Home Modifications and Safety

Home modification and repair includes adaptations to homes that can make it easier and safer to manage activities of daily living such as bathing, cooking, walking around and climbing stairs. Examples include installing grab bars and transfer benches in bathrooms, handrails and ramps for stairs and removing obstacles such as throw-down rugs or other safety hazards in the home. These minor alterations to the physical structure of the home can improve its overall safety and condition.

There are several ways to get help with modifying and repairing your home. Besides doing it yourself, getting a friend or relative, or hiring a handyman, you can contact a home modification and repair company through your Local Area Agency on Aging.

Still other programs for Home Modification can be found at State Housing Finance Agency, Department of Public Welfare, Department of Community Development, and Senior Center Independent Living Centers. Recommendations from such agencies and programs are valuable to ensure reliability, proper licensure and insurance to avoid potential liabilities, and get fair prices/bids. Accessing creditable references can reduce fraud, as older people can often become prime targets. If further reassurance is needed, check with your local Better Business Bureau or your city/county Consumer Affairs Office regarding the contractor's reliability and performance record.

Home modification and repair not only ensures safety, it promotes independence allowing older persons to remain in their homes. The most important purpose of home modification and repair is to help prevent accidents such as falls. Research suggests that one-third to one-half of home accidents can be prevented by home modification and repair. Elderly people too often live in older homes, 20 years or older, that desperately need some types of repairs and modifications. Home modification and repair can accommodate lifestyle changes along with declining abilities to also increase comfort.

When hiring a contractor to perform the modifications or repairs, insist on a written agreement, with only a small down payment. Have a trusted family member, friend, or your lawyer review the agreement. Make the final payment only after the project is completed.

See below for some home modification and repair programs that make loans or provide services free of charge or at reduced rates.

USDA, Rural Development

Offers 1% interest repair loans to very low and elderly homeowners and repair grants to the elderly that qualify. (202) 720-2791

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

Low- income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) & Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) of the U.S. Department of Energy, provide funds to weatherize the homes of lower income persons.

Medicare and Medicaid funds

Available for durable medical equipment such as transfer tub benches and commode frames, 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 their home into cash, without having to move or make regular loan payments.

For more information on home modification and repair contact:

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