September 19, 2020
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Three ways a senior can fund a home remodel

By: Julie Ann Soukoulis
April 12, 2019

What’s the most common question seniors and family caregivers ask of a home remodeler? Dan Bawden, who founded the national Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS) program for the National Association of Home Builders in 2001, did not hesitate in his response: People ask, “How do I fund a home remodel?”

“This is a very common problem and a huge need,” Bawden said. “More people need home modification remodels than have money to do them,” he said. “There are some sources out there, but not nearly as many as needed.”

Most North American homeowners surveyed by Home Instead, Inc., between the ages of 55 and 75, said they intended to use savings to pay for home modifications. When asked how much they would be willing to spend on the modifications to a home that will enable them to live there as they age, the average spend was $17,717. Here are options that could help fund those modifications:

Medicare. Many families think Medicare will provide whatever they need. Medicare will not usually pay for remodeling projects; however, there are some exceptions. Sometimes Medicare will pay to provide a device to make a home accessible or a medical necessity like a lift or a walk-in tub, Bawden explained. “For example, Medicare might pay for that device but not the cost to install it,” he added. For more information, visit

State programs. Visit to learn what might be available in your area to help fund a home modification.

Reverse mortgage. A reverse mortgage can be another option for funding a renovation. “A reverse mortgage may be a good option for seniors who are considered house rich but cash poor,” Bawden said. Contact a finance expert for more information about reverse mortgages for seniors. Local expert Dave Wasson of Wasson Investment Services could be a good resource at 707.206.9643 or check out his website at

Five home fixes under $1,000

While the thought of remodeling might seem daunting and expensive, many fixes are affordable. Dan Bawden discusses five fixes that potentially could cost $1,000 or less. (Costs may vary by region.)

New door knobs – Arthritis can make turning traditional round door knob handles more difficult. An inexpensive solution is changing out door knobs to lever handles. Such handles can easily be opened even with an elbow, Bawden noted. “You may be able to change out door knobs for around $1,000.”

Lighting – Inadequate lighting is a safety hazard and high fixtures often pose a problem for seniors with shoulder problems who have difficulty changing out burned bulbs. Upgrading to LED bulbs not only provides good lighting, but such bulbs typically have a longer service life. It may cost $300 to $400 to convert to LED bulbs, Bawden said.

Shower updates – Showering could be easier by converting a showerhead to a hand-held shower with a trickle or pause showerhead. Estimated cost is around $250 including the plumber. Or do it yourself for about $50.

Automatic doors – Many varieties of residential automated door openers and closers are on the market making access in an out of a home easier for seniors with mobility problems. Cost generally runs $1,000 or less, Bawden noted. Search to find a variety in your price range.

Decorative grab bars – Minimize the risk of falls in the bathroom by installing grab bars. A variety of decorative grab bars now exist on the market. “They should be placed two in the shower (one on the back wall of the shower and one where you step in) and one near the toilet,” Bawden said. Cost may be around $400, depending on your location. “Some of my female clients who have a strong design sense but hate that ‘grab bar look’ like these products. For instance, one variety is shaped like an upside down U that also holds the toilet paper roll.”

Aging safely at home does not need to be complicated, but design sense combined with common sense could help ensure independence. Planning is key!

Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern?  She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime