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Staying safe while staying in your own home

Grab bars installed in a shower can help older adults remain in their own homes. Metro Creative

With the increasing age of their owners, the once familiar surroundings of homes may reveal previously hidden dangers. Rugs and stairs can turn into hazards. Tubs and showers can become slip-and-fall menaces.

Older adults hoping to stay in their homes may have to modify their houses to minimize the dangers of suffering a debilitating accident within their walls.

Getting a house ready for the next phase of life could include hand rails, walk-in tubs or a ramp reaching to the front porch.

Fortunately, senior citizens have programs and businesses to help them make these modifications to their residences.

The Butler County Area Agency on Aging offers information or referrals to 18 different programs to make these changes a reality, said the agency’s director Beth Herold.

“We help them decide what home modification is best for them,” Herold said. “There is some assistance from the Butler County Housing Authority,”

“First it’s got to be determined if the house is safe to have modifications made,” she said. “If there’s water coming through the ceiling, there’s no sense in installing hand rails.”

Edward Mauk, the CEO of the housing authority, said that at present accessibility grants are unavailable, but there are still programs accessible to senior citizens looking to improve their homes’ safety, such as the owner-occupied rehabilitation program and an emergency program that covers unforeseen repairs or replacements.

These programs do come with some income eligibility requirements, Mauk said, and the emergency program grants are small, but he urged senior citizens to contact his office to see if funds may be available to them.

“Reach out to us here, and we will see what we can do,” said Mauk. He said applications are available on the authority’s website, www.housingauthority.com.

“In 2023, we probably served 40 to 50 people with these programs,” he said. “Still, there is way more demand than there is money so we have to be judicious with emergency funds.”

Several local businesses offer products to help senior citizens stay in their homes.

Josh Tilko, the vice president and minority owner of Just What the Doctor Ordered, a medical supply company open to the public at 350 Hansen Plaza, Lyndora, said items in stock that can be used to help seniors stay in their homes include wheelchairs, walkers, rollators (walkers with wheels on all four legs), lift chairs, shower chairs, toilet seat risers, grab bars and reachers.

“It’s pretty diverse as far as our product offerings,” Tilko said. “We’ve been in business since 1995 roughly. Our demographic leans to the elderly, or its children buying for aging parents. Because of COVID, a lot more people wanted to age at home either themselves or helping their loved ones stay at home.

He added many of the items can be installed with little difficulty.

“You drill in the studs for grab bars. With toilet seat risers, there is not a lot of heavy duty manual labor,” he said.

“We do sell a lot of bathroom items, transfer benches, shower chairs,” said Tilko. He added that with transfer benches, half of the bench sits outside the tub to facilitate getting over the edge.

All purchases are out-of-pocket expenses for the buyers without insurance companies being involved, but Tilko said his business can provide advice in meeting the expenses involved.

Tilko said, “We really want to be here as a resource for the community. If insurance is involved, we can provide information and a path to navigate the system. We’re here for the community.”

Dave Wood, the owner of Home Improvement Center at 505 Negley Ave., also finds himself selling a lot of products to make bathrooms safer for senior citizens. He’s been in the business for 44 years.

“We sell grab bars, bathing modules, step-in tubs. We offer sales and installation, ” said Wood. “We do a lot of conversions, taking this out and putting in showers. A lot of seniors don’t want to step over tub aprons.

“We keep the existing tub, cut out part of the apron and put in an easy step, a 7-inch step versus a 16-inch step over,” he said.

An easy step conversion of an existing tub can be done in a day while a full conversion to a new fixture could take three days. Walk-in tubs have been a very popular product over the last five years, Wood said. All costs are out of pocket.

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