licensed electrician to install wiring or simply placing lamps strategically around the house.

Use task lighting

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Task lighting is a big help to seniors who sometimes need a little extra assistance when working in the kitchen or enjoying an activity like knitting or woodworking. Add task lighting over the sink, near your favorite chair, or any spot around the house where you read or perform an activity. This can be a strong lamp with an adjustable arm or a battery-operated light that can be stuck anywhere you need it for convenience.

Use the right bulbs

The right bulbs for your home will depend on what type of activity you’re doing. LED lights are perfect for a variety of activities and will save you money, as they last for years and are more energy-efficient than other bulbs. Fluorescent lighting can lead to issues for many seniors who are prone to headaches, while other types of lighting can cause a glare on flooring, elevating the risk for a fall. Do a little research before choosing the bulbs you need and make sure you’re getting the right kind.

Light up the bathroom

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The bathroom is a spot where many accidents occur for seniors, including falls that can be dangerous. The lighting here should be glare-free and ample, allowing you to see clearly at the sink and in the shower. If you have a vision impairment, the lighting should give you a defined view of where the toilet and sink are located, especially if your walls are painted white.

Aging-in-place safely and comfortably doesn’t have to be stressful or costly. With a little research and some planning, you can turn your home into the best possible place for your retirement years without worrying about injury or a stay in the hospital. Talk to your spouse or partner about the best modifications for your house, and remember to always hire a pro for the big jobs, especially when it comes to electricity.

Afterword:

Remember to include an occupational therapist to your team! Occupational therapists understand that every person has different lighting needs to do their every day tasks.

For instance, some people see better with a light bulb that emits more blue light than red light. A client may need more task lighting in the living room while another client needs more task lighting at the bathroom vanity. It depends on your abilities and daily routines. We all need varying amounts of light as well to see our best. Occupational therapists help you sort through all of the in’s and out’s of your lighting needs.

We’re also very good at talking with electricians to customize your set up!

Also, I wrote a brief article on different styles of lighting you could use in your bathroom. There’s more than one way to skin a cat! For more information on how to improve your bathroom lighting, click HERE! Wall wash lighting is my new personal favorite!

What’s your current lighting situation in your home? Do you have globe lighting in the middle of each room and randomly placed lamps? Do you have natural lighting using transom windows or skylights? I want to know! Send me pictures of your favorite lighting at home and I will post them on social media!

Tell me if you would like to learn more ways to improve lighting in different parts of the home. I would be happy to talk about it!

Am I Really A Caregiver?

Foreword: I originally published this article in July and thought that it needed another go round on the blog. If you help out a family member, read below and see if you qualify as a caregiver. (More than likely, you probably do!) I want you to know that there are resources available to help you!

Recently, a therapist friend of mine brought up the fact that caregivers do not realize they are caregivers. My mind was blown! She was totally right. It reminded me how I used to not see myself as a caregiver to my grandparents. On a professional level, I have worked with family members in nursing homes who did not see themselves as caregivers. Lots of people do not perceive themselves as caregivers!

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Pexels

It seems like when people think about caregiving they imagine a kind nurse helping a sick, frail patient with some sort of self care task, like getting dressed or taking medicine. Or people think that a caregiver is a parent raising a child. Both thoughts about caregivers are correct, but let me tell you, the definition of a caregiver expands way past physically helping a person with the intimate parts of everyday life.

I talk about caregivers all the time in my blog, videos, and with clients and their families. It is long overdue for me to break down what a caregiver actually does!

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Pexels

A caregiver is a family member, friend, or paid professional that helps a person with activities of daily living. I understand that is a broad definition, but let me explain. Activities of daily living refer not only to self care tasks like toileting, bathing, grooming, etc., but they also refer to taking care of the home, finances, transportation, community errands, using a telephone, and so on and so on.

If you just sit for a minute and actually think about all of the seemingly small things you do a day, than you will realize that some people need help with all of those things you take for granted. Let me tell you about my first hour of a normal day. I get out of bed, put on my glasses, make the bed, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, let the dog out, make breakfast, eat breakfast, and walk the dog. For each one of those tasks, I could go into even more detail about what I do.

There are some people who need help with every single one of those things that I do in the first hour of the day! My first hour of the day consists of my personal needs and taking care of my dog. If someone helped me with any of those things, they would be my caregiver. Is your mind blown yet?

