Home-Modification Bill Could Lead to Lower Costs, Partnerships for Home Care Providers – Home Health Care News

A bill allowing older adults to deduct home-modification expenses from their taxes was introduced in Washington, D.C. last week.

If passed, the Home Modification for Accessibility Act would provide a boost to aging-in-place efforts, perhaps spurring greater partnership between home care companies and home-modification businesses.

​​Already, home care industry leaders and home-modification stakeholders are heralding the bill as a major step forward.

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“The preparation needed to make homes more safe and accessible include repairing uneven floor surfaces, adding brighter lighting, adding railings to stairs, widening doorways and raising countertops,” Scott Dingfield, director of communications for Right at Home, said in an email to Home Health Care News. “The Act will help these modifications to be less costly, and ultimately, make it easier for older adults to move around their home more safely.”

The bill would allow adults aging in place to offset the costs associated with making modifications to their homes through early retirement withdrawals and a lifetime tax deduction of up to $30,000.

“This also will have a tremendous impact on an older adult’s family members,” Dingfield said. “The more someone can live at home safely and with independence, the less time family members will spend worrying about mom or dad.”

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Right at Home, the Omaha, Nebraska-based franchise company, offers in-home care to seniors and adults with disabilities across its more than 600 franchise locations in the U.S. and seven other countries. For several years now, the home-based care company has been eyeing ways to become a one-stop shop in the aging in place market.

In October 2020, Right at Home partnered with home-modification franchise TruBlue Total House Care on a preferred provider agreement, for example.

TruBlue specializes in house care, home maintenance and safety modifications for seniors aging in place.

Following that agreement, TruBlue now recommends its clients in need of home care to Right at Home. Right at Home, in turn, recommends TruBlue for clients who need house work to age in place comfortably.

Right at Home identified early on that assisting seniors and helping them to navigate all the hurdles and the challenges that they face while aging in place was beneficial for its business interests and the seniors themselves.

The recently introduced bill will also allow home care providers to save on costs.

“Home health clients will have longer tenure so customer-acquisition costs will be lower,” Louis Tenenbaum, a former home-modifications contractor who now runs the home modification policy and advocacy organization HomesRenewed, told HHCN in an email. “Care workers will have fewer injuries so worker’s comp will be lower and employee retention will be stronger.”

With this bill, the clients and patients make the investment while providers benefit from it.

Even though Americans prefer to live out their lives in the homes of their choice, Tenenbaum said most of our houses are not equipped with the important features needed. Features like entryways without stairs, wider doorways and railings are necessary for seniors to thrive at home.

“This bold action empowers homeowners to invest in home safety, security and accessibility upgrades to their primary residence without tax or penalty,” Tenenbaum said.

For seniors, the bill will provide a safer environment for them to move around and feel confident in their ability to be independent and carry on with their lives as they wish, he added.

“This means reduced reliance on family caregivers, fewer falls and associated disruptions, turmoil, torment and costs,” Tenenbaum said, noting that the bill will also raise awareness of the environment as a factor in successful aging in place.

According to a recent report from Health Affairs, 54% of people older than age 75 will not have enough money to pay for their housing and care by 2029.

In a press release, Right at Home President and CEO Margaret Haynes echoed these worries and said that historically, housing design did not take into account the aging process and the “physical constraints it imposes on seniors and adults living with disabilities who want to age in their home environment.”

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