Forming Your “Circle of Help”

Forming Your “Circle of Help”

Never go it alone. The best way to stand up to Alzheimer’s is to gang up on it.

The best way to defeat Alzheimer’s is to come together and gang up on the disease. If you or your spouse have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, please know that you are not alone. Right now, thousands of Alzheimer’s researchers, doctors, nurses, caregivers, support groups, and long-term care facilities are fighting for you on many fronts.

One of the most important fronts, of course, is the home front. My new book, Mike & Me, is one of several new books to chronicle the changing face of home care among Alzheimer’s couples and caregivers. Together, we are learning how the astonishing power of love, patience, compassion, and stay-at-home care can be mobilized by virtually every couple to help Alzheimer’s patients defy the old statistics and live a longer, fuller life.

My Husband and I Made A Deal

Early in my husband Mike’s 10-year journey with Alzheimer’s, we made a mutual commitment: As long as it was safe for him and me, Mike and I would live together in our home and make the Alzheimer’s journey together. Our goal was to keep Mike’s life as normal as possible for as long as possible, and that would entail staying in our home and community. It turned out that keeping that commitment to Mike was only possible because of a circle of friends and family who gradually formed around us and helped us every step of the way.

Looking back, I now realize that one of the most important things Alzheimer’s couples must learn in the early going is to simply reach out for help from friends and family. That probably sounds too obvious to mention, but you would be surprised to learn how many Alzheimer’s couples try, initially, to go it alone in their care. My husband Mike and I were one of those couples in the beginning. You see, we weren’t accustomed to asking people for help or bothering others with our difficulties. In the past, whenever a problem arose, Mike and I had always turned to each other for help, and, at first, that’s how we tried to deal with Alzheimer’s too.

Forming Your Circle of Help 

So why do I tell you these things? I tell you because I want you to believe that your “circle of help” – your friends, family, neighbors, and community – is waiting for you, too, if you will only let yourself reach out.

Perhaps like you, my challenge in the beginning was to simply open up to the idea of accepting help from others. But once I opened up, I quickly learned two things.

First, I was surprised at how many people were more than willing to help Mike and me. And second, I didn’t have to accept everyone’s help; I could still be selective about who I would let into our circle.

As time went on, I eventually built a small team of people – kindred spirits – who were helping me care for Mike. I like to think of them not just as a team, but as a “circle” of thoughtful people who surrounded us and helped care for our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. It felt like such a natural process. One by one, along came certain friends and neighbors who thoughtfully recognized that we had a need of one kind or another and offered to help, each in his or her own way.

You may not know it yet, but you, too, have a circle of support quietly waiting for you. Watch for it, welcome it, be thankful for it. Yes, it’s a little scary at first to allow people in when you feel most vulnerable. But if you do plan to stay in your home together, rather than go to a care facility, then you too will have to turn to a circle of caring people who can help you.

Source: UsAgainstAlzheimer’s by Rosalys Peel

Caregiving is the Greatest Teacher for Future Planning

Our Guest Author this month will help many who are facing aging alone once their family caregiving role comes to an end. Carol Marak is the founder of CarolMarak.com, the Elder Orphan Facebook group, and @Carebuzz Facebook Live events. She is an expert about everything aging. Herself a former family caregiver, Carol is personally equipped with aging alone expertise.

No matter what stage of caregiving you’re in, if you’re past it, in the middle of it, or it’s a paying job, the lessons learned will equip you for your own older life.

That’s what happened to me.  After caring for both parents, I realized, “There’s no one here for me to do all that I’ve done for them.”  A thought like this will quickly jolt anyone into scrambling for a plan. I’ve always been the independent sort, and now I face growing older without a spouse, partner, or adult children.

Like me, there are many women, and men, who find themselves in the similar circumstances. Growing older alone. And most of you, I bet, are caring or have cared for a relative as well.


          Carol Marak,
      Aging Alone Expert

The lessons learned give insights into what’s ahead.  At first it’s scary, but soon you’re grateful because you know so much and feel prepared, sort of. You know how to respond in an emergency, what’s needed when making serious medical decisions and legal matters, how to prepare for a medical treatment, the out-of-pocket costs of medical and other necessities, what to expect when you ring a doctor at 2:00 AM, and how to arrange for extra help.

Above all, you know that one day you will need help!  That’s wisdom you cannot buy.

But what people like me, aging alone, don’t learn from helping parents is, who do we count on for assistance, to help us respond to an emergency, make medical decisions, bring us a cup of soup, take us to the doctor, run errands, and more.

