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Consultant Louis Tenenbaum believes we're at the precipice of a movement in home modification--the art of adapting an elderly or disabled person's home to meet their changing needs. Why? First there's this from the AARP: 84% of Americans 45 years old or older want to remain in their home indefinitely. Secondly, groups from various industries, including the rehab industry, have put their plans to develop programs to train professionals in home modification into high gear. Tenenbaum, who plans to release a book called "Fixing to Stay: The National Association of Home Builders Guide to Staying in Place" in January, had this say.
HME News: How can providers benefit from entering the home modification field?
Louis Tenenbaum: It allows a provider to become a more full-service resource for his clients. If your client knows and trusts you to help them, whether it's for a service or a referral, then you're of more value to them. It also gives the provider the opportunity to keep his clients longer, because his clients stay in their homes longer. That's huge, because we know acquiring new clients is costly.
HME: Are there downsides to a bevy of new players attempting to enter a field?
Tenenbaum: Like with any new service, I'm concerned people will start offering home modification before they're ready. But for providers, especially rehab providers, they're already servicing people in their homes. They install grab bars, lifts and even elevators. They could be at the cutting edge of making this happen. They need to take their time. They need to get educated and trained.
HME: Why hasn't this movement gained real traction yet?
Tenenbaum: First, there's this continuum of care that we've all witnessed, where you go along being independent, then you reach a point where you can't take care of yourself and your family can't manage you from a distance, so you go to a nursing home. That's just the way it has been. Secondly, our home designs haven't changed to meet the change in our population. We now have this older population, but our houses were built for Peter Pan--someone who never got old.
HME: What will it take for home modification to turn the corner?
Tenenbaum: If you think about the competition for home modification, it consists primarily of assisted living facilities. In an assisted living facility, you get meals and meds served to you, transportation to the doctor. The problem right now is this: If we provide you with home modification, who takes care of those other things? When we have a comprehensive patient management system--only then will people have a reasonable alternative.