Category: Homecare News

Homecare News features home accessibility articles and mobility ramp articles from home modification experts Dave Henderson of EZ-ACCESS mobility ramps, VGM Group vendor and Jerry Keiderling of Accessible Home Improvement of America, a division of the VGM Group.

EZ-ACCESS Acquires Worldwide Mobility & Adds Line of External Vehicle Lifts

ALGONA, WASH. – EZ-ACCESS®, one of the nation’s leaders in providing access to life beyond barriers, is introducing a new product that will expand its growing catalog of accessibility and mobility solutions.

With the acquisition of Arizona-based Worldwide Mobility, family-owned EZ-ACCESS will add a line of external power vehicle lifts to its diverse offerings. Worldwide Mobility, headquartered in Mesa, Ariz., has been a manufacturer of the American-made scooter and power wheelchair lifts for more than 25 years.

EZ-ACCESS, celebrating its 30th year in business this year, will move the manufacturing of the popular line of lifts to its Algona, Wash., headquarters. The company anticipates adding additional employees and production space to meet increased demand.

The acquisition is also expected to mark the beginning of an expansion of EZ-ACCESS product lines as part of the company’s mission to meet the needs of the entire accessibility market.

“Over the past 30 years, EZ-ACCESS has made every effort to offer our customers the highest quality and most complete line of residential, portable, threshold, and modular ramps,” said Don Everard, EZ-ACCESS CEO.

“With the introduction of the PASSPORT® Vertical Platform Lift in 2014 and now the addition of external power vehicle lifts, we remain committed to offering our customers a complete line of products for all access solutions,” Everard said. “We are grateful for the years of loyalty dealers have shown us and believe that we can continue to build on our commitment as we expand our product offerings to help create opportunity for them.”

The external power vehicle lifts are designed to make the transportation of scooters and power chairs fast and efficient. The heavy-duty lifts feature simple installation and operation. They adjust to most vehicles and models of power chairs and scooters.

EZ-ACCESS, a division of Homecare Products Inc., also offers a complete line of American-made
products, which provide all-around solutions for mobility and accessibility. Its residential products include the PATHWAY® Modular Access System, the PASSPORT® Vertical Platform Lift, SUITCASE® Portable Folding Ramps, TRANSITIONS® Threshold Ramps, Mats and Plates, and GATEWAY™ Portable Wheelchair Ramps.

EZ-ACCESS was founded in 1984 by Glenda Everard and her daughter, Deanne Sandvold. Two years later, EZ-ACCESS introduced aluminum portable ramps to its product line. In 1988, son Don Everard joined the family business, bringing with him marketing expertise. The trio was the driving force behind the expansion of the ramp market, having pioneered the industry through the marketing and manufacturing of EZ-ACCESS portable wheelchair ramps. Today, EZ-ACCESS is one of the world’s leading producers of durable, high-quality mobility, accessibility and personal care accessories.

Unlocking Home Accessibility: Simply Get into a Better Bath

This important area of home accessibility is often overlooked.
By Jerry Keiderling and Dave Henderson, featured in Homecare Magazine at homecaremag.com/unlocking-accessibility.
In the accessible design field, one major misconception relates to bathroom safety and modification. In a recent survey of HME dealers, they felt the number one demographic for bathroom safety products was the older baby boomer population—which is a valid market segment, but not the only viable market. Details of bathroom related injuries show that this is not the only demographic that is affected.

best bath systems

Accessible shower options from Best Bath Systems make aging in place safer for seniors.