We learn what’s to come. But we don’t know where to start when planning for it or even thinking about it.

Growing older for my parents was totally different than what it is for me. They didn’t feel the need or urgency to prepare.  Growing older was part of life and they had no doubts about knowing who would step up for them.

Caring for an older person is hard. Period. No ifs buts or maybes. And making a plan for that is even more difficult. Period.  It’s takes time, effort, and patience. But making a plan when aging alone, well, that’s titanic. We question:

  • Will my money outlast me?
  • Who do I call in case of an emergency?
  • Who will be my health care proxy?
  • What if I’m all alone and lonely, who will come over?
  • What if I’m sick, who will look in on me?

That’s the short list.

Future Planning

These are the tough questions and they’re the reason I started working on my future plan soon after my dad passed away.  I’ve created a FREE starter kit for people who have the urgency to prepare. It’s yours for free to download here.

The thing about planning, it’s not meant to be a once and done deal. Instead, it expands our understanding of the kind of world we want and shows us a path we’d need to take to get to a better place–or, at minimum, the paths we need to avoid.

I believe we all need to have a sense of what’s next, and a vision of the kind of world we want. Planning for the future should deal with tomorrow’s problems–which if not addressed will inevitably leave us weakened, vulnerable, and blind to challenges to come.

Source: Senior Care Corner

Should You Quit Your Job to Care for Your Elderly Parent?

As parents age and need more assistance, most adult children do what they can to help. For many, the first step is a weekly stop by Mom and Dad’s home to assess the situation and perhaps help with some chores and errands. Often, these check-ins increase in frequency until it becomes a routine part of each day.

Family caregivers typically look into community services and in-home care for assistance. They research adult day care centers and assisted living communities. However, most seniors are adamant about wanting to remain in their own homes and receive assistance from their own children. They don’t want “strangers” in their house or driving them to engagements.

Sick days and paid time off begin to dwindle. Performance suffers and unpaid leave becomes the only option for taking time away from work to handle emergencies and doctor’s appointments. Eventually, like so many other family caregivers, you consider quitting your job, putting your career on hold. While it won’t be easy, it’ll just be a temporary solution, ideally with minimal impact. Right?

The Benefits of Leaving Work to Care for a Family Member

You already know what may be gained by giving up your job and becoming the primary full-time caregiver for your parents. You would benefit from knowing firsthand how they are faring day and night. You could save them from paying for in-home care or adult day care. You wouldn’t have to worry about the quality of care they are receiving from outside sources. You could likely delay, if not eliminate, their need for nursing home care. You may be able to deepen your relationship with your parents and grow closer to them.

Keep in mind that every family is unique. For some, these benefits are realistic yet short-lived. For others, these benefits are simply unattainable ideals. Caregiver burnout, financial strain and changes in health and relationships can severely undermine even the best laid care plans.

The Costs of Quitting a Job for Caregiving

While the benefits seem straightforward enough, the true costs of deciding to quit your job to care for Mom or Dad are much more complex.

A deficit in or loss of monthly income is likely the biggest factor in this decision, and that change can usually be tolerated on a temporary basis. However, caregiving can drag on for months and even years. Many caregivers do not think about the long-term effects of this choice, but it’s crucial not to forget about or ignore your own financial future.

Yes, stepping in to help your aging parents may feel good and help them save money. If they have significant assets and don’t outlive their savings, you may even recoup some of the financial resources you gave up by inheriting part of their estate when they die. But, my best advice to family caregivers is never to rely on that outcome.

It is highly likely that your parents will still need care in a senior living facility at some point, regardless of whether you embrace unemployment to personally spearhead their care. When the time comes for placement in long-term care, their financial resources will dwindle quickly unless they are fortunate to have a very good long-term care insurance policy or abundant savings. Therefore, assuming that you will financially recover after “it’s all over” is very risky. Even if a personal care agreement is put in place very early on to compensate you for your services, there is still no guarantee that your parents’ funds will see them through.

Obviously, this decision involves giving up a paycheck for a certain amount of time, but that’s not the only thing that’s on the line. Consider the following implications that may not initially occur to family caregivers who are contemplating quitting their jobs.

  1. Social Security Benefits: Even though family caregivers work very long, hard hours, these work hours do not show up on one’s Social Security record. Depending on the number of years you spend officially unemployed, you not only lose your take-home wages, but you also lose the opportunity to work toward earning hundreds of dollars a month in Social Security retirement benefits.
  2. Retirement Savings Plans: Without a job, you’ll miss out on the ability to participate in an employer’s retirement plan or 401(k) match. Unless you had a healthy retirement plan before you quit your job, your financial future is likely to be bleak. In fact, most family caregivers who give up their jobs end up withdrawing funds from their savings and retirement accounts prematurely to offset their lost income and cover monthly expenses.
  3. Job skills: As other colleagues in your field move up and gain experience, your skills are likely to wane during your unemployment. Countless people have left the workforce and been unpleasantly surprised to find that new educational requirements, technological expertise and training are now required for jobs similar to the ones they held before.
  4. Re-entering the Workforce: It’s easier to get a new job when you already have one, compared to job hunting while unemployed. In today’s tight job market, re-entering the workforce may not be easy, especially with a significant gap in employment on your resume.
  5. Ageism: As your parents age and you care for them, you, too, are growing older. Age discrimination is illegal, but when you’re finally able to work again, potential employers can find other ostensible reasons for not hiring you, such as out-of-date skills.
  6. Caregiver Isolation: Not everyone is cut out to be a full-time caregiver. You may find that, while you are glad not to be juggling a job and caregiving responsibilities, you miss the work atmosphere, your paycheck and the social interaction you had as an employed person. Caregiving can be a profoundly lonely job.

As with all issues in caregiving, there is no black and white answer. For some, leaving work for caregiving is the only right thing to do. For others, it can lead to financial ruin and a lost sense of purpose and identity outside of providing care. As a nation, we need more affordable elder care resources and better support from employers so that gainful employment, financial security and dedication to family are attainable goals that can coexist. Until more options are made available to Americans, adult children who wish to care for their aging parents will continue facing heartbreakingly difficult decisions like this one.

Source: AgingCare Carol Bradley Bursack

Scams to Watch Out for in 2019

Scams to Watch Out for in 2019It is estimated that older adults lose billions of dollars to scammers each year. But there is good news—last year the Federal Trade Commission noted that older consumers are more likely to report they’ve been victimized by financial exploitation than their younger counterparts.

Here are three scams that are notably making the rounds.

1. Beware of Social Security spoofing calls

There’s been a significant uptick in fraudulent telephone calls from people claiming to represent the Social Security Administration (SSA). In them, unknown callers threaten victims that they face arrest or other legal action if they fail to call a provided phone number or press the number indicated in the message to address the issue. Sometimes the scammers switch tactics and say that they want to help an individual activate a suspended Social Security number. They may even “spoof” the actual Social Security hotline number to appear on the recipient’s phone: 1-800-772-1213.

If you receive one of these calls, hang up. Know that Social Security rarely contacts persons by phone unless you have ongoing business with them and they never make threats about arrest or legal action.

Report suspicious calls to the SSA Office of the Inspector General by calling 1-800-269-0271 or submitting a report on the OIG website.

2. Watch for a new twist on the old grandparent scam

The grandparent scam has been around for several years. In this approach, a person calls an older adult pretending to be a grandchild who’s been involved in an accident or legal trouble and needs money immediately.

Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that instead of using wire transfer or gift cards, an increasing number of older adults are mailing cash to these fraudsters, with a median individual loss of $9,000. According to reports, the scammers often ask seniors to divide the bills into envelopes and place them between the pages of a magazine, then send them using various carriers, including UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Postal Service.

The FTC warns that if you or a loved one receives one of these calls, don’t act right away. Call that grandchild back on a correct phone number and verify their whereabouts. If you’ve mailed cash, report it right away to the Postal Service or shipping company you used. Some people have been able to stop delivery by acting quickly and giving a tracking number. Be sure to also file a complaint to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint.

3. Only work with reputable agencies after a natural disaster

Wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes—these unpredictable forces of nature can be devastating to those living in affected areas. Even those not directly affected may want to lend support in whatever way they can.

Unfortunately, natural disasters are a golden opportunity for scammers, who target both those who’ve been directly affected and those who want to offer their support. Natural disaster scams typically start with unsolicited contact by telephone, social media, e-mail, or in person. Scammers may:

  • Impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-meaning consumers.
  • Set up fake websites with names that mimic legitimate charities to trick people into sending money.
  • Pretend to be from the IRS and collect personal information under the guise of helping victims file loss claims and get tax refunds.

To find reputable charities to support victims of natural disasters, use the IRS’s tax exempt organization search or look for an organization’s charity rating on places such as Guidestar and Charity Navigator.

If you’re a disaster victim, use NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp® disaster assistance tool to find legitimate help with relief and financial assistance.

Pass it on!

One of the most important ways to avoid becoming a victim of a scam is to pass along information about scams that are making the rounds. Through the Pass It On campaign, the FTC offers free materials you can download or order and share in your community to protect older adults from scams.

Source: NCOA – Nationa Council on Aging

Getting Compensated for Caregiving Can Change Family Dynamics

Getting Compensated for Caregiving Can Change Family DynamicsYou can be paid for your work and treated fairly

Does money change everything, as the old saying goes? If Alicia had won the lottery, then she might understand why her siblings were now treating her a little differently. But all she’d done was become certified as a home health aide so she could receive a modest hourly wage from her county for dressing, grooming and feeding her Parkinson’s disease-stricken mom. Nowadays, however, her sisters seemed less interested in pitching in with caregiving tasks since family caregiving had officially become her “job.” Even her mother seemed to be asking more of her, as if she were now the hired help and not her youngest daughter.

More states are allowing care recipients to hire and pay family members as their home health aides under what is sometimes called consumer-directed care. These are popular programs for obvious reasons: Family members — some of whom had to quit or cut back on work to take care of a loved one — are now being paid at least a little money for all the care they provide. No one is getting rich, but at least they are better able to cover some bills. More importantly, receiving an hourly wage gives them a feeling of being publicly acknowledged and valued rather than (as is too often the case) feeling invisible and underappreciated.

In my clinical practice, I’ve also worked with many families in which a parent’s decision to leave a house or the bulk of an inheritance to the primary caregiver roils family dynamics like nothing else. The caregiver who will receive money becomes immediately suspected by others of playing the Altruistic Child to cash in. Anger and conflict frequently result.

How can family caregivers earn some compensation for their devoted efforts but not be regarded as mercenaries by other family members? Here are some ideas:

Demonstrate transparency: Many of us are inclined to keep our financial affairs private, even when among family members. But because caregiving is inherently a family enterprise, it is vital that we are aboveboard about monetary transactions, especially if we are profiting in some way from a parent’s need for assistance. Let other family members know about the opportunity to earn an hourly wage for providing hands-on care. Tell them exactly what you’ll make. Communicate plainly that this money is going to offset costs incurred by caregiving activities — e.g., expenses for medication copays, lost salary, the price of fuel for driving to the doctor.

Keep in mind what others think is fair: It may seem fair to you to receive money for the many sacrifices you are making on behalf of someone you love. (I agree with you.) But there are other family members who may believe they are also making sacrifices — though, admittedly, not as many as you are — and deserve to be compensated to some degree as well. For them, it may seem patently unfair that you get glory and money and they get neither. Don’t begrudge or disagree with their feelings. Empathize with them instead and tell them that you greatly value their participation in caregiving. You don’t have to fork over some of your newly earned cash to prove that. Just express your appreciation that the two of you are part of a cohesive caregiving team whose sole mission is to help Mom.

Preserve your parent-child relationship: Care recipients can become increasingly demanding over time even when money is not involved. But when a family member has been hired for a caregiving job, there is a greater tendency for the care recipient to treat even close relatives with impatience and barked orders. Even when you’re on duty, though, you’re not just an employee. Complete the necessary tasks but let your parent know that you’re there for love, not money, and that you expect that your personal rapport with one another is not going to be suddenly altered by changed economics.

Weigh the money’s worth: For some families, receiving a caregiving salary will be an unmitigated boon about which everyone is thrilled. For others, there will be no end to the resentment, jealousy and sniping. Judge for yourself whether working as a loved one’s home health aide is worth it. If it isn’t, then don’t be resentful in kind. Instead, be consoled that peace in the family may ultimately be of greater value than any amount of money in the pocket.

by Barry J. Jacobs

Source: AARP

How to Discuss Unsafe Driving with a Senior

In the 29 years that I handled personal injury lawsuits, most of them were car accidents. I represented injured people hundreds of times. In cases where a victim had been hit by an older driver who should never have been behind the wheel in the first place, I always wondered why no one had addressed their unsafe driving and taken their car keys away. Surely their adult children, spouse or friends must have realized that it was only a matter of time before someone got hurt.

