Offering Seniors and Those with Limited Mobility the Opportunity to Age in Place
If your mobility is becoming limited, home modifications can go a long way toward keeping you independent and your existing residence comfortable and accessible.
Independence is an important word in Bob Chittenden’s vocabulary. That’s why several years ago he partnered with home improvement contractor John Villoresi to help seniors age in place…to help them continue to live safely in the homes and communities they love.
Many older adults have spent decades raising families in their homes and want to remain as long as they can in the home in which they’ve created so many cherished memories. Others opt to age in place because the cost of retirement communities, independent living, and assisted living is daunting.
Accidents, chronic illnesses, and the aging process itself can inhibit a senior’s independence. By challenging mobility, these occurrences prevent a senior from moving with ease. They also interfere with several of a senior’s activities of daily living: transferring, feeding (including taking necessary medications), bathing, toileting and dressing.
“A senior’s biggest worry is about falls,” says Bob. “Falls are the death knell of older people.”
Bob suggests that when visiting Mom and Dad, adult children must observe how their parents are getting around the house. Checking each room for tripping hazards and areas that are difficult to access or maintain is an important first step. Professional assessments are typically more comprehensive and cover the exterior of the home, all entry areas, bathrooms, bedrooms, laundry, garage, basement, kitchen, dining, lighting and fire safety.
When we complete a professional assessment, we return a thorough summary with recommendations for fall prevention, home safety and suggested modifications that are personalized for each homeowner,” Bob says.
“Sometimes we get cries for help. A senior is being discharged from the hospital, and the family wants us at home with a solution in minutes to hours.” On other occasions, families have planned ahead. “Whatever the circumstances, seniors are often surprised to learn the home modification fixes are often so easy, and they are always good.”
Solutions come in all shapes, sizes and levels of assistance and enablement: stairlifts, home elevators, or something as simple as levers in lieu of round doorknobs for easier grasping, raised outlets or automatic switches to turn on lights, widened doors for wheelchairs, and walk in tubs for easier access. “These are only a few of the home modifications we use to make the home safe for today and tomorrow.”
The real goal is to avoid tripping and the hazards involved with the basics, getting on and off the toilet, up and down the stairs, and getting in and out of the house, tub or shower.
Grab bars are heralded as the new seat belts for seniors, Bob says. They can be installed as railings on both sides of a hallway, a tub or shower or coming in from the garage. In any of these and other places, they are life savers, he says. “And now, they come in many styles and colors but it’s always advisable to get the peened handles for gripping and the blocking or stud to secure them.”
As important, is the fact that these solutions are economically viable. A risk/reward evaluation suggests the prudence of home modification solutions, whether a family is faced with a crisis or thinking ahead, says Bob. Consider that $10,000 invested in safe home modifications equals the cost of one month in a nursing home and a month and a half in assisted living. Assisted living in Northern New Jersey now costs between at least almost $3,400 and can be as much as $10,000 per month, he says.
A one-stop solution and differentiator
Bob’s focus on aging in place became crystal clear when his mother, an Idaho resident, had a heart attack. “Coordinating senior care in Idaho when you’re based in New Jersey is quite a difficult process,” says Bob. But it wasn’t just a matter of geography. The real problem, he says: Every part of the process was siloed.
That’s when the need became clear to him. Create a one-stop shopping service in which personalized assessment, customized solution, and construction/installation give seniors the independence they need and the opportunity to age in place. And it’s this all-in-one component that sets Bob and John’s offering head and shoulders above many other providers who offer aging in place solutions and services.
Ten thousand boomers are now turning 65 every day and life spans are increasing. As a result, the wants and needs of this aging population have come into universal focus. Much attention is focused on the supports that will enable older people to enjoy quality of life.
Seniors are ready, says Bob. “Increasingly, seniors are accepting the fact that their bodies don’t work like they used to. And, they’re planning beyond their financial future to issues involving where they live and how to ensure the empowerment to age in place.”
Physicians evaluating senior surroundings
According to Bob, a health care industry veteran who has held executive sales management positions in several clinical laboratory service provider organizations, physicians are also of the same mind. He says that physicians and insurance companies are now laser-focused on the social determinants of medicine—which means that they are fully onboard with the fact that health care extends beyond the diagnosis that’s made in the physician’s office to what happens when the patient gets home.
“When a senior leaves the doctor’s office or the hospital, the important question centers on will he or she be able to get in and out of the house, cook their meals and/or take their medicine. “There are these added concerns that now factor into healthcare,” he says.
“Even insurers are understanding,” he adds. For example, back pain now could require preventions and precautions that would make the structure of their social surroundings vital in not only a patients’ immediate recovery but also their well-being long-term.
According to Bob, insurers are starting to reimburse physicians on the value of care they provide the patient and not the sheer volume of tests and procedures. In fact, physicians are evaluated on their attention to social determinants of health, or the entire patient, which includes their home and social surroundings. “Part of the prescription is now sending professionals like Bob and John to provide a complete home safety and mobility assessment.
Physicians and insurers are now focused on overall quality of life. “We [John and I] are an important part of making that quality happen and are an integral part of the support team,” says Bob.
“We are there to help seniors understand mobility and safety issues that concern them today, tomorrow and five years from now.”
