Home Modification and Repair
for the Elderly

By Clare Absher RN, BSN  
Updated: 06/04/2019  
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Home modification example bath tub grab bars Photo by paulvelgos on Adobe Stock

Defining Home Modification

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, and stair climbing. Examples include installing grab bars and transfer benches in bathrooms, and ramps and handrails for home access. Alterations to the physical structure of the home can improve its overall safety and condition.

Selecting a Service Professional

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 to 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.

Understanding the Benefits

Home modification and repair 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. Older people too often live in older homes that, in addition to being ill-equipped to meet the needs of its aging resident, also often desperately need some type of repair and/or modification. The Census Bureau reveals that 1 in 3 older Americans has trouble utilizing at least 1 feature of their home.1 Home modification and repair can accommodate lifestyle changes along with declining abilities to also increase comfort.

Affording the Cost

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 offer loans or provide services free of charge or at reduced rates.

USDA, Rural Development
Offers repair loans to low-income and elderly homeowners at a fixed 1% interest rate. Also offers grants to some elderly that qualify to help repair and modify home. Learn more about housing assistance through the USDA.2
Local Community Development Department
Many cities and towns use Community Development Block Grants to help citizens maintain and upgrade their homes.3
Local Welfare or Energy Department
Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) can assist in lowering the cost of and/or paying bills energy bills.4 The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) of the U.S. Department of Energy, provide funds to weatherize the homes of lower income persons.5
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. Learn more about home improvement assistance through your local office.
Local Lenders and Banks
Many 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.

Sources:

  1. “Promoting Aging In Place by Enhancing Access to Home Modifications.” Administration for Community Living www.acl.gov/grants/promoting-aging-place-enhancing-access-home-modifications. Accessed 12 April 2019.
  2. “Single Family Housing Repair Loans and Grants.” United States Department of Agriculture www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/single-family-housing-repair-loans-grants. Accessed 12 April 2019.
  3. “Community Development Block Grant Program.” US Department of Housing and Urban Development www.hud.gov/program_offices/comm_planning/communitydevelopment/programs. Accessed 10 April 2019.
  4. “Get Help With Your Energy Bills.” US Department of Health and Human Services www.liheapch.acf.hhs.gov/help. Accessed 12 April 2019.
  5. “Where to Apply for Weatherization Assistance.” Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy www.energy.gov/eere/wipo/where-apply-weatherization-assistance. Accessed 12 April 2019.
Clare Absher RN BSN
 

About the Author

Clare Absher is a Registered Nurse with 42 years of experience. Most of her experience is in home health serving as a caregiver, educator, patient advocate, and liaison between families and community resources. She has also worked in acute care, assisted living, and retirement settings. She is passionate about helping families care for their elderly loved ones at home.



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