My personal experience as a caregiver started many years ago with my wonderful grandparents. My grandmother, Granny, would ask me to help out with tasks around the house like changing the light bulbs, taking down the attic fan cover, and carrying the laundry basket up from the basement for her. (By the way, all of those things are caregiving activities!) I did not see myself as a caregiver. I saw myself as helping Granny out! I actually cherished going to my grandparent’s house and reading my list of to do’s. In my mind, that’s what you do for your family: you help your family whenever they need something.

Over time, my grandparents asked for more help around the house and going out in the community. I loved our new weekly ritual of picking them up and driving to the grocery store. Granny would chit chat with the store employees at the front of the store and at checkout. We would take our time walking the aisles while Granny asked me to reach for the products she wanted. I would push the cart and Grandpa helped me load and unload the groceries into the car and house. All of us worked at a furious pace to put the groceries away, “Hurry! The ice cream will melt!”  We ended our grocery run at the dining room table eating donuts and drinking coffee or cappuccino and catching up with each other over the past week. I had no idea that my role as a caregiver would continue to grow.

Eventually, my caregiving responsibilities included managing my grandparent’s medication and finances. I used to work as a pharmacy technician while in school, so it seemed a natural fit for me to make sure their medications were refilled and placed in their weekly medication organizer. Granny trusted me with balancing her checkbook every week and Grandpa knew I would pay the bills as soon as they came in the mail. I always made sure to do the bills and medication how they wanted to give them peace of mind.

The increase in caregiving tasks came with more time spent with my grandparents at their house. My mother and I split caregiving duties to even the load and allow us to attend to other parts of our lives, like work and school. Mom would take my grandparents to doctor’s appointments, the nail salon, the hair salon, and other errands. My grandparents were lucky enough to qualify for a personal care attendant through one of the county’s senior services programs who helped with laundry, cooking, and cleaning the house. We were fortunate to have a team of caregivers for Granny and Grandpa!

Towards the end of Granny’s life, she was able to do many of her self care tasks such as dressing, toileting, bathing, brushing teeth. Sometimes Mom helped Granny put her curlers in her hair in the evening before bed due to Granny’s arthritis in her shoulders. Granny called us when she felt sick and we would give her medicine and contact her doctor. When she passed suddenly in 2016, I felt my world shift. Of course, I missed my role as a granddaughter to Granny, but I also missed my role as a caregiver to her. I loved how Granny was my caregiver when I was a child, and I was able to be a caregiver to her in the last part of her life.

In a way, my role as a caregiver to Grandpa has greatly reduced as well. After Granny passed, Grandpa needed physical help with self care tasks in addition to taking care of the house. Grandpa now requires at least two people to help with sitting and standing during his activities of daily living 24 hours a day. Because of Grandpa’s needs for more help, he now lives in a long term care facility where the nursing staff provides the care he needs. Now, my role is back to being his granddaughter. We still continue our tradition of cappuccino and donuts every Sunday while we visit together.

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I hope my personal experience as a caregiver allows you to see your role as a caregiver to others. Do you take out your neighbor’s trash? Do you mow your uncle’s lawn? Do you show your grandma how to take a selfie or post on Facebook? Do you take down your mom’s curtains to be washed? Guess what? You’re a caregiver.

As a fellow caregiver, I salute you. Caregiving is an unpaid, invisible, incredibly important job that almost all of us do and are not recognized. Caregiving is one of the hardest experiences we encounter as human beings. It demands patience and dedication to our loved ones or people we provide services to. I would like to end this article giving you a few resources because I want to make your life easier, friend!

Here are a couple of short videos to brighten your day and show you some caregiving tips: 3 Free Tips for Millennial Caregivers, How to Install a Motion Sensor Light.

Click on these links to learn how to help yourself as a caregiver: Alzheimer's Association, AARP, Caregiver Action Network, and National Alliance for Caregiving

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day! Time is precious when you help a loved one! Please comment down below with any caregiving tips you would like to share!

Seven Tips to Make Your Home Friendly for the Holidays!
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Pexels

During this time of the month, most people are starting to plan for Thanksgiving. Do you find yourself with the luxury (or the curse) of hosting the Thanksgiving meal?

Whatever your perspective, there’s no doubt there’s excitement over the holiday!  

We all spend time with our loved ones. The people who bring meaning to our lives. It may be family and friends gathering in our homes or families of choice.

The point is this: whoever’s coming over probably means a great deal to you.