According to researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, elders, their doctors and their family members tend to avoid the dreaded driving discussion until certain signs like straddling lanes, excessive nervousness, and sudden, unnecessary stops or accelerations start to appear. Unless physicians inquire about driving specifically (many don’t) or seniors self-report issues they’re having (a rarity), then family members must be the ones to spearhead this effort.

If you’ve noticed that an aging loved one just isn’t safe behind the wheel anymore, I strongly encourage you to intervene. Most seniors who are losing their ability to drive safely either don’t recognize it or refuse to face the thought of giving up their independence, mobility and control. Losing the ability to drive a car is a lifechanging event, as it is very difficult to maintain one’s own care at home without transportation.

Denial is a very common reaction to the early warning signs that an elder is becoming a dangerous driver. This can occur both among seniors themselves, who really don’t want to have this privilege taken from them, and their adult children, who must then find Mom and Dad alternate forms of transportation.

If you are noticing warning signs that an aging loved one is no longer a safe or reliable driver, don’t hesitate. Try these tips to handle this emotionally charged and difficult issue.

  1. Tips for Discussing Driving with a Senior
    Approach the subject respectfully and at the best time of day for your loved one. Ask if it’s a good time to sit down and talk about something that’s been on your mind lately.
  2. Bring up the issue of driving while you express care and concern for how difficult it must be to even talk about it. If your loved one resists the subject, gently insist that it must be addressed.
  3. Promise that you will do what you can to help improve their driving and keep them mobile.
  4. Encourage them to see a doctor to check for any physical and/or mental health issues that may be interfering with their ability to drive safely. In some cases, minor interventions, such as a change in medication or a new glasses prescription, may be able to improve a senior’s functional abilities enough to help them regain some of their driving skills. If you can, accompany your loved one to the doctor to ensure this issue is addressed.
  5. If the doctor determines that your loved one is no longer safe behind the wheel, present a strong, united front with them on the issue of giving up the car keys. Be gentle yet firm and focus on the importance of keeping your loved one and other members of the community safe.
  6. Research alternative forms of transportation in your loved one’s community. Options may be limited in smaller towns and rural areas, but family members, friends, neighbors or church members may be willing to help provide a lift here and there. Local transit resources, public transportation and ride-sharing services are excellent alternatives for seniors who are still capable of planning outings, sticking to a schedule and navigating their community. Be careful about promising to personally provide all rides on the condition that they agree to stop driving, though. Errands, doctor’s appointments and outings can add up to become a huge commitment both time-wise and financially.
  7. Try to present transportation alternatives in an encouraging way that allows your loved one to maintain as much autonomy as possible. Work with them to find different options that can help them maintain their schedule and lifestyle as much as possible.

Driving cessation is always a contentious topic, but the earlier it is addressed, the better. Do your best to approach your loved one with understanding, but don’t be afraid to stand your ground. Acting on this concern after an accident occurs is akin to applying sunscreen after one has already gotten sunburned—it might minimize the risk for future injury, but the damage has already been done.

Source: AgingCare.com, Carolyn Rosenblat

Why a Letter of Competency Should Be Part of Every Senior’s Legal File

Dementia and other health issues that affect one’s mental capacity are devastating in many ways, but they can also complicate the basic legal planning that is recommended for all seniors. Countless members of the AgingCare Caregiver Forum have shared stories about bitter disputes between family members over whether an aging loved one’s will, powers of attorney and other legal documents were valid.

The perfect storm of questionable mental capacity and preparing for the future can breed suspicion and jealousy, often pitting family members against one another. However, adding one very simple step to a senior’s legal planning process can reduce the potential for unnecessary stress and familial discord down the road.

How a Letter of Competency Works

Encouraging a loved one to obtain a letter of competency at the time their will, power of attorney forms, advance directive and any other legal documents are drafted and signed will help dispel any notions that these documents were created while they lacked the mental capacity to make medical, financial and legal decisions.

While attorneys are prohibited from helping incompetent individuals to change or create legal documents, the legal definition of incompetence differs slightly from the medical definition of mental capacity. Ensuring that a person is both legally and medically capable of making decisions about their health care, finances and estate should eliminate any doubt about the validity of their documentation.

How to Obtain a Letter of Competency

Most people request this letter from a primary care physician who has seen the patient over the course of several years and is familiar with any changes in their baseline mental and physical health. In some cases, though, obtaining this letter from a doctor who specializes in mental health and cognition, such as a psychiatrist or a neurologist, is a good idea.

For example, if your mother is already experiencing mild memory loss and has not had a primary care doctor for a decade, then a complete mental evaluation conducted by a specialist would be more credible compared to a mini-mental exam conducted by a new family doctor who is seeing her for the first time.

