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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 fall
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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Pexels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pexels

Rebuilding Together works with these Kansas City contractors:

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

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


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

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

National Association of the Remodeling Industry

Find remodelers in Missouri

Find remodelers in Kansas

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

Missouri

Kansas

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Pexels

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

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

• Do they take on projects of your size?

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

• Can they give you a list of previous clients?

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

• How long have they worked with their subcontractors?

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

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Pexels


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

  1. How long have you been in business?

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

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

  4. Get a written bid from each contractor.

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

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

2) Did he/she stick to the contract?

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

4) Did anything go wrong?

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


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

Some final words:

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Pexels

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

References:

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

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

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

Aerosmith Wants You to "Walk-er This Way"!

Have you ever thought about the possibility that you might need to use a walker someday? A walker is a type of mobility device used to help your balance. Other types of mobility devices are canes, rollators, wheelchairs, and scooters.

Unsplash

Unsplash

You may have a fleeting moment of insight that you’ll need something like that as you age. But you don’t give it more thought than that.

I bring up mobility devices today because they can be REALLY REALLY difficult to use at home.

Why?

Because your home is not set up to allow you and another object to seamlessly move around.

You’ve got the coffee table too close to the couch. The door frames are 27 inches wide. Your chest of drawers is 12 inches away from your side of the bed. I could go on forever!

You didn’t set up your house for a mobility device because you didn’t think you needed more room.

That’s okay! You and every other person on the planet has done the exact same thing. Now’s the time to make some changes!

I’m here for you! I think about mobility devices constantly because I’ve worked with many people on how to do what they need to do at home with the space they’ve got. I lovingly bring up the nitty gritty details on how to move around your home with your device to make sure you can live your life safely and comfortably.

Let me share what I did for one of my clients, Marge (names have been changed for privacy purposes!).

Marge had a terrible year. She was in the hospital for over a month and went to rehab for three months prior to going home. Before the hospital, Marge was able to walk around in her apartment and community with no problems. However after being sick for such a long time, she did not regain the strength in her legs to confidently walk like she used to.

Unsplash

Unsplash

Marge’s thoughtful son saw his mother push herself in a manual wheelchair over high pile carpet flooring in her apartment. He heard Marge talk about how sore her arms were from pushing herself from her bed to the bathroom at night and how difficult it was to move around her furniture.

To make life “easier”, Marge’s son bought her a scooter to use in her apartment.

Little did Marge’s son know, scooters require a wide turning radius to allow the user to turn 180 degrees or less. On the market, the “best” scooter could turn with a 38” radius. This makes scooters terrible for homes because people typically place furniture under 38” apart meaning there is NO room for scooters.

What ends up happening is scooter users need to drive forward and reverse a lot when navigating their homes. This requires a skilled driver to avoid scratching walls, door frames, furniture, or running over people!

My point is very FEW people do well with scooters inside of their homes.

Scooters make moving in living rooms impossible! Photo by Unsplash

Scooters make moving in living rooms impossible! Photo by Unsplash

So what did I do for my dear friend Marge?

When I met with Marge, I assessed her physical abilities while getting on and off the scooter and her driving skills. I also looked at how she did using her manual wheelchair. Comparing the two devices, I noted that Marge was more safe and independent getting in and out of her wheelchair than the scooter. Marge did not bump against her furniture or walls in the wheelchair. She did hit a door frame and recliner while using the scooter.

I told Marge I did not recommend she use the scooter in her home. The scooter increased her chances of serious injury if she used it in her apartment.

I gave Marge a couple of options:

  1. Remove the high pile carpet and replace it with low pile carpet or another type of flooring like laminate. This requires less effort for a wheelchair user to get around.

  2. Use a power wheelchair. Power wheelchairs need 20 inches or less turning radius, depending on the skill of the driver.

The downside to power wheelchairs is the price. They can cost as much as a car and are just as lethal if the driver does not have good driving skills.

Medicare will SOMETIMES pay for the cost of a power wheelchair, but they need excellent medical reasoning and documentation from your doctor, an occupational or physical therapist, and a third party mobility device supplier. For instance, Marge would need to show she had a drastic decline with her physical status to qualify for a power wheelchair through Medicare.

If Medicare does pay for the power wheelchair, then you are SOOOO lucky! All you have to do is wait several months for receipt of your power wheelchair, which is very difficult to do since you probably needed the power wheelchair for everyday living already!!!

Good mobility device companies usually offer a loaner power wheelchair to rent while you wait for your power wheelchair though. Keep that in mind!

In Marge’s case, she had the funds to purchase a standard power wheelchair to use in her home and community. I trained Marge how to drive the power wheelchair and get in and out of it. We set up her charging station within reach of her bedside table to plug in the power wheelchair at night.

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Unsplash

I was happy to see Marge’s gleeful expression while she zipped around her apartment. Her son looked relieved when he saw Marge move around without taking off the door frame.

Sometimes, you need an objective eye to show you previously unknown options. Marge’s son was trying to help his mom the best way he knew how.

When it comes to safety at home, it’s best to consult a professional like me to help you find the perfect solution that fits you. I helped Marge find ways to live at home safely and independently. She doesn’t need a caregiver to push her in the wheelchair. She can take herself to the bathroom or living room or dining hall. Marge is her own person living happily in her home.

