Aging-in-Place Honoree Talks About Importance of Accessible Homes

Debbie Grazioso

At the 2012 International Builders’ Show, several housing professionals were honored for their service. Among the honorees was Debbie Grazioso, CAPS, owner of P&D Remodeling, Middletown, N.Y., selected for her work as a certified aging-in-place specialist (CAPS). The CAPS designation provides home builders with the technical, business management and customer service skills to help people stay in their homes regardless of age or ability level through universal design modifications.

Debbie owns and operates P&D Remodeling, LLC with her husband, Pasquale. The company specializes in residential remodeling, especially kitchens and bathrooms.

The Mobility Project recently spoke to Debbie about her award.

TMP: How long have you been a certified aging-in-place specialist?

Debbie: Three years

TMP: What made you decide to get the CAPS designation?

Debbie: Visiting an NAHB Remodeling trade show, I was introduced to the concept of aging-in-place and the CAPS designation. One thought kept coming to mind: This just makes sense. Modifying a home to fit the abilities of the individual was a niche that could really help people with their quality of life, allowing them to be safer in their own home. Not only do most people want to stay in their home as long as possible, but it's also frequently much less expensive than moving to an assisted-living or nursing home, so it really can be the best all-around choice. So, I decided to go through the NAHB training and received my CAPS designation.

TMP: How have you used your education to help people who need modifications to their home?

Debbie: P&D Remodeling is specializing in home modifications for seniors or those with disabilities. We are on the bid list for several nonprofit agencies that serve clients with disabilities. We perform the in-home modifications necessary to help their clients have a better quality of life in their own home. We are also an approved builder for the VA grants for home improvements to veterans who need home modifications.

P&D Remodeling is a dealer for a line of barrier-free showers by Best Bath Systems. We have a barrier-free shower on display at our local independent living center and an ADA-compliant bathroom model on display at the Center for Assistive and Rehabilitative Technology at SUNY Orange. These are showrooms where the public can see what a barrier-free shower looks like, complete with a fold-down seat and hand-held shower head. Everyone gains an understanding of what a great idea it is.

TMP: What have been some of your most rewarding projects?

Debbie:It's very rewarding to know that you are truly helping a person with their quality of life. One example is a gentleman who could not take a shower due to his disabilities; he could not enter or exit the traditional tub/shower unit. We modified his bathroom, including removing the tub and installing a barrier-free shower. Problem solved. Increasingly we receive calls from adults who are preparing to move their aging parent into their home. Often they need a half bath on the first floor expanded to a full bath, with a barrier-free shower, so the parent will be comfortable and safe and will not have to climb stairs to take a shower.

TMP: What advice would you give someone who is looking to update his/her home to accommodate mobility issues?

Debbie: First, you need to have a very good understanding of what your mobility issues will be in the future, say 10 years out. If you are not sure, ask your doctor or an occupational therapist. Once you understand what you will need, you can develop a plan and start to make changes in your home. Sometimes small changes make a big difference. For instance, if you have sight issues, better lighting may help. What about contrasting colors for the edge of stairs and countertops? Arthritis? Change your doorknobs to levers. Grab bars may add the support you need to be safer in the bathroom. Bathrooms and kitchens may need major renovations. Make sure you work with a contractor who specializes in aging-in-place (preferably CAPS certified); there will be a greater chance that your contractor will understand your needs and be able to deliver a remodel job that will work for you.

TMP: What have you and your company done to incorporate innovative practices and techniques to benefit customers and shine a positive light on the home-building industry?

Debbie: Universal Design is the concept that you should design your home in a way to accommodate a wide range of people with different abilities. We show our customers that a home can be made safer and easier to live in with minor changes. For instance, you can install beautiful grab bars in a gorgeous bathroom in a way that is functional but does not make the bathroom look like a commercial ADA-compliant bathroom (a large fear of homeowners).

I really enjoy speaking to the public about the importance of making changes to your home to make it safer. I speak at different venues, such as a senior expo trade show or a senior luncheon, educating the public about why safety in the home is important, especially in the bathroom. One of our local rehab centers invited me to give a lunch-and-learn talk to the staff of their rehab department, educating them on what CAPS is and how contractors can make changes in the home for their clients. I also spoke to a class of students at the local college who are studying to be occupational therapy assistants.

TMP: What does winning the 2011 NAHB Designee of the Year award mean to you?

Debbie: Winning 2011 CAPS of the Year was a huge honor for me. I hope it will bring opportunities to continue to educate the public about how important it is to make a home safer through modifications.