How to Hire Help

If you decide to make your home or apartment friendlier for aging in place, how much will it cost and who will help you do to do the work? Additionally, if you choose to move, there are typically a large number of major and minor upgrades required to prepare a house for the market.

Even the most capable do-it-yourselfer slows down with age. Protect your back by not doing it all yourself, and protect your budget by being extremely selective.  Happily there are many resources via your keyboard. If you are not a fan of computers, your local library can help you conduct an electronic search.

I recommend trying to find an “Aging in Place Specialist”.  In my small community, when I went to the Certified Aging in Place Specialistsite of the National Association of Homebuilders, more then 30 popped up, mostly architects and contractors.

Of course some were not what I was looking for, such as a reverse mortgage advocate. At the present time, reverse mortgages need to be considered very carefully. Also listed were some individuals with a poor reputation in my community. Others listed had no information at all.

Select three contractors and obtain at least three references for each. This means a minimum of 9 phone calls, but that’s cheaper than a botched job or an overpriced remodel.

I would also look up the Northwest Universal Design Council website for ideas Their home checklist is particularly useful. Other urban centers probably also have similar organizations.

I suggest that any person you hire be licensed, insured, and bonded. While we have had some luck with sub rosa (under the table) handypersons, those who operate without credentials, we have also had some bad luck. Caveat emptor—buyer beware!

The same goes for plumbers and electricians, although you may not have the leisure in a time of need to get numerous referrals and recommendations. Learn a bit about plumbing yourself. Anyone can plunge a toilet if he or she knows how.


I recommend having a housecleaner well in advance of when it becomes a necessity if you can possibly afford it. When I had unexpected hip replacement, I was so relieved to have a trusted, competent, and even beloved person to do the essential cleaning. Many women think it self-indulgent to have a cleaner or are convinced that someone else wouldn’t do nearly as good a job as they do themselves.  First of all, I consider it an equity issue. Some men, it appears to me, have never scrubbed a bathroom. Why should I be the only one cleans the commode? But more important, as we age, there will be certain tasks that are too difficult or too risky for a frail older person. Hiring a helper in advance of necessity precludes hiring a person you don’t know in a time of great stress and great need, such as when you are in the hospital about to be discharged. It also precludes dusting that top shelf, falling, and ending up in the hospital. Admit it in advance that there willbe a time when you will be hospitalized and then discharged and will need help at home.

Published by jeannettefranks

Jeannette Franks, PhD, is a passionate gerontologist and for over 20 years has taught ethics, grief and loss, and courses on geriatrics and gerontology for the University of Washington. Franks' most recent book is, To Move or To Stay Put: A Guide for Your Last Decades. Look for it now on the University Bookstore website It is also available at Eagle Harbor Books on Bainbridge. Franks previously published a definitive guide to independent and assisted living titled Washington Retirement Options, and often speaks on retirement options, disability issues, end-of-life issues and is an advocate for accessibility. She has a goal of making Bainbridge an elder-friendly community and is available to groups and families to discuss these issues. She served for nine years on the Kitsap County Advisory Council on Aging and Long-term Care. She also has the privilege of working in a small way for the past 15 years with the Suquamish tribal elders.

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