The Vanguard has a new home, please update your bookmarks to

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Group That Rebuilds Senior Homes Coming To Yolo County

Yesterday in at the UC Davis Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center, a non-profit group, Rebuilding Together held a fundraiser that was designed to raise support and inform the local community about the group and their services. Rebuilding Together announced that they are coming to Yolo County to help rebuild and retrofit the homes of senior citizens in order to increase their safety and prevent serious injuries.

One of the key issues facing seniors is the need to perform the types of minor home modifications that will prevent falls and other accidents that lead to serious injury.

Elaine Roberts Musser, who also serves as the chair of the Davis Senior Citizens Commission, put together this program. In her introduction she stressed the importance of preventing falls. "Falls prevention is the key to preventing a downward spiral from which some seniors do not recover." Falls may lead to serious injuries that lead to a quick deterioration of the quality of life and tremendous financial cost.

According to the release:
"The need for home accessibility modifications is of great concern among healthcare providers and EMS workers. The local Emergency Medical System is burdened by the number of fall related calls they respond to each month. Healthcare workers do not know who to refer their clients to for the installation of safety devices. Seniors are experiencing the same difficulty as identified in an Area Four Agency on Aging survey that showed the need for home repairs/modifications is their #2 concern. It is difficult for seniors to find an installer that is trained and they can trust.

Low-income, elderly homeowners prefer to age in their homes, but they must overcome major hurdles to maintain that option. Physical and financial difficulties make it hard for homeowners to install the safety devices necessary for independent living. In addition, locating a trained installer is problematic and in many cases, impossible.

The National Safety Council has determined that falls cause or lead to 17,100 deaths per year in the U.S. Eight of ten fatalities are a result of an initial fall, and half of all falls occur inside the home. More than fifty percent of people who have a hip fracture never return to their prior level of mobility and independence. The average cost of institutionalization is $46,000 per year or more, an expensive alternative. The problem is growing, as one in five Californians will be over 60 years of age by the year 2010."
One of the key speakers at the event was Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada. Yamada stressed the need for greater attention to be placed on senior issues overall and the issue of home safety in general.

One the key ways to protect seniors is at the front end through by performing retrofits to make the homes that seniors live in safe. Rebuilding Together is a key to these type of situations.

As Yamada pointed out:
"The statistics on elder falls isn't pretty. Falls are the number two trauma call in our five-county emergency services region. Four out of ten nursing home admissions are fall-related, with half never regaining previous mobility and a quarter facing death in twelve months Yet, about two-thirds of these falls were preventable.

Elder falls--not heart disease, stroke or even Alzheimer's--are the number one reason for seniors' loss-of-independence. In much the same way as parents take steps to "child-proof" their homes to protect kids from hurting themselves, all of us should take responsibility to "fall-proof" our own and our parents' homes, to avoid needless injury and reduce the strain on our emergency services network."
Heidi D’Agostino, Yolo County Code Compliance & Business Licensing Officer, and Dan Stroski, Yolo County District Attorney’s office, will also be featured speakers. Both have been involved in recent sting operations by the Yolo Unlicensed Response Apprehension Team (YoU RAT). Comprised of the District Attorney’s Fraud Investigators Office, Yolo County Code Enforcement, other local law enforcement, the California State Contractors Board and the Department of Insurance Investigators, YoU RAT identifies unfair business practices that occur with unlicensed contractors, businesses and trades in Yolo County. Unlicensed contractors often prey on the elderly and vulnerable by not performing the work they are paid for, or by doing substandard work.

Mr. Stroski spent a good deal of time explaining the YoU RAT operation which involves going into homes and performing stings whereby the locate and identify potential suspects who may be practicing contracting without licenses. The licensing rules are put into place to protect citizens. One of the most vulnerable groups of citizens are seniors who provide easy targets for the more unscrupulous of these individuals.

He said one day in West Sacramento they netted 28-31 people in a single day. In the seven months of existence, they have nabbed 71 unlicensed contractors who were practicing without licenses.

In many cases their goal is less to incarcerate them than to get them into compliance which means to have a license and to obtain worker's compensation insurance, so as to ensure that their employees are covered and that they are not liable for workplace damage. In many cases they have waived a good portion of the fine if they simply get themselves in compliance.

Jail is generally according to Mr. Stroski reserved generally for those who are committing fraud by portraying themselves as licensed through phony license numbers. This kind of misrepresentation is felony fraud. Also at times these charges can come with elder abuse enhancements, if they are trying to take advantage of seniors.

According to Heidi D'Agostino, "not just everybody should be in the homes of our senior citizens." Licensing requires FBI background checks, fingerprinting and other certifications.

Carrie Grip, the Executive Director of Rebuilding Together then presented information about their group along with a video about the Sacramento Branch of Rebuilding Together.

Rebuilding Together is a nonprofit organization that preserves homes to ensure that seniors and individuals who are disabled can live independently in their own residences. They provide home modifications such as gab bars, specialized railings, wheel chair ramps, smoke detectors, shower assist devices and more. This work is completed by teams of volunteers who are trained in the proper installation of safety devices such as these.

Rebuilding Together is a national non-profit group that came to Sacramento in 1991. In their first year in Sacramento, 70 people came and helped to rebuild the homes of seniors. Since then, over 1300 repairs have occurred in the Sacramento area costing $4.5 million. They often have 1000 volunteers a day who work on up to 15 homes.

Rebuilding Together would like to expand their fall prevention services into Yolo County and are partnering with the Triad Task Force, a public/private collaboration of agencies and county service providers – the action arm of the Yolo County Commission on Aging & Adult Services (YCCA&AS). Together they propose a program to assist not only older, low income adults, but all disabled individuals of every income level in becoming safer in and around their homes, by offering home safety education and evaluation, and minor or major home modifications at reasonable fees, or no cost for those of low income.

Ms. Grip told the audience,
Rebuilding Together is excited to expand its Home Safety Services program into Yolo County. We look forward to working with health care providers, emergency medical workers and civic representatives to address the issue of home related falls. The impact of a simple modification such as a grab bar will decrease the number of home injuries and improve independence for local residents.
The interesting part of this effort is that it is truly a cooperative effort between a number of different types of agencies and non-profit groups. Ted Puntillo who is a former Davis City Councilmember and now the Yolo County Veterans Sercices Officer spoke of a specific case of rather horific conditions a local gentleman who is a retired veteran and a long time worker. The efforts that would put into helping this individual were rather exemplary and it makes one realize the needs that so many seniors have.

As Michelle Samuels said,
"I think we've all heard it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes an active and coordinate effort to sustain that village."
The City of Davis has generously donated $25,000 to modify homes in Davis.

There are several ways that individuals can help this organization. They are going to have a workday in Yolo County on September 29, 2007. They really need volunteers for that effort and of course money and resources.

Individuals interested in helping this cause are encouraged to contact Rebuilding Together.

Their website is:

Or call them at: 916/455-1880

One quick note of commentary: I think this information largely speaks for itself, but I was very impressed with the program and the efforts of this group and I strongly encourage people to donate their time and volunteer to help rebuild the homes of seniors, especially those with the skills to do so. I came away from this program with a much fuller understanding of this problem and sympathy for this cause.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting