[This post is written by Sharon Ugochukwu, a occupational therapy assistant student at National American University.]
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.
Rebuilding Together works with these Kansas City contractors:
Climate Control Heating & Cooling
Clinton County Trailer Sales
C. M. Mose & Son
Full Nelson Plumbing
Homes By Chris
Larry Brown Excavating
Liberty & Northland Plumbing
Paul’s Heating & Cooling
Professional Pest Solutions
Richard Huber Plumbing
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
Certified Aging In Place Program (CAPS) members can be found here:
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.
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:
How long have you been in business?
Do you have experience in doing home remodels for people who want to stay in their home as they age?
Are you licensed, bonded, and have worker’s compensation insurance? Check for proof.
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:
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?
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
(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!
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!
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.
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!
I will admit to you all today that I sometimes struggle to open the washing machine or dryer door. There are instances where I do not grip the door handle well enough and my hand slips off! Occasionally, I attempt to open the door and need to tug on it two to three times before it opens! When I experience this I tend to think, "Oh my gosh, why is this so hard?"
Then my occupational therapy brain starts to kick in and think: "How can I solve this? How can I make it easier to open the washer or dryer door?"
Well my friends, let me share some ideas with you today! Let's go through and think about your current situation!
Please go and look at your washer and dryer right now. I will patiently wait for you! (Side note: Hopefully your washer and dryer are on the main level of your house. If not, put that in your three to five year home modification plan! A washer and dryer on the main level of the house helps people age in place in their home!)
Ok, did you look? I am going to ask the following questions:
What type of washer and dryer do you have? Are they front or top loaders?
Are they a stackable washer and dryer?
What brand do you have?
Which direction does the door open and shut on the washer and dryer?
Where are the control buttons on the washer and dryer? On the front of the machine? Towards the back on a panel?
Where is it located in the house?
The answers to these questions tell me a lot about how you are moving to do laundry. It leads me to other questions about you personally like:
What is your dominant hand? Right or left?
What is your grip strength?
Are you sitting or standing at the machine when moving loads?
Are you sitting or standing while folding clothes?
How far can you reach while sitting or standing?
Are you using equipment, like a walker or reacher?
When you do laundry, do you wear out after a short time or can you do everything without rest breaks?
Do you lose your balance when reaching for clothes inside the machine?