Grab bar installation

Low Cost Home Modifications to Prevent Falls

Rebuilding Together Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church has developed an effective system for identifying and correcting fall hazards in low-income seniors’ homes. Our Rebuilding Together Express program won the Commonwealth Council on Aging’s Best Practices award in 2018. In completing repairs to more than 218 homes we’ve demonstrated that relatively simple and low-cost repairs, modifications, and equipment can correct most fall hazards. Our small teams of RT Express volunteers correct 95% of fall hazards through half-day projects spending less than $500 for materials. ​Click the image below to watch the presentation that Don Ryan and Lucy Stein made at the Virginia Governor’s Conference on Aging.

Presenters: Don Ryan, Rebuilding Together Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church
Lucy Stein, MSOTR/L, CAPS MedStar Health

Installing a railing

Celebrating our 218th RT Express Project!

Created in 2015 to fill a gap in our services, Rebuilding Together Express (RT Express) augments and complements our traditional home repair program. RT Express allows us to respond more rapidly to help more low-income homeowners age in place safely and comfortably. RT Express has evolved steadily. In 2015 we tested this model in eight homes, in 2016 we adjusted the scope and repairs and refined procedures through 22 pilot projects, and in 2017 we increased capacity and standardized procedures to complete home modifications and repairs on 35 homes. Now in 2020 we are celebrating our 218th project!

Nine highly committed Team Leaders have been the heart and soul of RT Express over the past five years – Bob Austin, Brian Goggin, Mark Heslep, Patrick Hughes, Bard Jackson, Bill Marshall, Don McCubbin, Ken Mittelholtz and Woody Woodburn. They collaborate with RT-AFF staff to make a comprehensive assessment of each home, develop the scope of work, assemble tools and materials, oversee the repairs and establish a trusting relationship with our homeowners, who are mostly senior citizens. Fall safety is a top priority, with grab bars, double stair rails, comfort-height toilets, and brighter lighting leading the list of repairs. RT Express projects also address fire safety, security, moisture and ventilation problems, and energy-saving upgrades.

RT Express has drawn a pool of skilled and talented volunteers who work regularly on projects and take deep satisfaction in learning from each other and in making dramatic differences in our clients’ lives. “It’s so gratifying to put my remodeling skills to work to make such a profound difference in someone’s life,” said team leader Bob Austin.

Since the beginning of our RT Express program, our volunteers have been able to correct 95% of fall hazards and 92% of ALL hazards for the homeowners we’ve served. We measure our success using Rebuilding Together’s list of 25 Health and Safety Priorities.

Homeowner Mrs. B wrote this note to us to express her gratitude for the repairs and modifications we made at her home:

“The railing on the back stairs and the railing in the house and the gravel under the driveway and… I can’t name just one repair that made the biggest difference for me! All the repairs have lifted my spirits and made a big difference in my sense of physical and mental wellbeing.”

Please visit our Flickr page to see photos from our RT Express projects and many other projects we’ve completed for homeowners in need. We are extremely thankful to our RT Express Team Leaders and the men and women who have made it possible to help so many seniors age safely in place.

Check out our Flickr page for more project photos.

Railings, Half steps, Grab Bars

Grab bars, railings, dryer vents

Lou at work

Behind the Scenes with Lou Wood – RT-AFF Stair Lift Expert

Lou developed a process that ensures the donated stair lifts are in good working order and can be safely re-used, spending about 10 hours on each donated stair lift.

2 Volunteers working

[Re]Starting Project Work

We started the process of getting back to repairs by developing a set of Worksite Safety Protocols and a COVID-19 Safety Training. Fritz Sturz, Project Repair Coordinator, put together the safety training and a professional voice-over actor donated his time to narrate the training. Eight volunteers participated in the pilot and after taking the safety training they began working in small teams at a home that is part of Operation Renewed Hope Foundation (ORHF).

The vacant house was perfect for testing our safety protocols and over the course of two weeks our volunteers repaired and replaced doors, put new balusters on the exterior deck railings so they meet code, added grab bars to the bathrooms and prepped walls for painting by a contractor. The volunteers felt comfortable with our new safeguards and were happy to be back on the job doing what they love – making homes safe and healthy.

Operation Renewed Hope Foundation provides quality housing and supportive services to veterans to break their cycle of homelessness or to prevent them from becoming homeless. A veteran family will be moving into this house in August. We are thankful for our partner Wells Fargo Foundation and their support of our work on this home.

With the successful roll-out of this project we are now organizing small teams of experienced volunteers to tackle limited repairs for homeowners with pressing health and safety concerns. If you are interested in learning more about volunteering with RT-AFF please contact Don Ryan, Director of Partnerships.

