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Money Fix: Get home improvement help so you can age in place

A "hold bar" can help older people feel

A "hold bar" can help older people feel more secure in the bath. Credit: Newsday /Michael E. Ach

Most people hope to stay in their homes as they age. Trouble is, the house bought decades ago may no longer suit them. While moving could be an option, sometimes making modifications can make it possible to stay put.  

Improvements that can make a home safer and easier to live in include things like adding ramps to access the home, getting an electric lift to get to and from the first floor to the second, replacing tubs with low- or no-edge showers, adding grab bars along walls and switching out doorknobs for lever handles.

The number and cost for such renovations can add up. What should you do first?

Set priorities

“What are you trying to accomplish?"  said Neel Shah, elder law attorney at Shah & Associates in Monroe, New Jersey. Is safety in the bathroom the prime concern, or is access to the outdoors the most pressing problem? Is a disability likely to be permanent or temporary?

"Once you’ve identified the desired outcome, evaluate all options. There might be temporary, removable ramps, or it might be a more permanent solution, like an electric lift. Evaluate costs and choose the option that works best for you,” said Shah.

Get help paying 

Offset your costs and optimize your benefits by calling your local Visiting Nurse Service (VNS) or Home Medical Equipment (HME) provider to understand what your insurance benefits cover, advises Louise Weadock, founder and CEO of ACCESS Nursing healthcare staffing in Manhattan.

A personal home improvement loan allows you to get money for your renovations without leveraging your house. “Don’t borrow more than you need and can afford,” said Joshua Zimmelman, president of Westwood Tax & Consulting in Rockville Centre.

He added, “If improvements are medically necessary, you may be able to deduct them on your taxes as medical expenses. Check with a tax professional.”  

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