What do you want to know about making your home safer? What have you already done to prepare yourself for the future? All I know is you better do it before you need it!

Four Ways to Prevent Falls during Fall!

Time moves so quickly. How is it already fall? It seems like everyone is talking about the omnipotence of pumpkin spice or their upcoming Halloween plans! (FYI: I was Frida Kahlo last year and am uncertain as to what I should be this year. Leave your suggestions in the comments below!)

I looked out the window and quite a few trees have already turned colors. In my backyard the leaves on two of the trees have turned a pale yellow and are dropping on the ground. With all of the rain in Kansas City the past several days, it feels very slick outside with the leaves on the back stoop and pavement.

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.” -Emily Bronte

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Pexels

Alright, Emily Bronte. Although the leaves are very pretty to view, they turn into instant fall risks for me. I’ve almost hit the ground a couple of times while picking up branches.

So to help you and me stay upright on our feet, here is a list of four ways to prevent falls during fall!

1) Footwear

I am a firm believer in wearing whatever type of shoe you prefer. However when it precipitates outside, we need to seriously consider more practical footwear. Look for a shoe with a rubber sole that grips wet leaves and slick pavement to keep you sturdy while walking outside to the car or into school or work. I gleefully wear my rubber boots when walking my dogs on rainy days with the knowledge that I won’t slip and fall. Freedom!

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Pexels

If I want to wear other shoes at work or visiting friends and family, I wear my rubber boots in the car and carry my other shoes in a tote! Easy peasy! I can have my cake and eat it too!

Also consider anti slip pads for the soles of your shoes for indoor and outdoor surfaces. You place the anti slip pads to the bottom of your shoes and walk in confidence. Look for anti slip pads on Amazon or any big box store for around $10. It’s a reasonable investment to avoid falling. I don’t think you need anything as hardy as anti slip traction cleats to combat ice yet. BUT we are almost to that time of year as well.

2) Lighting

Shorter days mean less light when I leave early in the morning and arrive home in the evening. It’s hard to see slick spots on my back stoop, stairs, and sidewalk.

Home Depot

Home Depot

A simple solution is adding more light to avoid stepping in a huge puddle of mud. Solar panel pathway lighting is becoming more inexpensive and affordable to install by the walkways in and out of your house or apartment. Pathway lighting takes little effort to maintain and gives enough light to see where to safely walk. You can choose from an assortment of different designs to make your outdoors look even more beautiful.

Home Depot

Home Depot

You also want to consider mounting an automatic motion sensor light by your main entryway. When the light senses you coming towards the door, it turns on and allows you to find your key and the keyhole to quickly enter your home. Most of the automatic motion sensor lights have adjustable timers to turn off after sensing no movement. This feature conserves energy in addition to preventing any falls you may have trying to get in and out of the house.

3) Non slip outdoor flooring

My back stoop is made out of wood. Unfortunately, a lot of paint has chipped off due to the elements and being a part of the main entryway of the house. The foot traffic, sunshine, wind, and rain, and snow combined have worn the poor sucker out.

Maria Lindbergh

Maria Lindbergh

How do I fix it? Well, I could repaint the back stoop and apply a non slip coating or traction spray, like Slip Doctors, to prevent falls in the future. This is the least expensive option. You can find these items online or in store easily and slap it on your flooring. The only problem is non slip coating tends to fade away after use and time. You need to reapply the coating to ensure you stay fall free when entering and exiting your home.

Another option is to place non slip flooring on top of the existing stoop (I have to step up inside of my house anyway. I might as well shorten the distance!). Some non slip flooring that attracts my eye is recycled rubber (which can go on steps too), composite decking, paver tiles, or deck tiles. Non slip flooring would last longer than non slip coating and prevent me from slipping on my stoop when the rain and ice hits.

SlipDoctors

SlipDoctors

Lastly, you can place non slip treads on the stoop and step to give more friction to your feet when going in and out of the house. Non slip treads come in strips or tape form to make it easy to apply where you prefer. Slip Doctors sells rolls of non slip tape with different widths to give you the choice to create the length you need for your home. You can find non slip treads in all kinds of colors including clear! The price range is $15-35 per unit. I recommend you seriously consider the black non slip tread with the reflective strip to avoid falling at home.

4) Portico

A portico is a part of the roof that hangs over your main entryway. I technically do not have a portico; part of the roof hangs over the door about 12 inches, which makes it nice and dry for the first step out the door!

Sutton Group Preferred Realty

Sutton Group Preferred Realty

It would be lovely to have a portico cover my little 3’x4’ stoop to protect it from rain and snow. I wouldn’t worry about slipping on the stoop because it would remain dry.

Building a portico isn’t cheap, but there are other options. You could consider using a canopy, a patio cover, pavilion, or retractable awnings. With so many choices, it’s easy to plan and decide what will work best for your finances and aesthetics.

At the end of the day, I just don’t want you or me to fall, capiche? Look over these fall prevention tips and choose what’s going to work out best for you!

Please comment down below and tell me how you prevent falls in the fall! Let me learn your ways!