So in addition to putting up pretty fall decorations and dreaming about cooking and baking, I need to bring up an important factor for consideration in your holiday bliss. Older adults often have a difficult time moving around in other people’s houses.

Sad, but true.

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I’m sure you’ve seen Grandma struggle to step up the two stairs into your front door. Great Uncle Tito tripped on your hallway rug and accidentally kicked your Maltese who happens to look like he blends into the carpet.

We don’t want our loved ones to encounter holiday hazards in our home! The idea of someone needing medical attention on Thanksgiving may strike fear deep into the heart of every host or hostess! Unfortunately, I have worked with quite a few clients who became injured while visiting their relative’s house.

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Pexels

When I worked in nursing homes as an occupational therapist, I remember one particular client. She visited her granddaughter’s house for Thanksgiving and had a lovely evening with the family. As she went down the stairs from the front door to the driveway, she tripped and fell down the stairs resulting in a broken hip. This client rehabilitated in my facility and returned home. Astonishingly, this same client ended up coming back to rehabilitation because of an infection in the new hardware in her hip. She celebrated Christmas and New Year’s Day in rehab instead of at home with her family.

What can be done to prevent ruining this joyous time of year?! I’ve got seven simple tips to make your holidays visitor friendly for everyone!

1) Install more lighting at your main entrance. No matter what time you end up having Thanksgiving dinner, double check your lighting by your main entryway. My main entrance is the back door. We have motion sensor lights that easily light up our stoop, sidewalk, and driveway. Everyone can see!

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Pexels

Take a look at your main entryway. What lighting do you currently have? Are there spots that seem darker than others? Are the stairs well lit? If it’s dark while you’re reading this article, go outside right now! Take note of how comfortable you feel moving around the entryway with the current lighting situation. If you’re not comfortable, then something needs to be adjusted before your family comes on Thanksgiving!

Bonus tip: If you wanted to go above and beyond, install handrails on the right and left of stairs to help your family members feel confident in their balance.

2) No slipping on ice! Who knows what the weather will be like on Thanksgiving! If there is ice, take care of it right away with ice melt or kitty litter! Don’t let Aunt Rita skate into the house. She was never gifted in the sport of ice dancing to begin with.

3) Allow family members to wear their shoes inside the house for extra support and balance. Don’t be that person. You know, the one who thinks they have the cleanest carpets on the planet and absolutely cannot have people keep their shoes on. Thanksgiving is the day you let your older adult relatives wear their shoes while they teeter around in your house. Let it go! Your carpet can be cleaned and has no feelings if it’s injured!

4) Keep an armchair handy. Your squishy couch feels amazing. You sink into it at the end of a long, hard day. It’s so squishy you practically have to roll out of it!

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Well guess what Grandpa has to do to stand up from your squishy couch? He has to roll off of it too, but crawling on his hands and knees kills his joints! Offer your older adult relatives a firm armchair to easily sit down and stand up. You are maintaining their dignity and saving their arthritic joints!

5) Bathroom Tips! Hopefully, you have at least a half bathroom on the main floor. If not, give me a call. But at the very least please clear clutter on the bathroom floor. You don’t need to have a bathroom scale out (It’s Thanksgiving for Pete’s sake!). You don’t need a magazine rack. You don’t need a decorative pot in every corner. Please give your relatives room to safely maneuver while using the toilet!

Also, put toilet paper in reach (and extra on hand) so they don’t have the risk of falling off the john. Do you really want to go in the bathroom and rescue Nana from the floor?

6) Remove rugs in the house. I understand that you may need a rug for people to clean off their shoes. But do you REALLY need other rugs in the house? You’re the only person who knows where all of the rugs are. I can’t tell you how many rugs I’ve tripped on in other people’s houses because I was distracted! I’m not the only one!

7) Move Fido or Fluffy into a closed off part of the house. Although animals are a huge part of the family, they may be hard for your older relatives to notice.

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Help your relatives feel confident about coming to your house for Thanksgiving. It’s worth it to include these tips to prepare your home for guests to celebrate. This will make the visit more enjoyable for everyone! I am thankful every year for everyone gathering and leaving completely intact and non-injured.

If you have any questions on how to make your home visitable for your family, contact me. Please comment below on how you make it easy for your relatives to come visit during this special time of year!

How to Pay for Home Modifications or Repairs
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Hello, my dearest friends! Let’s talk about the biggest hurdle to overcome when you’re thinking about home modifications or repairs to your home: money.

