Aging In Place Improvements Don’t Need To Be Obvious To Be Effective

The presence of a lever door handle does not appear as anything special but is easy to use and looks stylish


A possible misconception about creating aging in place improvements or designs is that they need to address the specific needs of the client in ways that are noticeable to the client – and others.  We know that if someone has a ramp installed when it wasn’t there previously that it going to be an obvious improvement – at least in the short-term. However, depending on how it is installed, its placement on the property, and any landscaping or other design treatments that are used to soften its appearance and provide a little privacy for the user, it does not need to garner all of the attention as the main thing that someone notices as they approach the property.

Ramps are becoming quite popular and rank as one of the most requested and completed aging in place projects. Nevertheless, they can be constructed in a way that allows them to blend into the home’s exterior design as an integral part of it rather than something that has been added.

This is the point of effective aging in place design and how universal design as a strategy helps us to implement changes that our clients need without calling attention to those changes. We want our clients to function well within their living space (and the area immediately around their home), and we can create improvements that are integrated into the home’s design rather than appearing as an addition – inside or out.

Safety considerations are a classic example of this. We can go through a client’s home and make several safety improvements that allow them to live in their home more effectively but aren’t necessarily obvious or even noticeable. For instance, if we add more lighting in a space – additional fixtures, increased lumens, or higher Kelvin ratings – the additional brightness might be noticeable but not the fact that it is easier to see in that space, that it is less likely that someone will trip over something on the floor because it wasn’t as visible previously,  or that the space seems bigger and more pleasant. We don’t even need to inform the client why we performed this improvement – as long as they are pleased with the results.

There are many types of similar improvements that can be done to increase the function or effectiveness of the client’s living space without calling out what was done or why. If we add a safety bar (also known as a grab bar, safety assist, and similar names) near the entrance to the tub or shower in the bathroom, it is going to be noticeable – even though it is highly recommended. On the other hand, if we incorporated a grab bar into a towel bar or toilet paper holder so that it looked like the item that was expected only a little fancier, we would have increased client safety without letting them know what we did or why other than to add a little visual interest to their towel bar, soap dish, corner shelf, or paper holder.

In the kitchen, if we replaced small round or square door or drawer pulls that often are difficult to grasp and use with larger bar-style pulls that allow a person’s fingers to get behind it and pull it open, it might be noticeable as a different type of pull but not as one that is more effective to use (at least not until the client had experienced it) and easier on the hands and fingers. Similarly, if we made sure those new pulls did not have extensions on them past the mounting posts that could catch clothing or skin, they would be considerably safer but likely totally unnoticeable as an improvement over the type that has such extensions.

There are many other common improvements that we use for aging in place that likely go unnoticed because they are so common and attractive. Consider rocker light switches that are often installed in place of the older style toggle controls – or even using motion sensor light switches to turn lights on and off. Lever door handles used in place or round knobs likely won’t draw any notice because they are so frequently used, but they are effective nonetheless.

In the kitchen especially, and often in the bathroom as well, using a single-lever faucet is effective and quite common as well. No one is likely to comment on it being different or question why it is being used over a two-handle style.

There are many design features that we can use in creating effective aging in place improvements that are not especially noticeable as being special or different – or suggest why they have been used – that we can install for our clients to provide safer and more functional living spaces for them.


Guest Post by Steve Hoffacker:

Steve is an award-winning aging-in-place specialist-instructor (NAHB, “2015 CAPS Educator of the Year”), a universal design trainer-instructor, and award-winning new home sales trainer. Steve has written and published several books on universal design, aging-in-place, and new home sales. Since 2007, he has educated hundreds of remodelers, general contractors, occupational therapists, physical therapists, health care professionals, interior designers, kitchen and bath designers, architects, attorneys, durable medical equipment providers, building materials manufacturers, university faculty, local and regional governmental and non-profit housing agencies.

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Get Ready For Winter Comfortable and Safe

Winterize Your Home

Get ready for winter! Take steps to protect your investment and keep your family comfortable and safe with home maintenance. When you start feeling those first hints of winter, the instinct to get ready kicks in. You may dig out your car’s snow brush, blanket, shovel and winter survival kit and place them in the trunk of your car. The winter coats and boots come out of storage, and you may pick up some extra mittens.

But what do you do to protect your house against the hazards of winter? If you don’t take time for maintenance and winterization now, you can end up paying for it later, in the form of higher energy bills, frozen pipes or fixing a broken furnace.

Here are four common problems that can hit home during the winter and how you can ward them off.

Sky-high energy bills: Do your electric bills rise during the wintertime? Heating your home accounts for about half of your home’s energy bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Combat the cold by sealing off any cracks or gaps with caulk and inspect entrances for worn or broken weatherstripping. Schedule a furnace inspection with an HVAC contractor and consider installing a smarter thermostat. Learning thermostats can remember your favorite temperatures, turning down when you leave for work, and returning to your favorite temp at the end of the day.