Plus, we’re CAPS certified (Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist), CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services) compliant and licensed by the State of New Jersey, he adds. What’s more, we understand the importance of independence among the senior population.
We’re here to help seniors and those with limited mobility prepare for tomorrow—quickly, efficiently and economically.
And, according to Bob, the future looks even brighter. Every day we learn about new adaptive equipment and solutions for the home.
When it comes to independence for older adults and those with limited mobility, safety must be a top concern. Many simple home modifications not only increase safety but provide independence and comfort as well.
Who does the work and what is the process?
Our family owned one-stop-shop covers all your home mobility and safety needs from the first phone call to the final installation. We listen to your needs and requirements, then walk you through the services and products we offer that align with and meet your independence needs. You will receive and then be required to review a written proposal. Upon acceptance, our experienced technicians will complete the work outlined in the proposal in a timely manner and with the utmost care and respect for your home and loved ones.
Does insurance cover the costs for purchase, lease and installation of the equipment I need?
Unfortunately, it does not. There is no insurance coverage for the equipment we install. Hopefully, sometime soon our insurance companies will realize that by providing coverage for this type of preventive equipment they will be saving money because the users will not be prone to falling down the stairs and requiring a hospital stay and a much larger bill.
Will I require a prescription from my physician?
While a prescription is not required, we strongly suggest you get one because we can then waive the NJ State Sales Tax. The Rx must be dated the day of the installation or sooner and reference the equipment being installed.
May I return the equipment or trade it in for something more suitable if and when my needs change?
Many of our products come with a Guaranteed Buy Back program that applies when a piece of equipment is no longer needed.
How does the installation and/or removal of equipment impact the internal structure of my home, particularly as this pertains to the resale value of my home?
This varies from home to home depending upon what is installed. Stairlifts simply unscrew from the stairs. Depending on the surface, you may need to wood-putty some holes. On a carpet simply scratch the carpet to conceal hole/imprint as you would after moving furniture around. Ramps come apart. You may need to plant some grass seed following removal of the ramp. Platform lifts can be more complicated, depending if the lift is an inside or outside application.
How do I assess my condition to determine the equipment item that will best fill my needs?
We have an initial phone conversation to obtain some basic information about an individual’s anticipated need. Following this conversation, we will schedule an appointment to come out to your home. There, we meet with the user, or his or her caregiver, children or parents if the person in need of the equipment cannot be present. We inquire about the individual’s condition to see if it is temporary, permanent, stable or declining. Once we understand the potential user’s need, we then evaluate and assess the physical characteristics of the home/property to ensure what we and the family wants will work. Sometimes we are also in consultation with a social worker, physical or occupational therapist and/or a geriatric physician.
Will my family or the equipment user be exposed to any danger when operating this equipment?
Safety is our Number 1 concern and compassion follows. We will never install any equipment if we believe that it is not safe and in the best interests of the user. Once we install the correct equipment, we will train all interested parties including the user, his or her caregiver and any family members.
Will you work with my physical or occupational therapist regarding the proper use of the equipment?
This is not always necessary. However, we will consult with the customer’s physical or occupational therapist if necessary to ensure we are all in agreement as to the best course of action.
My mother is in denial about her lack of mobility. How can I prove to her, that a chairlift will NOT compromise her dignity but rather work in her best interests to help her regain freedom?
This is the $64,000 Question. Like many things, we all have preconceived notions about how others perceive us. We can honestly tell you that after every install the user and his or her family always say, “we should have done this sooner.” One way to help a person to accept this is to say they can use it for a dumb-waiter for the groceries or laundry. Then the user finds themselves tired one day, so they try it, and they are hooked. Even Football Hall of Famer Quarterback Bart Start has one in his home. If one of the greatest football players of all time can use one, so can you.
My stairs are very narrow, can anything be done so that a stairlift can be installed?
Generally speaking, yes. We represent several manufacturers, and each have their special features; our expertise is knowing which one is best for each individual circumstance. We can reference numerous examples of consulting with clients who were discouraged when representatives from other companies said there was nothing they could do and recommended that the customer move. We not only found the right solution but have very happy customers as a result.
What is the expected turnaround time between order installation?
The length of turnaround time can vary with the piece of equipment requiring installation. It can be as soon as the same day or a few weeks, and, in the rare instance, a month or so. We keep about 90 percent of equipment in inventory, and we can install it within a couple of days’ notice.
We have a spiral staircase. Are we out of luck?
Like the narrow staircase, we work with a manufacturer that can install stairlifts on spiral staircases, even with a very steep incline. In one instance, we installed a stair lift on a three-story spiral staircase. Two other firms said nothing could be done.
Can you install a stairlift on our outside chairs?
Yes, most manufacturers have an outdoor model. It’s made to withstand exposure to the elements and all that Mother Nature has to offer.
Do you have any options other than a stairlift?
Yes, when we meet with a family, we discuss who will be using the equipment and what the issues are. We will then discuss options from ramps, to stairlifts, to platform lifts to home elevators. The key is matching the need to the ability of the person using the equipment to the family’s budget.
Life Resource Plan
What is the best course of action for you and your loved one? Find out by talking to a consultant and creating a Life Resource Plan.