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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.

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How to Pay for Home Modifications or Repairs
Pexels

Pexels

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

Pexels

Pexels

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!

Look at My Garden Design!

I love gardening! As an occupational therapist, I feel delighted when my clients tell me they enjoy gardening as well. Since gardening is a great activity to stay healthy and strong, I like to help people figure out how to stay engaged in it.

I found that most of the time, people stop gardening because they can no longer access their garden beds at home. These people can not get down to the ground and stand back up. They find it difficult to walk on uneven ground in their yards. Reaching for weeds or tools on the ground can cause people to lose their balance. Nobody wants to take a tumble in front of the neighbors!

These gardening problems are caused by losing strength and balance over time as we age. When we stop doing certain activities, we lose the ability to participate in that task. Of course, I could tell people, “Just start exercising”, but in all actuality very few clients follow through on that suggestion.

Other hurdles to gardening include arthritis pain and joint problems. These two common complaints make my clients feel unable to resume gardening how they used to. So with these biological barriers blocking my clients from enjoying time outdoors with their plants, what am I going to recommend to them?

I wrote an article in May, “Easy Gardening Tips”, that focused on tool and self care recommendations when gardening outside. Today, I am going to go into detail about the physical changes you can make in your yard to access the garden easier!

Let me give you an example about my own garden. My husband and I want to make a raised 16'x16' garden bed for produce in our yard. We wanted to include a path in the garden bed to be able to walk and reach plants in the middle. Here is a picture of the design my husband created:

Design by Cole Lindbergh

Design by Cole Lindbergh

We call it a "Big Garden" because we are amateur gardeners, okay people? Sometimes I kill plants unintentionally, but I always love to try growing them.

To make the garden accessible for most people, I asked my husband to make the entry and garden path inside of the square 36 inches wide. This will allow plenty of room for any person with a walker or cane to come look at my plants or weed for me (for free of course). Anyone who walks will have no problem carting a wagon of tools around a pathway this size. My clients who find it difficult to lean and reach for items will like this type of design to avoid losing their balance.

The garden path width will also allow a wheelchair user to come inside, BUT this would be a very tight squeeze for that person when you include hand rims. Ideally, the width of the path would be 60 inches or have one spot that is 5'x5' to turn in any direction. My garden design works for people with smaller width wheelchairs and only gives them the ability to go forwards or backwards.

The other bone of contention is my power wheelchair user friends would not be able to come into the garden. They would need a 6'x6' turning space to safely navigate my garden without bumping into the bed walls. Power wheelchairs can often cost the same as a car! So we wouldn't want to accidentally damage my friend's mode of transportation!

Another thing to consider is how tall to make the garden bed walls. The minimum recommended height for raised garden beds is one foot for plant roots to spread. There is no rule for a maximum garden bed height, but be wary of the need to reach up too high to tend to your plants. For our purposes, we are going to make the bed walls two feet high. If that is too low, we can certainly add on to the wall height in the future. 

Building taller raised garden beds, like four feet high, will work better for people who feel pain while bending to the ground. I would recommend bringing a light stool in your garden wagon in order to sit and work on the plants. Sitting to garden conserves energy, limits pain, and improves your balance. You can also use a raised garden bed with legs that will give more room for your lower body while sitting to tend to plants like the picture below.

Costco

Costco

Lastly, it's important to think about the material to use for the garden pathway. For obvious reasons, dirt and grass will make it very hard for someone to walk or push a wheelchair in the garden. Mud is a mortal enemy to power wheelchairs and is incredibly hard to clean off of wheels!

You want the garden pathway material to be non slip and smooth for wheelchair users and people who use walkers or canes. The ability for a wheelchair user to access certain areas depends on their equipment and upper body strength. Some ideal materials include crusher run, concrete, or asphalt. Wood pathways are another option, however, you need to make sure they are sealed properly to avoid the pathway to become slippery when wet and to prevent the wood from breaking down from the elements.

Do not be tempted to put in brick or other stone pavers! They look really pretty, but cause unnecessary bumps for wheels. Also, I cannot tell you how many times I watched people with walkers get stuck in the spaces in between pavers and sidewalk cracks. Bumps and cracks on pathways can easily lead to falls in the garden. Again, we don't want the neighbors to watch us fall!

If you are interested in learning more about making gardens accessible for all, please check out Enabling Gardens: Creating Barrier Free Gardens by Gene Rothert. Mr. Rothert is a wheelchair user and gives first hand experience on how to make gardening available to people of all ages and abilities.

Everyone deserves to enjoy what they like to do, including gardening. If you or someone you know has a hard time with gardening, try some of these tips to get back outside! Comment down below if you have tried ways to make gardening easier for you!