Water leaks: According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage accounts for half of all property damage claims. Add winter’s freezing temperatures to the mix, and you can end up with a big problem if your home has a power outage or your furnace malfunctions.

For extra peace of mind, there’s now a leak and flood protection system you can purchase that shuts off your water main’s supply when it detects leaks – and sends an alert to your smart device. LeakSmart Snap installs in seconds without any tools or the need to cut into the main water supply line. Wireless sensors placed around the house can detect a leak or temperature changes and shut down the whole house water supply in seconds. It is compatible with LeakSmart Hub 3.0, which offers battery back-up and built in Wi-Fi for 24/7 whole home protection.

Power outages: When a winter storm hits, the ice and wind can break power lines and interrupt the supply of electricity to our homes. It’s not uncommon for some outages to last for days, which is why it’s always smart to be prepared.

Before winter hits, make certain your generator or other backup power source has ample fuel and is in good working order. Keep basic supplies at the ready, so you can keep your family comfortable. Make sure you have extra blankets, stocking caps, batteries and fully charged power banks for your mobile phones. It’s also good to have a few gallons of fresh water and some cans of ready-to-eat chili and stew. If you have a camp stove, keep it in an easy-to-reach place, along with a fuel supply.

Ice dams: Another thing to watch for in the winter are pools of water forming on your roof. These can be caused by ridges of snow and ice, and eventually cause leaks to the interior of your home. Ice dams can also lead to the formation of large, pointy icicles that hang from the gutters, which can fall and injure people.

A little work upfront can go a long way toward preventing ice dams and the damage they can cause. First, make sure the gutters and downspouts are clear of leaves and other yard debris, so the snowmelt has a place to go. Next, poke your head into the crawlspace of your attic and see if the insulation layer is still thick enough to keep the heat from escaping through the roof. While you’re up there, look for gaps and leaks. Finally, this is an appropriate time to invest in a simple snow rake, so you can easily remove wet, heavy snow from your roof before the dams can start forming.

Now that you know the most common winter hazards that can hit home, you can take the steps to protect your investment and keep your family comfortable and safe.

To learn more about protecting your home, visit

National Family Caregivers Month

family caregivers


National Family Caregivers Month acknowledges the contributions of more than 90 million family caregivers in America who are caring for their aging parents, loved ones with a chronic condition, disease or managing a disability. Join us in recognizing this invisible army of family caregivers. Caregiver Action Network is the organization that chooses the theme for National Family Caregivers Month annually and spearheads celebration of NFC Month nationally. Each year, Caregiver Action Network makes materials available for general use, including the theme, a media kit, posters, sample proclamations, etc.  This year’s theme is “Supercharge Your Caregiving”



A message from Christopher MacLellan (The Bow Tie Guy), Founder of the Whole Care Network, Inc.

I Survived Caregiving; You Can Too!

November is National Family Caregivers Month and my wish for every family caregiver is that you learn early on in your caregiving journey that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. Asking for help is also a key component of your self-care.

I make no bones about it, caregiving was hard.

No one plans on being a caregiver, that’s because caregiving just happens.  It’s an untimely diagnosis or an unfortunate accident and suddenly, two lives or more are forever changed.  Assisting with everyday task like bathing and clothing will take relationships to new levels.

Caregiving is an intense experience that will often ask you to give up things you love in order to care for the one you love.   Caregiving is indiscriminate.  There is no gender, economic, cultural or orientation boundaries; caregiving is in every board room and in every neighborhood.  Caregiving impacts each one of us.

And the stark reality is this; there is a beginning and an end, and in most cases, we are not prepared for these lift changing events.

When caregiving ends, what are we left to do? Immersed in the care for someone else, I had to learn how to become a caregiver to myself.   Easier said than done.

I truly believe there is no greater honor bestowed on us than to be entrusted with the care of another human being.  Along the journey, we forget that self-care is the most important job for every caregiver.

I’ve come to learn the importance of self-care after our caregiving experienced ended.  I am the poster child for want not to do after caregiving ends. Poor emotional, physical, spiritual and financial decisions compounded with complicated grief.

Caregiving is going to be different for each one of us.  Yet the one thing that binds all caregivers together is story sharing.  It is through story sharing where diversity meets the road to combat a common cause; our common cause is caregiving.  When caregivers connect through stories, realize we are not alone and learn there is tremendous amount of support and trusted information available to us.

The most important person helped by sharing one’s caregiving story, is the caregiver!

I survived caregiving because of the real-life stories caregivers shared with me.    And that is precisely why I am comfortable in sharing my caregiving story with you.  Sharing my story helped me heal and allowed me to learn how to take better care of myself after caregiving ended for me.