The attorney you’re working with should be able to recommend which of a loved one’s physicians would be able to provide the most accurate statement.

What a Letter of Competency Should Include

A generic letter from a doctor attesting to a patient’s mental capacity should be printed on the physician’s letterhead and include the following fundamental pieces of information:

  • Patient’s name
  • Patient’s date of birth
  • Date the patient-physician relationship was established
  • Physician’s statement testifying to the patient’s ability or inability to make independent decisions regarding healthcare, finances and legal matters
  • The patient’s relevant medical diagnoses (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, mental illness, developmental delay, etc.)
  • Date of diagnosis for each relevant medical issue
  • Physician’s contact information

While the above pieces of information are typically included in a basic statement of mental capacity, it is wise to work with an attorney to determine if any other facts or supporting evidence should be included. File the original letter(s) of competency away with the corresponding legal documentation in a safe place, such as a locked file cabinet, a safe deposit box or with an attorney. It’s wise to have the physician keep a copy in the patient’s medical file as well.

Documentation is Key

It is impossible to predict whether a sibling, grandchild, stepparent or other family member may contest the validity of an aging loved one’s legal documentation, but it happens all the time. Some of these cases even end up in expensive and lengthy guardianship proceedings. Others result in lawsuits where a loved one’s will is contested. These squabbles can divide families and destroy relationships.

It may seem excessive to seek additional proof of mental capacity when changing or creating any legal documents, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. The time and energy involved in attending a doctor’s appointment and obtaining a letter of competency is minimal compared to the emotional turmoil and legal fees involved in a lawsuit or an investigation conducted by Adult Protective Services (APS).

It isn’t easy but encouraging your loved one to make sound legal preparations, acting in their best interest, and taking every precaution to carefully document changes in their health and financial status will ensure that your caregiving journey goes as smoothly as possible.

Source: AgingCare

Should They Stay or Should They Go: Home Modifications and Selling Your Home

Living with a disability, whether because of age or another lifestyle factor, makes life significantly more challenging. One place where all individuals should feel comfortable is at home. However, most homes are not designed with wheelchair, walker or other mobility assistance devices in mind.

If you or someone you love is dealing with limited mobility, or if you are caring for a senior in your life, you may need to make some modifications to allow them to live comfortably and independently at home. As you consider these modifications, you will also want to consider the impact they have on the resale value of your home, should you need to sell your home at a later date. Here’s what you need to know about home modifications and resale value.

Common Home Modifications for Those That Need More Assistance

Those who are older and those who have mobility or sensory disabilities sometimes need home modifications to help them navigate their homes independently. From assisting with navigating stairs to ensuring someone with visual concerns can safely move around a home, sometimes these modifications require an actual change to the house, its structure or its features.

Home Modifications for Seniors

These home modifications make life easier for senior citizens:

  • Installing grab bars in bathrooms
  • Installing walk-in or roll-in tubs/showers in bathrooms
  • Swapping out doorknobs with pull handles
  • Installing ramps for exterior access
  • Installing stair lifts for access to other stories
  • Eliminating stairs where possible
  • Additional handrails on stairs without stair lifts
  • Addition of first-floor laundry facilities
  • Adding a bath or shower to the first floor bedroom
  • Addition of portable shower seats
  • Levered faucets in sinks and showers
  • Adjusting windows so they are easy to open
  • Installing automatic openers on the garage
  • Adding peepholes or viewing panels to exterior doors
  • Strategic lighting to increase visibility
  • Installing non-slip tape on exterior steps and ledges
  • Installing an elevated dishwasher to limit bending

Home Modifications for Disabled Individuals

Disabled individuals of all ages may need home modifications to help them get around. Some of these may include:

  • Widening doorways for wheelchair or walker access – Aim for 36 inches wide
  • Lowering countertops to wheelchair height
  • Lowering light switch height
  • Roll-in showers
  • Grab bars in bathrooms
  • Wheelchair ramps for a home’s exterior
  • Lift for accessing other areas of the home
  • Lowering height of handles and locks
  • Limiting transitions between flooring types
  • Removing carpet in favor of hard flooring options
  • Elimination of chairs where possible

Here is additional information about home modifications:

How Do Home Modifications Affect Resale Value?

