Category Archives: Uncategorized

5 ways to reduce bathroom falls

More than 230,000 people are sent to the ER each year because of an injury sustained while bathing, showering, or using the bathroom facilities. To reduce bathroom falls, follow these simple steps:

  1. Install grab bars. Installing grab bars in easy-to-reach places provide support and balance for entering and exiting the shower or tub. Also consider adding grab bars near the toilet for additional support and safety.
  2. Add shower seats. A shower seat can provide stability and a place to rest for those who have difficulty standing for long periods of time.
  3. Add an adjustable (and hand-held) shower head. An adjustable hand held shower head, allows the person to direct the water where it’s most needed without having to contort their body into awkward positions.
  4. Fix slippery surfaces. A non-slip mat (or decals) on the floor of the shower or tub — along with a non-slip rug on the floor — provides additional stability and can reduce slipping. A non-slip rug in front of the toilet and by the sink area also helps to prevent slipping.
  5. Install taller toilets. Over time, one may experience increased difficulty lowering themselves onto a low toilet seat and returning to a standing position. A raised toilet (typically 3 to 4 inches) reduces the amount of squatting and the distance covered to sit on the toilet.

*Adapted from November 2016 Best Bath Newsletter at www.bestbath.com

We can help with making your bathroom safer. Keeping you safe and giving you more independence in the bath is our specialty. We would be happy to give you a FREE home assessment. You can reach us by calling 770-939-0747, or emailing us at info@homefreemods.com . We look forward to serving you.

With $15 Left in the Bank, a Baby Boomer Makes Peace With Less

Kathleen Wolf never dreamed of spending her retirement in Iowa.
The 68-year-old Californian had a change of heart after filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Ms. Wolf was a millionaire whose fortune, built on buying and selling homes, collapsed in the financial crisis. Her bank balance fell to $15.

Ms. Wolf said her debt-repayment plan, which eventually left her with about $1,000 a month to live on, made clear she had to leave Monterrey, Calif., the central-coast city where she lived. She looked online, as long as 15 hours a day, for places with a low cost of living. In August, she landed in an Iowa town of around 700.

During her nationwide search, Ms. Wolf found that life in affordable communities brought trade-offs. “These places never gentrified. They have undesirable weather,” she said. “They have no yoga classes.”
Yet Ms. Wolf’s journey from tony West Coast to rural Midwest has afforded, to her surprise, a measure of contentment, as well as counsel for the nation’s 75 million baby boomers.

As a group, it is widely known they face a wider savings gap than past generations. What is less well documented is how they have piled up more debt, too.

People in the U.S. ages 65 to 74 hold more than five times the borrowing obligations Americans their age held two decades ago, according to an analysis of federal data by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit policy researcher. Paying it off won’t be easy. Median savings for U.S. households nearest retirement age has dropped 32% in the past decade to $14,500, according to an analysis of federal data by the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank.

The financial crisis weakened many households through lost jobs, pay cuts, home-price declines or a combination of all three. Credit-card debt and medical bills have climbed for many nearing retirement. Some people had children late in life, pushing college tuition costs toward the tail-end of their careers.

“This is the first time where we have seen such a high degree of debt held by people at such a late stage of life,” said Torsten Slok, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank AG.

As a result, many senior citizens will either have to work longer, move to less expensive places or pare back their spending—choices that economists say are likely to put a drag on the U.S. economy.
Ms. Wolf, who for years had shopped for food, clothing and luxuries without constraint, now lives within a budget. Until recently, she said, “I didn’t understand the value of a dollar.”

Ms. Wolf was born in Sacramento, Calif., and moved to Monterrey as an early teen in the 1960s, growing up around country clubs and mild weather. She earned two associate degrees in California, trained as an auto-body painter and studied Arabic at the same Monterrey institute that serves many military and federal employees. Though she lived for periods in Oregon, New York and North Carolina, she kept Monterrey as a home base for most of her life.

Ms. Wolf owned several cleaning businesses before turning to real-estate investment in the early 2000s—buying, renovating and selling houses. At her financial peak in late 2005, Ms. Wolf said, she had $200,000 in an annuity. The value of her house and savings surpassed $800,000, and she had an annual income of about $85,000 from various real-estate transactions.

Against the backdrop of the real estate boom, Ms. Wolf thought she would continue prospering financially into her 80s. She bought fur coats, designer handbags, furniture and, in the 2000s, a succession of upscale cars: BMW roadster, a Lexus 420 SL. She paid $17,500 to join the Spanish Bay club in nearby Pebble Beach. “I was just playing being a rich person, I wasn’t rich,” Ms. Wolf said. “What you’re supposed to do with your money is sock it away. I didn’t.”

