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 Group2 in Mercer Island, Washington, which is associated with MassMutual Seattle3, 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 plan4 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. Or call a representative at your local social security office or other organizations that help people with special needs. They
not only offer information about their own programs and services, but know of other resources as well. Federal and state governments – Some states offer a Medicaid waiver program (it varies by state) that provides funds for in-home services to care for a family member who’s elderly or disabled (by Medicare’s definition). Certain home renovations may be covered under this program. Check with a representative of your state’s department of health and human services or a Medicare/Medicaid representative with the Social Security Administration. Other organizations, such as your state’s Area Agency on Aging (for seniors, but may include people with special needs), the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (for veterans), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (for residents of rural communities), may offer low cost or free home repair or renovation services, grants, or loans.
Additionally, some states offer assistive technology programs that may provide equipment or low-interest loans. Your state’s department of developmental services may also offer related services. Disability-specific organizations –
Some national organizations offer help with determining what modifications you may need, providing referrals, and
paying for some home renovations expenses. Civic and religious organizations – Check with local organizations such as the Elks, Knights of Columbus, Masons, Rotary, and Shriners to learn about services they may offer. Some tips
In addition to using legal, financial, and other professionals (such as architects and builders) who are experienced in
serving people with special needs, and researching programs and services you may qualify for, here are some other tips to keep in mind:
• Get your doctors involved. They can help you understand how your family member’s needs will progress over time, so you can plan your home renovation for today and the future. Letters from your doctors may also be needed to help you qualify (or prove need) for certain programs, services, discounts, or tax deductions.
• Get references from people you trust. Research the products and providers/contractors you’re considering. Many times you can find reviews online or check with the Better Business Bureau to determine if complaints have been
• Use licensed and insured contractors, and before any work is done, get appraisals in writing. Ask contractors to put in writing what services they’ll provide, so you know exactly what’s included in their estimates.
• Keep receipts. They’ll be needed for any expenses are tax deductible. Make it a home that works for everyone
It’s more than a renovation project. It’s finding the resources to make it all work, to make your home practical, comfortable, yours.
1 “The Special Care Planner, a title used by MassMutual financial professionals, who have received advanced training and information in estate and tax planning concepts, special needs trusts, government programs, and the emotional dynamics of working with people with disabilities and other special needs and their families. The certificate program was offered by The American College in Bryn Mawr, PA, exclusively for MassMutual financial professionals. Additionally, a designation of Chartered Special Needs Consultant (ChSNC), which evolved from the certificate program, is now offered through the American College for financial professionals. MassMutual financial professionals who have completed the certificate program, or received the ChSNC designation can use the Special Care Planner title.”
4 A Life Care Plan is a coordinated program of future care planning, financial and legal strategies for people with disabilities and their families. A Life Care Plan continually changes throughout an individual’s lifetime and is provided by a team that may include your legal and tax advisors as well as insurance and investment professionals.
* The Special Care Planner received advanced training and information in estate and tax planning concepts, special needs trusts, government programs, and the emotional dynamics of working with people with disabilities and other special needs and their families. The certificate program was offered by The American College in Bryn Mawr, PA,
exclusively for MassMutual financial professionals. State insurance departments recognize that the Special Care Planner certificate program provides essential information on the profession of special care by granting continuing education (CE) credits (varies by state).
A Special Care Planner through MassMutual’s SpecialCareSM program can assist parents in drafting Letters of Intent and can help make a difference in the quality of life for an individual with special needs, their caregiver and other family members. Through SpecialCare you will learn valuable financial strategies, identify financial strategy solutions, access vital information, and meet certified specialists who will work with you and your professional advisors – your banker, accountant or financial planner, lawyer, social workers and health care providers – to review your financial picture and offer options to fit the needs of each situation. For more details, visit MassMutual’s
website at http://www.MassMutual.com/specialcare, or call 1-(800)-272-2216.
Built on more than a century-and-a-half of financial strength and customer service, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) is a leading mutual life insurance company headquartered in Springfield, MA. We operate for the benefit of our members and participating policyholders1 and offer a range of quality financial
products and solutions, including life insurance, disability income insurance, long-term care insurance, annuities and retirement/401(k) plan services. Our family of companies in the MassMutual Financial Group includes: Babson Capital Management LLC and its subsidiary Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers LLC, Baring Asset Management
Limited, First Mercantile Trust Company, MassMutual International LLC, MML Investors Services, LLC, The
MassMutual Trust Company, fsb and OppenheimerFunds, Inc.
The information provided is not written or intended as specific tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for purposes of avoiding any Federal tax penalties. MassMutual, its employees and representatives are not authorized to give tax or legal advice. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel. Individuals involved in the estate planning process should work with an estate planning team, including their own personal legal
or tax counsel.