When it comes to home modifications, the only thing on the mind of most homeowners is making the home accessible for those they love. While that roll-in shower may have been beneficial and even critical to your loved one’s self-care, it may not be an asset to a potential buyer. There usually comes a point when moving is inevitable, and at that time you must consider the resale value of the home. Here’s how you can determine the effect on your home’s resale value of the various modifications you’re considering.

Factors that Impact Whether Modifications Are Beneficial to Resale Value, or Harmful

Will accessibility changes affect your home’s resale value? Here are some factors that will impact the answer to that question.

  • Your Location – If your home is located somewhere with a large number of disabled or senior individuals, such as near a good veteran’s hospital serving disabled veterans or in an area of the country where people want to retire, you may see more resale value from your modifications.
  • The Modification Type – Does the modification significantly change the function or flow of the house? If so, it may hurt resale value. If not, it may help.
  • Your Potential Future Buyer – Finally, the potential demographic of your future buyer may play a role. As Baby Boomers reach retirement, they are seeing an increased desire for accessible homes. Also, those between the ages of 35 and 55 have the greatest demand or desire for accessibility.

Places Where Accessibility Is Valued

Certain parts of the country place a higher value on accessibility, and as such tend to draw a large number of disabled or elderly individuals who capitalize on those accessible features. In these parts of the country, accessibility modifications are more likely to have a positive impact on the home’s value.

These areas include:

  • Denver, CO – Denver may not be the retirement place of choice for most retirees, but the city has a number of adaptability features throughout its public areas and public transportation.
  • Berkeley, CA – This city stands as a model for independent living.
  • Seattle, WA – Mild weather and a number of accessible features make Seattle a popular place among those who need disability assistance
  • Gainesville, FL – It’s no secret that seniors flock to Florida, and Gainesville has a low cost of living combined with a strict disability-friendly building code that can help make it popular among those needing accessibility.
  • AZ – Arizona is also a popular place to retire, and many 50-and-older communities cater to the specific needs of those who need additional disability assistance. The demand for accessible housing can be large in these areas.

 

So what impact do specific modifications have on resale value? Approximately 75% of people assume that home modifications hurt resale value of a home, but this is not always the case. The reality is that some modifications, especially if they are done tastefully and in line with the home’s architectural style, can have a positive impact.

It’s not possible to put a dollar value on specific modifications, because the impact varies depending on the style of home, its location and the target buyer demographic. However, one principle that can impact the overall impact is the principle of Universal Design.

Universal Design refers to a home design that is safe and usable for people of all ages and abilities, including those with disabilities. Universal Design is built into the home’s basic design, rather than added as an afterthought. This means that Universal Design elements work with the home’s architecture. Some features of a Univebrsal Design home include:

  • Safe and accessible bathrooms
  • Lever door and faucet handles
  • Non-slip surfaces in the bathroom
  • No steps at entrances
  • Maximum rise of 1/2 inches at thresholds
  • Minimum of 5 feet by 5 feet at entrance doors on both sides
  • Proper lighting for entry doors
  • Ground floor bedroom, bath and laundry
  • Room for installation of a platform lift near stairs
  • Contrasting colors between floor and trim or different floors that require different navigation
  • Avoidance of glossy surfaces

These types of changes do not change the look or architectural design of the home much, and as such do not hurt its resale value. In fact, studies have shown that Universal Design modifications can actually help your home’s resale value. Additions that change the look or architecture of a home and make it stand out as “accessible,” such as a large wheelchair ramp outside a home, can have a negative impact.

For more information on Universal Design, home modifications and resale value, visit:

Your Potential Buyer

With baby boomers rapidly retiring or reaching retirement age, there is a niche housing market emerging that you can likely tap into if you’re selling a modified home. Advertise modifications and be prepared to discuss the details of how they were installed, as well as what needs to be done to modify them further. You may also wish to consider renting your modified home as a means of income, and a way to leverage the modifications you made.

Hottest Home Modifications for Disabled Individuals

If you’re working to make a home more accessible for a disabled loved one, you may have to pick and choose the modifications you use based on budget or because of concerns about resale value. Here are some of the hottest home modifications to consider, which both help your loved one and potentially help your resale value.

Accessible Bathroom

An accessible bathroom is one with at least a five-foot diameter turning space, which allows someone in a wheelchair or with a walker navigate independently. Accessible bathrooms may have roll-in tubs or showers and adjustable seats, and they will have grab bars. To make the bathroom as resale friendly as possible, work with a pro to add these modifications in a way that works with the bathroom’s design and architecture.

