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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 tagged baby boomers
Eight Steps to Find the Right Contractor!

[This post is written by Sharon Ugochukwu, a former occupational therapy assistant student from 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

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!

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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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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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!

Hey, Missouri! Show Me the Money: 6 Ways to Finance Home Projects!

Last week we discussed three ways to pay for home projects that help us and our families live at home safely and independently. Apparently, that article left you hungry for more information! So this week, I wanted to follow up with EVEN MORE financial resources for your consideration!

Let's do a quick recap on the who, what, and why it's important to invest in home projects, such as home modification or remodeling. We all want to live in our homes as long as we possibly can. (I have never EVER met anyone who said they wanted to live in a nursing home!) Despite us wanting to live in our homes forever, over 90% of housing in the U.S. is NOT set up for us to safely age in in place! That means every person in the U.S. needs to start investing in home modifications that will allow us to remain independent caring for ourselves, OR we will ALL end up spending more money on things we hate, like medical bills and rehab.

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So you may ask, "Maria, how can I afford to pay for home modifications?" Great question! Here are six solutions for you (To see a more comprehensive financial resource list, click here.):

1) If you are a home owner, renter, or landlord with a low to moderate income, listen up! You can request home repairs or simple modifications through your area agency on aging, which is financed by the Housing and Urban Development HOME Program and Community Development Block Grants. In Kansas City, MO, you can click here to request help to fix repairs and install accessible features, like grab bars in the bathroom. 

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2) Don't worry Missouri farmers and ranchers! I'm thinking about you too! The United States Department of Agriculture and Rural Development offer loan programs for low to moderate income home owners and landlords to buy, build, rehab, or improve a house! It is worthwhile to consider these low interest loans for home improvements that allow you to age in place. Before your family talks you into moving to the city for retirement, look into this type of loan for home modifications to stay safe and independent on your land! 

3) Go to your local bank or credit union and ask about the loans they provide that are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Let's say you take out a loan that is FHA insured and something terrible happens where you are unable to repay the loan. Not to worry! FHA will reimburse your bank the amount of the loan balance. Since the bank is guaranteed a loan payoff, they are often willing to lower loan requirements for the income and credit score. These types of fixed or variable rate loans are great for low to moderate income homeowners and landlords to make homes accessible for people to live for a lifetime!

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4) Do you care for children 18 years and younger with developmental disabilities? Do they feel heavier and heavier every time you pick them up to feed/dress/bathe/toilet them? It's time for some home modifications to protect your back and the health of your child! Check out the Missouri Medicaid waiver that pays for home environmental modifications to make it safer and easier for you to help your kiddo! This waiver is available to both homeowners or renters across the state!

5) If you have trouble getting in and out of your home, take a look at the Missouri Residential Dwelling Accessibility Tax Credit. This tax credit is for people with disabilities who have an income of $30,000 or less a year. You can be credited up to $2,500 for modifying your entryway (i.e. garage, front door, back door, side door) to make it easier to enter and exit your home. Personally, I love being reimbursed by the government for doing something good for my home and my physical health! No more worrying about accidental injuries when getting in and out of the house!

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6) Veterans! You have sacrificed your time and lives for our country's independence! Now, it's time for you homeowners or renters to maintain your independence in the community! Go to this link to apply for housing grants to adapt your home! You deserve to live in a home that is set up for you to complete your daily activities. Also, click here to learn more about the Home Improvement and Structural Alterations Grant for veterans that focuses on home modifications specifically for bathrooms, entryways, and kitchens. In my humble opinion, those are the top three places in your home that you should address first!

The time for home modifications is now! I don't care how old you are! I'm looking at you all in your twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, or above! I don't care if you can still walk or drive at night! I don't even care if you think you can rely on your kids in your golden years! People of all ages need to make changes in the home now to live at home for a lifetime. All it takes is one project at a time, folks.

After you find out which financial resources above will work for you, call an occupational therapist, like me, to guide you in creating home modifications custom made for you. Occupational therapists understand that people have different wants and needs in their home. We love working with people to tailor their home environment just for them! In fact, check out the research showing that occupational therapists are the most effective at home modification recommendations!

Lastly, I know that you know people who could benefit from this information. Share this article with every veteran, grandparent, parent, farmer, neighbor you know! Click on the links above and learn more about these grants, waivers, and loans for Missouri residents! Consider this: if you clicked on one link a day, you would be finished in one week. Take notes on which financial resources will and won't work for you to stay organized. If anything, remember that you better do it before you need it!

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Guess What? More Social Media!

I created an Instagram account, @stayathomesolutions, to share interesting information on home modifications, aging in place, adaptive equipment, smart home technology, durable medical equipment, and universal design. These topics will enhance independence for you or for people you may know in a fun way! I am a big proponent of enjoying your life no matter your ability or experience.

Social media allows me to better explain my ideas and thoughts. What social media platforms do you like to use? Are you mainly a Facebook user? Pinterest? Tell me in the comments below!

Please click on the links below to take a look at my other social media:

Pinterest

Facebook

YouTube

As always, please message or call me if you would like for me to delve into a specific topic or product!

Hey, Caregivers! Here's Something to Help You!

Some of us may end up helping a family member with managing medicine or getting in and out of the shower at some point in our lives. It can feel overwhelming if you do not work in a healthcare setting and do not know how to help your loved ones. If you find yourself helping out Grandpa with checking his blood sugar, go to the Home Alone Alliance which has free videos on how to help family members with medical or nursing tasks. 

The videos provide short and easy information on mobility, wound care, and managing medications. There are some videos available in English and Spanish. If you are a health care professional, please consider sharing this resource with other people. 

What Do Older Americans Want?

The Urban Land Institute released a report in 2012 discussing how most older Americans want to age in place in their own homes even if they need assistance with daily activities. Over half of Americans 65 years and older live in the suburbs. This is expected to create naturally occurring retirement communities. "Leading-Edge Boomers", people born between 1946 and 1964, are expected to live into their 90's and do not want to move into institutionalized housing. They share this sentiment with the Silent Generation and the Greatest Generation.

This report also noted that housing communities for seniors, including independent living and nursing care, are on the decline due to the high cost of living in these communities and seniors not having enough money in savings. Housing communities experience difficulty with replacing residents who leave with new residents because of the fact that no matter how attractive or supportive the institution, it is still an institution. The fastest growing households are multigenerational, however, it is difficult to address in urban housing with apartment complexes.