 

USAA Grant Funds Deep Repairs for a Veteran in Alexandria

Mr. S proudly served in the US Marine Corps in Vietnam and then spent 40 years working for the Washington Post. His wife was employed by the General Services Administration and they enjoyed being part of their community. But ten years ago Mrs. S became disabled and Mr. S retired to become her full-time care-giver. He built a wheelchair ramp so he could bring her home from rehab and then safely get her out of the house to go to doctor’s appointments. He was grateful that he could bring her home and take care of her so she didn’t have to live in a nursing home but over the years as his health declined he could no longer keep up with home repairs and the ramp had deteriorated and become unsafe. He applied to Rebuilding Together – AFF after learning about our work from a home health aide and a grant from USAA allowed us to rebuild the ramp and make extensive repairs in other areas of the couple’s home.

Twenty-nine volunteers signed on to help with the project. The first team arrived on site on a frosty morning and got right to work demolishing the old ramp. They quickly filled a 20-yard dumpster with the debris and the team leaders developed the plan to construct the new ramp. The ramp came together like clockwork in one day as the volunteers stepped into their roles. They constructed a porch deck so that Mrs. S could roll out the front door onto the ramp. Framework for the 50-foot ramp was built on the solid upright posts that Mr. S had installed 10 years ago. One team focused on cutting planks for the deck of the ramp while others screwed them down. Other volunteers puzzled through the pieces needed to make the turns so the boards on the deck of the ramp fit together as smoothly as possible. Plank by plank, screw by screw, the ramp was completed and as the sun began to set the volunteers took a brief moment to celebrate their amazing accomplishment. Mrs. S. would be able to use the ramp that night in case of an emergency. Mr. S walked up onto the ramp and gratefully said “I could never have done this myself. Thank you!”

Read more

RT-AFF Conducts AmeriCorps Member Training for RT National

RT-AFF was pleased to partner with our National Office to plan, manage and execute the 2018 AmeriCorps Members training and project days this August. RT-AFF volunteers Bard Jackson and Bob Austin joined consultant Armand Magnelli and RT-AFF staff member Don Ryan to conduct a one-day formal training in safe and healthy home repairs. They set-up hands-on work stations to demonstrate the right methods and materials for installing grab bars, gutters and downspouts, clothes dryer vents and other repairs. Behind the scenes, Marcy Bartlett, RT-AFF Director of Programs orchestrated the two day project where the AmeriCorps members would put their classroom training to work. We were fortunate that Marcy agreed to stay on for the month of August and put in a tremendous effort to make her last project for RT-AFF a successful and meaningful experience for the homeowners, AmeriCorps Members and RT-AFF volunteers. Read more

Sears Heroes@Home Volunteers Help Multi-generational Veteran Family

On July 17, 2018 Rebuilding Together Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church and Sears partnered in Alexandria to serve a multi-generational veteran family as part of the Sears Heroes at Home program. Read more

Time Flies: RT Express Teams Have Helped 75 Seniors Age in Place in Their Homes

Our vision for Rebuilding Together Express has come true:  small teams of 4-5 volunteers, working 4-5 hours, and spending $400-$500 for materials are helping seniors age in place safely in their homes. We’ve refined our procedures, enlisted the help of more than 40 volunteers who want to work regularly throughout the year, and completed repairs to more than 75 homes. Read more

RT-AFF Wins Commonwealth Council on Aging Best Practices Award

Patti Klein, Christy Zeitz, Dr. Richard Lindsay and Don Ryan (l-r)

The Commonwealth Council on Aging presented its top Best Practices Award to Rebuilding Together Arlington/Fairfax/Falls Church for demonstrating the effectiveness of surprisingly simple, low-cost repairs to correct health and safety hazards in low-income seniors’ homes. Dr. Richard Lindsay, Chair of the Council on Aging Best Practices Committee, presented  this competitive award, which comes with a $5,000 prize funded by Dominion Energy. Read more

Please Step Inside

With the increase in injuries from falls among older Americans, there’s a growing need for health care providers, insurers, and hospitals to do more to deal with hazards in the home. This paper highlights the need for more comprehensive fall prevention strategies, including:

* The disproportionate risk low-income seniors face from fall hazards in their homes.
* The benefits of helping seniors who want to age in place.
* A gap in the current continuum of care for some patients undergoing joint replacement.
* The availability of surprisingly simple and low-cost home repairs and modifications.
* Solid evidence of the effectiveness of these interventions.
* The growing trend in other states to address fall hazards in the home. Read more