According to the CDC, of the 235,000 injuries that occur in the bathroom—and end up in the emergency room—there is no single location in the bathroom that is the greatest cause of the injuries. Analytics show that although there is a direct correlation between age and the potential of a fall injury, the age group of 15-24 suffers more injuries in the shower or bathtub than any other age group. People over 65 suffer the majority of their injuries while getting on and off the toilet. Of the injuries that occur in the bathroom 81 percent relate directly to a fall while 19 percent relate to other causes.
The myth that these injuries are often caused by fainting or a loss of consciousness was dis-proven and it was found that the majority of these injuries occur during full consciousness. The results of these falls broke down into a diagnosis of 29.3 percent with contusions or abrasions, 19.6 percent with a strain or sprain, and 17.4 percent with a fracture. Regardless of the diagnosis, each one ended in unwanted medical expenses and pain and suffering that potentially could have been prevented. Estimates are given that these
falls relate to over $67.3 billion in lifetime medical expenses.
The potential for these injuries are often overlooked in the design and construction of most homes. Individuals and interior designers develop the aesthetic bathroom and often forget the safety aspect until a fall or injury occurs. This is gradually changing as the concept of accessible design construction is gaining notoriety. The fact still remains that most homes are not equipped with the safety features needed to prevent these untimely injuries and the costs and pain associated.
Discussing this potential issue with many end-users finds that most people believe that they will not fall; consequently, they do not want to install products in their home that look institutional. It has been found that of the same group of people that do not see the need for these products themselves, may however make the association with a family member or friend that have a need for these products.
An important factor in the process is assessing the need. Using the tools that are available from your partner manufacturers and those provided through the training are necessary to ensure a complete solution. As the assessment is being done, determine the nature of the modifications that need to be made. This can range from a complete bathroom modification to minor modifications as well as the addition of some safety accessories. Having a quality manufacturer partner with the tools to fulfill those needs is crucial.
As the change has occurred in the HME market over the past 10 years, several companies have developed products that are not only safe, but also meet the aesthetic desires of the market, to keep a modified bathroom from looking institutional.
Nate Jensen from Best Bath Systems, one of the leading providers of accessible showers and tubs (best-bath.com) says, “Offering a sanitary looking shower for the aging demographic we serve is no longer a viable option. Customers want and demand more in everything that they buy. We can create products that are both beautiful and low maintenance.”
This very much appeals to the desire of what is needed and required in bathroom modifications. When looking at full bathroom modification that includes replacement or update of the shower or tub, manufacturers such as Best Bath Systems provide a full range of solutions.
The evolving HME market continues to grow more educated and selective in their choices for bath renovation. With the addition of inlay tile and decorative safety bars, the consumer can visualize an accessible remodel without sacrificing design aesthetics. As the HME dealers participate more and more in bathroom modifications, several key factors play into the equation that determines success:

  • Invest in a marketing campaign specific to home modification—If you are already selling chairs, stair lifts or VPLs, this should be an easy transition for any HME provider to handle.
  • Network—Find partners that can help increase your notoriety as an accessibility expert. OTs, PTs, and pharmacies should all know that your business offers these solutions. This networking has countless returns.
  • Know your market—Working with a qualified subcontractor or having a contractor on staff can make a big difference in not only how you bid projects, but also how you win projects. If your goal is to increase more private pay, it will be vital to have a skilled estimator on your team who can ensure profitability and success with the bidding process.
  • Have a sales expert—A skilled sales person goes a long way. As more and more HME providers transition away from funding sources, the sales approach is even more critical. The advantage is that the customer base is already familiar with the business and has built in trust.

The next level of modification involves minor changes to the existing fixtures that are in the bathroom with some add-on features. Safeway Safety Step (safewaystep.com) provides a product that allows a safety step to be added to most bathtubs or bath/showers. This product creates a pass through that is approximately 24” wide x 8” deep and reduces the potential of a fall when entering or exiting the bathtub.
“For caregivers of aging parents and people with mobility challenges, it can be difficult to provide help with life’s daily activities that many people were so accustomed to doing themselves,” said Chris Stafford, president of Safeway Safety Step. “We also understand that it can be difficult for seniors and individuals with mobility issues to ask for help with a traditionally private activity. Providing solutions that allows those needing care to take a shower or bath by themselves helps to preserve their dignity, while caregivers find comfort in knowing that their parents are less likely to get hurt in an area of the home notorious for falls.”
Another area of bathroom modification involves small safety add-ons that are typically the most commonly recognized in bathroom safety; grab bars and handrails. Some customers do not favor the institutional look of a handicap stall that reminds them of a public restroom or the bathroom in a hospital or assisted living facility.
The standard off-the-shelf grab bars are available from many sources, but are often resisted because of aesthetic appeal. Recently companies such as Moen, Grabcessories and Invisia have recognized the need for an aesthetic functional solution for these products. “The decorative fall prevention category is far less price sensitive than other DME categories,” says Scott Blakely, President of Grabcessories. “Once consumers make the decorative decision, they have decided to pay more for it. From there, it’s about safety, functionality and meeting the end user’s mobility needs.”
New innovative designs such as the LiveSafe Mounting System, that is included with the Grabcessories products, makes the installation of the product simple to complete without the challenges of using an off the shelf wall anchor system or attempting to line up the grab bars with wall studs (grabcessories.com).
Don’t let the myths and misconceptions of bathroom accessibility keep you out of this market— safety starts at home. As you approach this market, remember that safety in the bathroom is not just for the aging population. Manufacturer partners have the tools that you need to fulfill both the functional and aesthetic needs, and the tools required to evaluate and install these products are readily available and easy to use.