When the financial crisis struck, Ms. Wolf said it took her two years to curtail spending: “I had never been a budget person.” She also was grieving from personal losses, and eventually fell behind on car and mortgage payments. Ms. Wolf turned from shopping at Whole Foods to Costco to discount-food markets. As her savings and income dwindled, she turned to the Salvation Army for dried and canned foods. Instead of making money flipping houses, she cleaned them.

Her vision worsened, but she couldn’t afford the Medicare copay for a new prescription. To read bills and legal documents, Ms. Wolf said she would press a magnifying glass to her glasses—in Tiffany frames, which she laughs about now.

Ms. Wolf was among many older residents of the broader Salinas Valley—a region encompassing more than 400,000 California residents—who saw their debt grow over the past decade, made worse by the housing crash.
Residents there over the age of 55 now have a greater debt burden than their counterparts in all but two U.S. metropolitan areas, according to an analysis of Equifax data by The Wall Street Journal.

By the end of 2015, residents ages 66 to 70 had accumulated $99,700 in debt compared with $90,600 a decade before; 71- to 75-year-old residents had $73,400 versus $58,800 over the same period; and those ages 76 and older had $52,100 compared with $28,200, according to Equifax data.

Local bankruptcy lawyer Jeremy Peck estimated that half of his clients are now 55 or older compared with only about 10% a decade ago. “A lot of people have not been putting away,” he said. “I just see it.”

The debt buildup among seniors stretched across the U.S. In Bismarck, N.D., 60-somethings accumulated an average mortgage debt of $20,800 in 2015, up from $17,700 in 2013, according to the Journal analysis of Equifax data. In Champaign, Ill., older buyers racked up an average of $5,900 in auto loans, an increase from $3,300 in 2013. In Odessa, Texas, older residents face average liabilities of $31,100, up 14% from 2013, the Journal found.

Debt levels have traditionally peaked for people in their 40s, said Meta Brown, a former senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That is changing. Debt held by borrowers between the ages of 50 and 80 increased roughly 60% between 2003 and 2015, while debt among younger borrowers declined, according to Federal Reserve data.

“We’re in new territory,” said Ms. Brown, who researched debt trends of senior citizens while at the Fed.

Older Americans now have more credit-card debt than younger people for the first time, a reversal from the past, according to an analysis of federal data by the AARP Public Policy Institute. And the amount of student loans held by people 65 and older is accelerating faster than the general population, the Government Accountability Office found.

There are conflicting theories about the impact of growing senior debt. Some economists say they aren’t worried because older Americans traditionally have a lower default rate than the general population. In addition, if seniors work past typical retirement ages, they will earn more wages to tax, have more disposable income and gain a few more years to bolster nest eggs.

Yet it won’t be easy for older Americans to keep working. Some 60% of retirees say they left the workforce earlier than they had planned, according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. Only one of seven of the oldest boomers—many turning 71 this year—have full-time jobs, according to a 2016 Gallup poll.

“The narrative that Boomers would continue to work forever hasn’t turned out to be true,” said Frank Newport, Gallup’s editor in chief.
Some economists say the growing number of penny-pinching older Americans—and a shrinking U.S. workforce—will depress personal incomes and purchases of everything from shoes to houses, hobbling the economy.
“It’s really hard to get out of this slow-growth trap when your labor force is barely growing,” said John Lonski, a chief capital-markets economist at Moody’s Analytics.

Debt obligations also leave seniors increasingly vulnerable to a recession or another drop in home values, economists said.

“Will they take this debt to the grave? It’s a question begging to be answered,” said Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

In 2015, Ms. Wolf filed for personal bankruptcy. She has since agreed to pay $650 a month until her $31,000 debt is cleared. She decided on the small Iowa town she knew only by description, where she calculated her expenses—housing, taxes, utilities—would be about 77% of the U.S. average.

“The Midwest is the only place in the country where the property is affordable.” Ms. Wolf said.

She sold her Monterrey condo for around $400,000 in 2016—twice what it was worth during the housing-price trough but still $67,000 less than what she paid in 2006. The transaction left her with about $132,000—enough money, she thought, to pay for a new home and expenses in her new town. Leaving Monterrey, her home of nearly 45 years, was tough. After moving out of her house, Ms. Wolf checked into a local hotel where she spent $2,000 stretching her goodbye over a few weeks.

She eventually bought a four-bedroom house for $70,000, about one-sixth the price of the least expensive one-bedroom in Monterrey. The afternoon she moved in, her furniture was still en route from California. She had only a new mattress, which was delivered that day.

