Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Home Renovation Resources: Help in Making Your Home Your Home

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Home Renovation Resources: Help in Making Your Home Your Home

Article excerpt

Is your home user friendly? For all the people in your family? Is it practical for your family member with special needs? Whether it needs simple changes or major ones, home renovation--rather than a move to a new place--might be the answer. And resources abound to help you make the makeover.

"In my experience, people renovate a home to help a family member with special needs gain one of two things: accessibility or independence. Sometimes it's done to achieve both," says Travis Mann, who has earned the Chartered Special Needs Consultant (ChSNC) (1) designation and is a Special Care Planner. He's a partner with the Smith Richards Group (2) in Mercer Island, Washington, which is associated with MassMutual Seattle (3), a general agency of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).

Depending on a family member's needs, making a home accessible may be as simple as adding a ramp, installing a stair lift or generator system, or creating a sleeping environment that addresses the sensory issues of a child with autism. In some cases it might mean extensive renovations, such as widening doorways and halls, remodeling kitchens and bathrooms, or adding an apartment onto a home.

"An adult child with special needs who wants his own place can get exactly that with home renovation," says Mann. "Converting a basement into an apartment or constructing an addition on the home provides a satisfying solution for parents who are reluctant to let their child go for whatever reason--the child's safety, the cost, the availability of suitable housing. It gives their child the independence he desires with his own entrance, kitchen, bedroom, and bath, and parents retain some oversight and are available in case of an emergency."

Let the experts help guide you

If you've decided that you need to make some home renovations, where do you begin?

"I often help families with an initial life care plan (4) consultation, which our firm does at no cost. We discuss their concerns with their home, how it isn't working for their family member, and what changes they think may need to be made. We also look at their financial situation. I can then help put them in touch with the experts they need. Because of my experience in serving the community of people with special needs, I have a wide network. For example, I often recommend meeting with an architect who specializes in renovations and new constructions for people with special needs. They know the ADA-compliant construction standards and the products available to get your job done right." Meeting with an architect is a smart first step, but you should also meet with an accountant or tax attorney to determine what expenses might be tax deductible. Again, meet with those who have knowledge and experience with special needs."

Meeting with an architect is a smart first step, but you should also meet with an accountant or tax attorney to determine what expenses might be tax deductible. Again, meet with those who have knowledge and experience with special needs.

"I can help the accountant or attorney understand the entire family picture so everything can be taken into consideration when making a recommendation," Mann explains.

A financial professional, such as a Special Care Planner, can also work with you to create a life care plan to help care for your family member for the long term. It also includes financial strategies to address every family member's needs. "Parents should take steps to plan for their own retirement, for college expenses, and for estate planning, as well as the ongoing care of a child with special needs," says Mann.

Programs and services that may help

There are many programs and services that can help reduce your out-of-pocket expenses. Eligibility for some may be based on age, disability, geographic locale, and/or income. Some are mentioned here. To find others, try an Internet search of home renovations special needs (or similar terms) with and without your state name. …

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