Just as caregiving is different for everyone, finding your comfort zone in sharing your story and asking for help will be different too.  But don’t despair, when you share your story with a trusted friend and colleague, you will immediately know that you are not alone.

I make no bones about it, caregiving was hard; but I would do it again in an instant if Richard was still alive today.  The only thing I would do differently, is take better care of myself, just as Richard asked me to do while in the midst of caregiving.


For more info and resources:

Visit the Whole Care Network

At The Whole Care Network, we believe it is through story sharing where diversity meets the road which allows a community to impact a common cause. The Whole Care Network is a robust collection of individuals who have personal stories to share. As a byproduct of this sharing, we tap into the breadth of valuable perspectives from a diverse group of show host and guests. They share their experiences and offer further support and guidance. The goal of The Whole Care Network is to create a collective impact on issues facing family caregivers in all parts of the country and around the world. When we create a collective impact on a social issue, we collectively take ownership of the issue which makes our families, our communities, and our businesses stronger for ourselves and for future generations.


Visit the Caregiver Action Network

Caregiver Action Network (CAN) is the nation’s leading family caregiver organization working to improve the quality of life for the more than 90 million Americans who care for loved ones with chronic conditions, disabilities, disease, or the frailties of old age. CAN serves a broad spectrum of family caregivers ranging from the parents of children with special needs, to the families and friends of wounded soldiers; from a young couple dealing with a diagnosis of MS, to adult children caring for parents with Alzheimer’s disease. CAN (the National Family Caregivers Association) is a non-profit organization providing education, peer support, and resources to family caregivers across the country free of charge.



Alzheimer’s Memory Walk for Grandma – Please Share!

We received this letter from my niece… PLEASE read and Share!


Dear Friends and Family,


On November 3, 2018, I will be participating in the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk in honor of my grandmother.  This walk is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s.  It is led by the Alzheimer’s Association, which is an organization that is working to advance care, support, and research all over the world.


If you know me, you know that this is more than just a fundraiser to me.  When I was in high school, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I spent the following five years doing everything I could to keep her memories and connections alive.  One of the most difficult parts about losing a family member to Alzheimer’s is the feeling of helplessness.  And I can only imagine that one of the most difficult parts about having Alzheimer’s is the feeling of isolation as people who were once family members and loved ones, begin to resemble perfect strangers.  Participating in this memory walk gives me an opportunity to make a difference and creates a sense of unity towards a common cause.  In a sense, it allows a group of perfect strangers, to begin to resemble a family.


During all of the uncertainty and sadness and loss throughout those five years, one thing was always consistent: love.  The foundation of love in my family has always been unshakeable.  Earlier this month would have been my grandparent’s 62nd wedding anniversary.  Although my grandma may have only remembered the first 50, I watched my grandfather love her every day of his life.  The memories he was able to share of their love are what continue to live on. As I participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s this year I will be thinking about that feeling of love – the experiences, the stories, the memories – all rooted in love – that I hope no one else will ever have to lose.


In education, we are told that observations are not truly observations unless you write them down. We are reminded that with so many students we cannot rely on our memories if we want to be accurate and precise.  I never thought too much about that idea until I started applying it to my own life.  The fact is, memories are much more fragile and fleeting than we sometimes realize, but sharing those memories, either through writing or conversation, immortalizes them.  I’ve been extremely lucky in my life to have shared so many amazing memories with those that I love, and because of my experiences caring for my grandmother, I have come to understand just how special those memories are.


So although this is probably not the first time I have shared my story with you, I invite you to share with me in the memory of making a difference, no matter the size.  I’m asking you to consider supporting me this year in my attempt to make a small, but powerful difference in the fight to end Alzheimer’s, whether that be through donating to my team, walking with me in November, or spreading the word and sharing in the hope to live in a world without Alzheimer’s.


Here is the link to my page:






Walk to End Alzheimer’s 2018

The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest nonprofit voluntary health organization dedicated to accelerating the progress in prevention, cure and living with Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association is incorporated as a single 501(c)(3) entity.




Your Voice, Your Vote: People died so you can!


Most people agree that voting is the most important right we enjoy. All other freedoms stem from voting in a free and fair democracy. People fought, and died, to secure the right to vote. Voting. A word defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “an expression of opinion or preference.” A concept well known by all Americans, as it should, considering our many things about this country are decided by elections. Citizens of many countries complain about the world around them, and many don’t have the option to change that world. However, you do. As an American you have the power to make decisions that can affect the country. If you don’t like the way America is run, and yet you don’t vote in elections or make your opinions heard, then you, not the government is at fault.

During his presidency, Abraham Lincoln preached the importance of the government being of, for, and by the people. He argued that voters played the most important role in making sure the government reflected their desires and functioned according to the guidelines of the Constitution. Your Vote is Your Voice!