ElderAction: Action Ideas for Older Persons and Their Families

SUMMARY: Tips on how to modify your home to make it a safe and comfortable living situation for elders.

ARTICLE: HOME MODIFICATION AND REPAIR

Home Modification and Repair includes adaptations to homes that can make it easier and safer to carry out activities such as bathing, cooking, and climbing stairs and alterations to the physical structure of the home to improve its overall safety and condition.

WHY IS HOME MODIFICATION AND REPAIR IMPORTANT?

Home modification and repair can help prevent accidents such as falls. Research suggests that one-third to one-half of home accidents can be prevented by modification and repair.

Home modification and repair can allow people to remain in their homes. Over 60% of older persons live in homes more than 20 years old. Home modification and repair can accommodate lifestyle changes and increase comfort and safety.

TYPICAL PROBLEMS:

* Difficulty getting in and out of the shower

* Slipping in the tub or shower

* Difficulty turning faucet handles/doorknobs

* Access to home

* Inadequate heating or ventilation

* Problems climbing staffs

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS:

* Install grab bars, shower seals or transfer benches

* Place non-skid strips or decals in the tub or shower

* Replace with lever handles

* Install ramps

* Install insulation, storm windows and air conditioning

* Install handrails for support

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

Some home modification and repair programs make loans or provide services free of charge or at reduced rates for eligible older people. For more information, contact:

Farmers Home Administration: Various grants and loans are available for rural, low-income elders.

Local Community Development Department: Many cities and towns use Community Development Block Grants to help citizens maintain and upgrade their homes.

Local Welfare or Energy Department: Two programs from the Low- income Home Energy Assistance. Program (LIHEAP) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) of the U.S. Department of Energy, provide funds to weatherize the homes of lower income persons.

Physician or Health Care Provider: Funds from Medicare and Medicaid are available for durable medical equipment with a doctor’s prescription.

Local Area Agency on Aging: Funds from the Older Americans Act Title III often can be used to modify and repair homes.

Local Lenders and Banks: Some lenders offer Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECM’s) that allow homeowners to turn the value of theft home into cash, without having to move or make regular loan payments.

GOOD NEWS FOR RENTERS:

The Fair Housing Act of 1988 Section 6(a) makes it illegal for landlords to refuse to let tenants make reasonable modifications to their house or apartment if the tenant is willing to pay for the changes.

WHERE TO GET HELP: You Can:

1) Do it yourself, or get a friend or relative to help

2) Hire a handyman or contractor

3) Contact a home modification and repair program. Programs can be located through your:

Local Area Agency On Aging State Agency On Aging State Housing Finance Agency department of Public Welfare Department Of Community Development Senior Center Independent Living Center.

USING A CONTRACTOR:

* Make certain that the contractor is dependable. Ask for references from previous customers-CHECK OUT THE REFERENCES; try to see some of the contractor’s completed projects.

* Hire a licensed and bonded contractor

* Get bids from several contractors.

* Insist on a written agreement, with only a small down payment. Make the final payment only after the project is completed.

* Check with your local Better Business Bureau or your city/county Consumer Affairs Office regarding the contractor’s reliability and performance record.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Home Safety Guide for Older People: Check It Out/Fix It Up by Jon Pynoos and Evelyn Cohen Serif Press, Inc. 1331 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20005 For more information, call: (202) 737-4650 Price: $12.50

Safety for Older Consumers U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Washington, D.C. 20207 For more information, call: 1- 800-638-2772 Price: Free

The DoAble Renewable Home: Making Your Home Fit Your Needs (D12470) AARP Fulffllment, Consumer Affairs 601 E Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20049 For more information, call: (202) 972-4700 Price: Free (single copies).

Source: Administration on Aging

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