On her first morning, she drew a bath in the second-floor bathroom. “I had wanted an old-fashioned bath tub,” Ms. Wolf said. “I was taking a lovely, relaxing bath. I thought I had finally arrived. It’s over.” Afterward, she went downstairs to the kitchen and saw that gallons and gallons of water had leaked. The ceiling was ripped; walls ballooned out and cupboards were soaked. She had to replace plumbing and the ceiling, expenses she didn’t anticipate. Even still, money from her home sale has provided her a cushion for the first time in years, she said. Property taxes are less than one-quarter of what she had paid in Monterrey. She has trimmed her costs by at least half, she said. She is eating well and bought some new clothes. With a new prescription, she has updated her reading glasses.

She will seek a job soon, she said. She has noticed women her age working at local big-box retailers, and she hopes to find part-time work at one of them. Looking back, Ms. Wolf considers herself lucky to have a second chance at securing a decent retirement. “I made it,” she said. “It was a miracle.”

*This article was written by Timothy W. Martin, a columnist with the Wall Street Journal, and appeared on the http://msn.com website on February 17, 2017

These are challenging times for many baby boomers across our country. But the fact remains that 85-90% of all baby boomers surveyed do want to remain at home for as long as they possibly can. We can’t help with financial issues, but we can with helping you to stay home with more independence & safety. Please call us at 770-939-0747, or email at info@homefreemods.com We will respond within 24 hours.

Heavy drinking, slow walking may signal future dementia

Researchers make strides in identifying who is at risk.

By Mark Huffman

Two new research studies have shed new light on who will be afflicted with dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease, and why. They join the growing body of research that is giving doctors better insight to the aging-related disease that robs seniors of their memory. It’s of growing concern since the large Baby Boom generation is now entering old age and is at risk.

The first study, by researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School, links dementia with heavy alcohol consumption during middle age. It found that middle-aged adults with a history of problem drinking are more than twice as likely to suffer from severe memory impairment in later life.

“We already know there is an association between dementia risk and levels of current alcohol consumption – that understanding is based on asking older people how much they drink and then observing whether they develop problems,” said lead author Iain Lang. “But this is only one part of the puzzle and we know little about the consequences of alcohol consumption earlier in life.”

To find answers Lang and his team investigated the relatively unknown association between having a drinking problem at any point in life and experiencing problems with memory later in life.

“This is a public health issue that needs to be addressed,” Lang said. “More research is required to investigate the potential harms associated with alcohol consumption throughout life.”

Older people drinking more

The finding is particularly troubling in light of recent evidence that more middle-aged and elderly people are abusing alcohol. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence says alcohol and prescription drug problems among adults 60 and older is one of the fastest growing health problems facing the country.

It says thousands of older people who need treatment for alcohol dependence aren’t receiving it.

Meanwhile, an international study of 27,000 patients has established an unusual test to determine whether a patient is likely to develop dementia. The test measured how fast the subjects walked and answered a short series of questions. The slower the gait and the more wrong answers, the higher the risk of developing dementia.

Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who conducted the study, said people who failed the test were twice as likely as others to develop dementia within 12 years.

Low-tech test

What makes the test important, the researchers say, is that it does not rely on sophisticated or expensive equipment, making it accessible to physicians in remote regions of the world. Testing relies on measuring gait speed and asking a few simple questions about a patient’s cognitive abilities, both of which take just seconds.

“In many clinical and community settings, people don’t have access to the sophisticated tests – biomarker assays, cognitive tests or neuroimaging studies – used to diagnose people at risk for developing dementia,” said senior author Joe Verghese. “Our assessment method could enable many more people to learn if they’re at risk for dementia, since it avoids the need for complex testing and doesn’t require that the test be administered by a neurologist.

Early diagnosis, of course, is critical because it allows time to identify and possibly treat the underlying causes of the disease, which may delay or even prevent the onset of dementia in some cases.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that up to 5.3 million Americans—about 1 in 9 people age 65 and over – have Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia. That number is expected to more than double by 2050 due to population aging.

We at HomeFree Home Modification are not experts on “dementia”, but we are experts on helping you to remain at home through home modification. Call us at 770-939-0747, or email us at info@homefreemods.com , and we will come out to your home and provide a NO COST home evaluation to determine what steps can be taken to create a safer environment and more independence for you.

*Mark Huffman has been a consumer news reporter for Consumer Affairs. This article was taken from the issue dated 08/01/2014

Making Dangerous Bathrooms Safe

Four Tips for Designing an Accessible Bathroom

More than 230,000 people are sent to the ER each year because of an injury sustained while bathing, showering, or using the bathroom facilities. This month, we’re sharing 5 bathroom features that can help reduce the dangers in the bathroom.

  1. Install grab bars. Installing grab bars in easy-to-reach places provides support and balance for entering and exiting the shower or tub. Also consider adding grab bars near the toilets for additional support and safety.
  2. Add shower seats. A shower seat can provide stability and a place to rest for those who have difficulty standing for long periods of time. Builders or homeowners should select a shower with a folding seat installed or purchase a bench seat to add to an existing shower.
  3. Add an adjustable (and hand-held) shower head. This allows the person to direct the water where it’s most needed without having to contort their body into awkward positions.
  4. Fix slippery surfaces. Having a non-slip mat (or decals) on the floor of the shower or tub — as well as a non-slip rug on the floor — provides additional stability and can reduce slipping. A non-slip rug in front of the toilet and by the sink area can also help prevent slipping.
  5. Install taller toilets. Over time, residents may experience increased difficulty lowering themselves onto a low toilet seat and returning to a standing position. A raised toilet (typically 3 to 4 inches) can reduce the amount of squatting and the distance that has to be covered to sit on the toilet.

Universal design doesn’t have to mean that a bathroom takes on an institutional feel. Bestbath offers many unique products — including our Designer Series line of bathing solutions — that will make any bathroom look amazing. For more design ideas, follow our Design Ideas blog and like us on Facebook.

(This article was taken from the November Best Bath Newsletter at www.bestbath.com)

Senior Accessible Housing Act – HR 5254

There is currently a bill before Congress called HR 5254, that if approved, will allow those individuals having home modification done to their home, in order to “age in place”, to be eligible for up to a $30K tax credit. For information, and to track this bill’s progress, you can visit congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/5254/text. Shown below are just some basic information that the bill will entail.

hr-5254

 

 

Can the Definition of “Insanity” and a Fall Be Related?

lady-falling-in-bedroom

At some point, we have all heard the definition of “insanity” as “doing the same things day after day, and expecting a different result”. Many of us practice insanity routinely without even knowing it. Now, let me relate this definition to a fall. When we fall the first time, most of us explain it away by thinking this was just a “freak” accident, or an isolated event and it won’t happen again. So we don’t make any changes in our life style or our environment, and keep doing the same thing day after day. Not only is this thinking WRONG, it is DANGEROUS! Statistics show that 1/3 of seniors over a calendar year, will fall, requiring a hospital stay. Your first fall may not cause any significant injury, but the second or third could be catastrophic! And experience tells us that history repeats itself and once you have fallen once, you are going to fall again!

Now I’m not suggesting that you need some type of home modification after your first fall, but please don’t practice “insanity” by not at least checking into it. It could be just some simple solutions needed to help prevent you from falling again. When you fall, listen to your body…, it is telling you something!

HomeFree Home Modification has been providing home modification solutions across the greater Atlanta area for the past 10 years. If you have concerns, or need answers regarding any questions you may have about home modification, you can reach Dennis Lippy or Rick Thaxton by emailing them at info@homefreemods.com or visiting the website at www.homefreemods.com, or calling the office at 770-939-0747. We will respond to your call with 24 hours.

 

What You Need to Know and More About Home Modification

http://gero.usc.edu/nrcshhm/resources/fs_home_mod.pdf

The attached article from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging, though long, certainly represents pretty much all one needs to know about home modification & accessibility. It is not necessary to read the entire article at once, you can glean bits & pieces and then go back for more at another time. Just click on the link,and then another link will pop up. Click on it to open the article.images-for-blog-9-26-16

How Much Does It Cost to Make My Home Handicap Accessible?

small_handicap_accessible_ramp

Need to make your home handicap accessible?

When you are thinking about making your home handicap acessible after an injury or illness or if you decide on proactively remodeling your home for aging-in-place, experts say there are a ton of options depending for people with all budgets.

The latter was true with Columbus, Ohio, members Vance and Leslie Summers as with forethough about aging in place they recently embarked on a $25,000 kitchen remodel to add pull-out cabinets, shelves for easy access and a touch faucet to make knob-turning easier for someone with arthritis.

“When you’re in your 60s, you have to start planning for the future, because no matter where you go, you’re going to have to think about accessibility,” Leslie says.

Unfortunately, Vance suffered a stroke a year later that compromised his mobility. It forced the couple to retrofit their bathroom for handicap accessibility, much earlier than they planned.

According to a 2010 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 56 million