An Overview of Home Modification

The HME market is currently filled with buzz words such as “aging in place,” “baby boomer” and “home accessibility,” but these terms are surrounded by much ambiguity on their specific relevance to the DME provider. HomeCare-Mag-January
In recent discussions with DME dealers, I found that many of them have knowledge of various needs and some provide a few products to assist with those needs, but they deal with those needs only based on the products they currently offer, rather than helping each customer develop a complete accessibility solution.
Costs associated that are being tossed around the industry creating the market size are varied, but they all tell the same story. Records show 76 million births between 1946 and 1964, with approximately 4 million of those having died. This would net about 72 million baby boomers; however Census 2000 counted 79.6 million people in that category. Regardless of which population size is considered the most credible, both suggest that this market segment is among the largest that the HME industry has ever seen.
Continued focus on this group of people aging at home shows that this segment of the population will need a multitude of devices and equipment, ranging from access to the home to how they eat and bathe. Unfortunately, many of the current approaches to this market need are reactive rather than proactive.
Needs are identified after an event has happened instead of being defined before
an event—such as a fall in the bathroom— has occurred. Recent numbers indicate that the average hospital stay after that type of incident exceeds $15,000.
The landscape of the health care market has changed dramatically during the past 10 years and is destined for more change with the newly legislated health insurance initiative and competitive bidding. As the market has evolved, it has become more evident that the home is a large part of health care consideration. Failure to consider and invest in the home as part of health care will often result in institutional care because a person is unable to take care of himself or herself—can’t bathe or get in and out of bed safely or is simply unable to use kitchen utensils well enough to cook.
Define Your Market Segment
The needs in the market are as varied and diverse as the individuals who make up the millions of the baby boomer population. Manufacturers in the marketplace continue to come up with creative and innovative solutions to the needs that are present and often have resourceful options to help you merchandize those needs within the DME storefront.
The disconnect often takes place during the implementation of those products needed to help maintain an active, vibrant lifestyle. For those unfamiliar with medical equipment—partially because they have never had a need for it—the act of simply acquiring the equipment can be a challenge after a fall has occurred or a progressive disease has made the equipment necessary. In addition, basic human pride prevents many from admitting that they could benefit from various forms of accessibility devices prior to a catastrophic or life-changing event. In many cases, those who would benefit from many of the accessibility products that you carry in your showroom simply do not know that the products exist or how they might improve their current lifestyle.
When the need arises, because of the general unfamiliarity of the medical equipment market, many customers default to a handyman or contractor who may not have all of the knowledge necessary to provide the most efficient and accurate solution. This solution must not only address today’s needs, but also be sustainable and buildable for future needs.
Additionally, they may not have access to the most up-to-date equipment and solutions available. Jerry Keiderling, president of Accessible Home Improvement of America (AHIA) says, “Those qualified as remodelers may have little or no idea how an individual’s diagnosis, prognosis or plan of care will affect the outcome of a successful remodel, or what additional accessibility equipment might be suitable.” This situation can often result in unnecessary expense as the changes made today may have to be changed again in the near future and completely remodeled.
Situations such as this prove the need to have complete, synergistic solutions that are big-picture and long-term oriented rather than simply addressing the issue at hand. This does not mean that the homeowner must institute the entire accessibility goal in one project, but the goal should be in place with the plan for incremental changes as the needs progress and develop. Executing the project in steps allows for gradual changes that can be built upon over time without having to rebuild previous alterations. It is also not necessary to take care of each aspect of the solution in-house, if certain functions of the plan—such as complex product installations or structural modifications to a home—are outside your field of expertise.
Key partnerships with other professionals, businesses and contractors may be the best solution for you in your market segment to attain the highest level of competency resolving the needs of the end user.
Develop a strategy
Many businesses paint themselves into a niche because they fail to see who, outside of their normal customers, their market could or should include. If your goal is to excel in this market, then it is important to develop a strategy that addresses your approach to the end user, the equipment that you will offer and the steps that you will take to solve their needs—current and future. DIY has become a common term as there are many attempts to do
it yourself in a variety of situations. The successful DME strategy for reaching the accessibility goal should provide the expertise to remove the DIY desire and provide the tools and resources to assist in achieving that goal.
Having an accessibility checklist is often a good tool to help assess a home or set of needs; however, do not let that list detract from the purpose of accessibility, which is maintaining and improving the lifestyle of an individual. The home care professional may go into the home with the desire of helping a client get out of the house, to get to the doctor or prevent falls, which are very important. However, the client may have other goals that they would like to be able to achieve, such as go to church, read a book or cook a special meal when family visits—all of which can be achieved with the right accessibility devices. These same needs may often be overlooked if a consultative approach is not used.
“Many individuals may leave a hospital after a hip replacement or similar surgery with a comprehensive list of medical equipment that is needed. These lists are often inclusive of any type of device that needs,” says Lisa Johnson of Jackson Medical Equipment in St. Paul, Minn. “I spend time talking to them about their specific needs to keep them from wasting money on items that they do not need, as well as to make sure that they get the items they do need. There is a solution available for almost any need and many health care professionals may not be aware of all of the products offered.”
Determine Your Position
Becoming the expert is the key factor in providing the best solution. There are several organizations and training sessions that can help educate your staff to become experts in this market. One global course is the Certified Environmental Access Consultant (CEAC) course offered by AHIA that includes course study, a final exam and requires a passing grade. Individual manufacturers such as EZ-ACCESS and Best Bath Systems have respective manufacturer training and/or certification programs that are specific to the products that they offer. Education and consultation provide excellent opportunities to communicate with the end users, as well as the caregivers or family members, about the need for an accessibility goal, and to demonstrate that you have solutions that will help them develop the plan to attain that goal.
This market is not a future event—it is developing today and will continue to evolve. The HME providers who will be successful in the area of aging in place are the ones who will intentionally determine the strategy and approach they will take toward development, and the mode and means it require to become the expert and resource in their marketplace.

