Help Getting a Wheelchair Ramp and Safety Equipment
From the Mailbag: My mother with MS came to live with me recently. She uses a wheelchair, and can still take care of herself. With our combined income we are paying our bills (barely), but we can't afford to buy a wheelchair ramp or any safety bars for the bathroom. Do you know of any programs that help pay for handicapped equipment or ramps?
Answer: Some states have Medicaid programs that help seniors and the disabled pay for care at home, and that will also assist with paying for home improvements and equipment so that the recipient can remain safely at home. If your mother has a low income and qualifies medically, this may be helpful. Check with your state's Medicaid office for information on the programs available where you are.
Be forewarned, however...these programs often have very long waiting lists.
Speaking of Medicaid, if you are lucky enough to live where there is a PACE program and your mother qualifies, PACE would offer her what you are looking for right now as well as many other benefits.
There are also many local programs that might be helpful. Many cities have programs that bring together volunteers to help with just these kinds of items. If you have a 311 telephone information and referral line where you live, they often know of these opportunities and can give you numbers to call.
If you don't have access to a 311 service, call your town or city government office and ask about any assistance programs they may know about.
Do the same with your closest senior center. The people who work there often know about programs and services that aren't advertised.
Service clubs, such as the Lions Club, VFW and religious-based groups also often have volunteer programs to build ramps and do other small tasks for seniors. Check with the larger churches, synagogues or mosques in your area to see if they know of any programs.
Some municipalities also have federal or state grant money available to assist homeowners with handicapped accessibility, as well as other improvements.
And lastly, but most important, call your local Area Agency on Aging. Their counselors are almost always on top of all the assistence programs in the region they serve, including all the possibilities we've listed above. Their social workers and caseworkers have volumes of information that can be hugely useful, including things you may never have thought of. We recommend you start with the AoA because they can save you hours of frustrating telephone time. The AoA will also be able to refer you to the closest Medicaid office if you wish to contact them. This is far faster and more efficient than trying to negotiate the typical Medicaid telephone/voicemail system.
You can find your local AoA by calling 1-800-677-1116 or by using the online Eldercare Locator at www.eldercare.gov