Many people I talk to say, “I don’t know if I can afford you.” I completely understand the dilemma. You want to make changes in your home, but your bank account isn’t too sure you can handle that. You know home modifications can help you stay safe and independent in your comfortable abode.

You’re right, home modifications are a key ingredient to keeping yourself OUT of a nursing home. But paying for them can be tricky!

I am a firm believer in thinking you don’t need to spend a ton of money to make your home safer! Unfortunately, I do run into certain problems that require more extensive home modifications as part of the solution. A common example of this predicament is when people need to use a wheelchair or power wheelchair and they cannot fit through the bathroom door.

The truth is that home modifications are an investment for you and your lifestyle. And like any investment, you need to buckle down and think about your options before making a decision.

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.

-Benjamin Franklin

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To help you make the best financial decision, I created a page devoted to financial resources on my website. This page is specific to the Kansas City area; although a lot of resources pertain to residents statewide in Missouri and Kansas.

My biggest passion is to help you live at home for a lifetime. I am a huge advocate of looking into every possibility for people to remain at home if that is their wish. Click here to see how happy Mrs. B is with her home modifications!

My zest + the power of research = Home Modification Financial Resource

I am excited to have this resource available for you because it can be confusing to figure out what financial supports exist! If you want to learn more about a particular resource, just click on the link highlighted in red. Or you can contact me to answer your questions!

I covered financial supports like: Medicaid, grants, loans, tax credits, long term care insurance, life insurance loans, resources for veterans, and Kansas City area community organizations. The focus is on financial assistance for home modifications. Please note that home modifications include home repair, household items, and equipment in addition to structural changes to the home, like building a ramp.

People ask me often if Medicare will pay for home modifications. The answer is “No”. Medicare will help pay for medical equipment with a doctor’s order, like a hospital bed. You have to pay a twenty percent copay for the medical equipment.

As of right now, there is legislation for the Medicare Advantage plans to cover simple home modifications in 2019, like grab bars and shower chairs. If it goes into effect, many people will benefit from simple fixes to their bathroom or main entryway at home.

If this legislation passes, please ask an occupational therapist on where the best placement is for grab bars in your home!!! Occupational therapists have the medical training to look at your overall needs compared to a contractor or handyman’s skills to install your equipment. Your home modifications will go smoothly if you have a team that includes an occupational therapist and a contractor!

The worst anecdote that comes to mind is of a woman, Betty, I met in a nursing home. (Names have been changed.) Betty started to notice how difficult it was to step out of the tub shower in her bathroom. She felt like her foot slipped on the floor of the tub while she picked up her other foot to step over the ledge. Betty would reach out her strong left hand to hold on to anything to steady herself. She knew it wasn’t safe to hold onto the jiggly towel rack, but she didn’t have any other choice.

Betty didn’t want to fall, especially in the bathroom! So she called a handyman to come over and put in a grab bar to feel more steady. She paid the handyman with her own funds and no financial support. With the grab bar in place, Betty felt more comfortable with taking a shower again.

Maybe Betty could’ve benefited from this? Photo by Pexels

Maybe Betty could’ve benefited from this? Photo by Pexels

When Betty was stepping out of the shower, she felt her foot slip again. She quickly reached across her body for the grab bar with her strong left hand, but it wasn’t enough. Betty slipped and fell over the tub ledge onto the bathroom floor and broke her hip.

It’s awful when home modifications, like putting in grab bars, doesn’t work out well for people like Betty. The effort and money she put in to install the grab bar to provide her safety did not turn out as planned. If she had an occupational therapist on her team, her money would not have been wasted. An occupational therapist would have helped Betty create a solution customized to her needs.

Don’t be like Betty. Be informed about making the best financial investment for you and your home! Look through this list of financial resources for home modifications. Find an occupational therapist to help you in deciding what home modifications are going to be right for you! Talk to friends and family about contractors they have hired in the past. Read this article on how to find the right contractor.

In the story above, Betty tried to prevent getting injured in her bathroom. She did a great job being proactive and recognizing she needed help. But Betty didn’t realize she needed an occupational therapist to look at the big picture for her tub shower.

I am happy to assist you in creating a team that is committed to help you stay at home! Planning home modifications in advance is much better than needing them right after an injury or illness. You need to do it before you need it!

If you know of a financial resource for home modifications that I did not list, please contact me! I would love to add it!

Eight Steps to Find the Right Contractor!

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

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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.

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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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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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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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  • 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