Homecare News Updates from Home Modification Industry Experts

Home modification experts Dave Henderson of EZ-ACCESS and Jerry Keiderling of Accessible Home Improvement of America (AHIA) have teamed up to provide homecare news updates for professional publications in the home medical equipment industry.  With a combined total of over 50 years in the HME industry, Dave and Jerry have both dedicated their lives to improving home living conditions for individuals with limited mobility, and now offer their recommendations and latest home accessibility trends to readers on a monthly basis.
Dave Henderson is the Senior Sales Analyst and Program Manager for EZ-ACCESS, a division of Homecare Products, Inc.  Since 1994, Dave has been working in product development for home accessibility, and has been instrumental in the production of many of the most popular mobility ramps sold today.  At EZ-ACCESS, Dave and the rest of the EZ-ACCESS team provide the most safe and durable accessibility products on the market including the Passport™ Vertical Platform Lift, the Pathway® Modular Ramp System and the Titan Commercial Modular Access Ramp System.
Jerry Keiderling is president of Accessible Home Improvement of America (AHIA), a division of the VGM Group.  AHIA is a network of home modification providers serving individuals who wish to age in place or need additional accessibility in the home due to a disability.  All providers in AHIA are trained through the Certified Environmental ACCESS Consultant (CEAC) certification and offer the total package of accessible service for individuals seeking independent living.