First-Floor Bedroom and Laundry

People with mobility issues can’t go up and down the stairs every time they need to do laundry. Adding a first-floor laundry is essential, as is a first-floor bedroom. Sometimes you can add this by converting a den into a bedroom or a closet into a laundry area. Because this will require the addition of closet space for a bedroom or power and venting for a laundry room, this will require the help of a professional contractor.

Widening Doorways

A home can’t be accessible with doorways that an individual can’t navigate. Widening the doorways has little impact on resale value if done well, and can make a home much more navigable. Again, this requires a professional to do well.

Changing the Flooring

Hard floors are easier to navigate than soft floors, and the great thing about this change is that it’s a resale-friendly change. Most homebuyers want to see hard floors, which are easier to clean and care for, than old, tattered carpeting. Laminate and hardwood are better choices than tile, which is much harder and more slippery. By making this change, you can increase the resale value and make the home a bit safer. Some laminate can be done as a DIY project, while others are best left to the pros.

For more information about the best modifications to choose, visit:

 

What to Do About Modifications That Hurt Resale Value?

Sometimes you have to make a modification that has the potential to impact your home’s future resale value. If your choice is between having a home that your loved one can’t live in or hurting your home’s resale value, the answer is clear: your loved one always comes first. However, you will need to consider what to do about those modifications should you decide to sell the home.

Wheelchair Ramps

A wheelchair ramp is essential if your home’s entrance is not flush with the ground. An individual in a wheelchair can’t navigate steps. But a wheelchair ramp makes a home stand out in a negative way, so what can you do? Here are some ideas:

  • Work with a design professional to ensure the design works with your home’s architecture.
  • Add a ramp that does not remove the existing steps and can be removed for resale.
  • Invest in a ramp that is aesthetically pleasing.
  • Install a ramp on a back entrance to use when the home’s on the market, allowing for the removal of the front ramp.

Grab Bars and Rails

Grab bars are essential safety additions to a home, but sometimes they make the home look more functional than comfortable. Stark chrome grab bars in the bathroom can give it an institutional feel. Some solutions to this include:

  • Using grab bars that double as something else, like toilet paper holders that have a grab bar
  • Using grab bars that fit the decor
  • Removing the grab bars before listing the house

Walk-in Tubs

Safety tubs are a great innovation for the senior or disabled innovation, as they allow for bathroom independence. However, for those who don’t yet understand the need for this type of modification, they can seem unsightly and cumbersome. So what’s the solution? Consider these ideas:

  • Instead of a walk-in tub, opt for a roll-in shower which is a common design choice regardless of disability.
  • Cover the walk-in tub with an attractive shower curtain.
  • Ensure the color of the tub works with the bathroom’s overall design.

Lifts

Lifts to get a wheelchair upstairs are simply part of the puzzle when dealing with home modifications, but again these can be a bit cumbersome, and therefore negatively affect resale value. To get past this, consider removing the lift while the home is on the market. There is no good way to camouflage this particular modification, so consider putting the main features of the home on the main floor and just doing away with the lift while the home is on the market.

For more information on your home’s resale value, visit:

 

DIY Fixes to Maximize Home Resale Value and Accessibility

Sometimes budgets are tight, especially when you’re planning for the sale of a home. What can you do to get the most value out of your home’s sale if your budget is too tight to hire a pro? Are there modifications you can make that keep your home accessible without a pro? Are there ways you can reduce the impact of modifications on your own? Consider these DIY tasks that can make your home more valuable and more accessible.

  • Install Accessible Home Security – Home security is an asset to your home, and accessible home security helps keep your loved one safe. Installing a chain at a lower level or a home security system that your loved one can reach are all great options.
  • Reorganize for Accessibility – If your budget prevents a kitchen remodel, make the kitchen more accessible by reorganizing. Put everyday items in lower drawers and cabinets, and rarely-used items up high. Do the same in closets and other storage areas. Rearrange and reorganize furniture to maximize mobility through the home.
  • DIY Bathroom Modifications – A major bathroom remodel is costly, but you can tackle some jobs on your own. Add no-slip flooring to the shower or tub, consider investing in a shower seat and don’t forget to add grab bars near the toilet. Replace the existing vanity with a pedestal sink to provide maneuverability for wheelchairs or walkers.
  • Improve the Lighting – People with disabilities may need more lighting to ensure they can see well. You can improve the lighting in your home on your own. As an added bonus, a well-lit home shows better than a dim one, so this change has a positive impact on resale value!

Source: Better Homes