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Aging In Place May Require Some Home Accessibility Modifications

We will discuss home accessibility modifications with a certified aging in place specialist today

I always like to point out that while home accessibility modifications can be a necessity to stay in your home after a debilitating event such as a catastrophic accident or a stroke. Thinking about this kind of possibility even when you build or buy your first home is a wise thing to do. I often compare it to buying auto insurance even though we do not plan to have an auto accident.

Scott Anderson of
Trivest Construction Inc.
Construction Management
General Construction and Cost Consulting
4921 LaVista Road
Tucker, GA. 30084
Ph: (678)-205-2886 Fax: (678)-205-2887

Interview with Diane Carbo and Scott Anderson

Scott, my goal is to help aging individuals make their home their partner as they age. Can you tell me when is a good time to begin to make changes in the home?

The most important step is to gather a team of individuals to get feedback from all the important players. In addition to the aging seniors and their spouses, adult children, primary caregivers and medical professionals (Occupational therapist, physical therapist, home care worker, physician, etc.). The CAPS professional appreciates feedback from all in the decision making process. The process is:

  • 1. Establish the Team, as mentioned above
  • 2 Assess the senior’s needs and present functional ability. Discuss with family members and medical professional potential future health care needs or concerns.
  • 3. Assess the home;
  • 4. Propose home modifications with cost and timetable
  • 5. Finance
  • 6. Construction Phase
  • 7. Apply the warranty

Can you make some inexpensive recommendations that may be helpful to any aging senior now?

We offer ideas that range from replacing a white electric plate on a white wall with a new $.50 dark brown one so a senior with vision problems can find their switches and plugs to installing a $40K elevator or adding a new $80K master suite to a home.

There are many free and inexpensive changes that seniors can do to make their home work better for them. Most, of course, depend on their particular need. Throw rugs should be removed or taped down. Storm/screen doors should be removed. Closet doors can be removed. Shower doors should be replaced with curtains. Higher wattage light bulbs can improve effective vision. Add railings on the 2nd side of stairs or along hallways. Replace a stationary shower head with a hand-held hose. Add a seat in a shower. Replace door knobs, cabinet pulls, and faucet handles with levers.

What are the most important factors an aging senior should consider when planning to age in place?

Act sooner rather than later. Contact a CAPS professional soon. Concentrate on listing the difficulties you’re having. Let the CAPS designer help figure out the solutions.

Once we understand the senior’s abilities, we can design to those specific strengths. We virtually always can see solutions that the family does not. In fact, we often see pitfalls that the family does not.

Although CAPS contractors operate with different business models, our company, Trivest Construction, is willing to advance all services up to the # 6 step the Construction Phase” without any obligation by the senior.

Only when they accept our construction proposal are they obligated to us. That’s after all the modifications have been identified, priced, and scheduled. We seldom lose a client once the proposal is created.

The bathroom is where most of these falls occur. What recommendations can you make to make a bathroom safe for the aging senior?

Use a “comfort height” toilet. Foot operated flushers are available.

Add grab bars next to the toilet. Though there are standard grab bar locations, the pattern for each specific senior should be customized (type, location, size, spacing, number, etc.).

Utilize a shower seat. Use shower curtains rather than shower doors. Change a standard shower head to a hand held head as appropriate. A scald guard is also important for the very young and as we age.

Shower grab bars are an important safety measure. Install a non slip bathroom floor. Consider installing a roll-in shower system for anyone in a wheelchair or if you anticipate that an individual may use a wheelchair in the future. A roll in shower system should also be considered for individuals with severe arthritis or individuals that may have chronic conditions that may affect walking or balance in the future.

Change vanity for wheelchair (knee space, counter height, shallow sink, faucet location, etc). Add a pivot vanity mirror for a wheelchair.

Improve lighting. Locate electric switches and plugs in more convenient spots. Utilize lever handles on all faucets. Install

“emergency call” button or personal emergency response system.

I always feel that for every problem there is a solution. Does this apply to making changes in the home using Universal design principles?

I don’t believe that all houses can be equipped to safely accommodate all clients unless there are no supplemental staffing limits (doesn’t happen in real life). We do our best to equip the house as appropriate. I think the “universal” design term applies to general accommodations that are good for all of us (shallow threshold, tall toilet, wide doorways, lever handles, main floor full bath and bedroom, lower switches, higher duplex receptacles, etc.). Most of the work we do goes well beyond “universal” features. We do work to accommodate very specific problems that our clients experience. For instance, if they have vision problems, we add better general lighting, task lighting, closet lighting, stairway edge stripes; counter edge color contrast, etc. I don’t consider these “universal design” considerations.

We listen to professionals that manage the care of our client. We’re all anxious to accommodate the client at home; but that isn’t always the best solution. Trivest Construction has done extensive work within assisted living facilities to accommodate specific needs of our clients who live in those apartments. We install additional grab bars, improve lighting, paint the walls “home bedroom pink” etc. to make their apartment work better for them.

Can you share with me your favorite new product or any new products that would benefit the readers in the future?

I attend several professional conferences each year to keep up with available products. In 2009, I attended or will attend the International Builders Show in Las Vegas, the Remodeler’ Show in Indianapolis, the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Atlanta, Medtrade in Atlanta, the World Congress on Disabilities in Jacksonville, the Southern Building Show in Atlanta, and the Southeast Building Conference in Orlando). It’s important to keep up.

When I present to groups, I get the most interesting response when I suggest changing the color of the electrical plates I described above and when I suggest adding a $50 flat shelf near the front door to set your purse or package while you search for your keys.

Can you share stories and photos of utilizing universal design in an established home that assisted your client to remain in their present home environment?

I have a bunch! We do a pretty good job of documenting our projects with “before”, “during”, and “after” photos.

Coming Soon Scott's photos

Diane:Thank you Scott, for offering advice to my readers about home accessibility modifications and other solutions that will encourage successful aging in place.

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