Volunteers of the Week: Philip Stephenson and Nick Amendola, CHORE Handymen Who Complete Household Repairs for Elderly and People with Disabilities

CHORE volunteers Philip Stephenson and Nick Amendola provide free minor household repairs and home improvements for the elderly and people with disabilities that make living at home safe, regardless of income status.

BY BARRY WARNER

Aging can be a difficult time for many people, as they rely on the help of family and friends as they get older. Without this option, they need the help of people who volunteer their time to help them with basic tasks, such as replacing light bulbs, installing grab bars and repairing handrails.

CHORE is a resource to people living in Rockland County who are 60 or older, or a person living with a disability, regardless of age or income status. CHORE helps people to maintain the independence of living at home by providing free minor household repairs and home improvements that make living at home safe. Repairs are generally completed within two weeks from the request. CHORE prioritizes minor home repairs that are related to safety concerns. Any minor home repair that will help prevent falls or keep people safe in their home will be scheduled as soon as possible.

“A quick fix, like changing a light bulb really can improve the quality of someone’s life,” says CHORE coordinator Tom Ternquist. “CHORE volunteers helped brighten the kitchen of a woman who had been without a light for three months. Volunteers Philip and Nick may not be building pros, but they’re handy people who are comfortable with tools and work well together. Because we send out crews during the week, most of our volunteers are retired and have the time to help out.

“Home repairs can be challenging to low-income residents and people with disabilities, but neglecting such repairs can make it hazardous for them to remain in their homes,” Ternquist says. That said, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people between the age of 75 and 85 are twice as likely as the average person to fall and suffer a fatal injury in the bathroom. For those over the age of 85, the risk of injury goes up to more than four times that of the average person. A CDC study found that older adults had the highest fracture rates and were hospitalized most often. Thus, preventing falls and other injuries in this older population is critical.

“There are a lot of things that can be done, but one simple, inexpensive and effective solution is adding grab bars in the bathroom areas. Towel bars and other objects that are commonly used for balance and support aren’t designed to hold human weight and if they break while being used, a bad fall can result,” Philip Stephenson and Nick Amendola together told the Rockland County Times. “When it comes to installing bathroom grab bars onto the walls of a shower, we always recommend permanent installation as opposed to the suction grab bars. We install about 200 grab bars a year. A polished or chrome finish grab bar is attractive and hard-wearing, but can be slippery to hold, especially when the hands are wet. A slip resistant, knurled or ribbed finish is a textured surface that provides extra grip, even when wet. The grab bars and brackets must be supplied by the resident, but the installation is free.”

‘Clamp-on bathtub grab bars’ are used by individuals with difficulties getting up and out of the tub safely. These grab bars are non-permanent safety rails that securely attach to the tub wall using a tightening clamp and gripping pads. With age, mobility lessens and these grab bars allow the elderly to enter and exit the tub safely and independently.

A slip or trip can occur anywhere, but stairs are especially high on the list of potential fall locations. It often helps to identify the end of each stair by using luminescent tape, which glows slightly in the dark. Loose-fitting carpet on the stairs can bunch up and cause a stumble. Wooden stairs may be slippery, therefore seniors should use non-skid footwear when walking down. The handrails on each side of the stairway need to be securely nailed or bolted in place, because a loose handrail can cause an accident.

Additionaly, the FDNY has indicated that older adults age 65 and older, pass away in home fires more often than the rest of the population. It’s vital that seniors have working smoke alarms to provide early warning of a fire. The CHORE smoke/CO detector battery replacement program is aimed at frail people over 65 years, people with disabilities and those who already receive community assistance services. The service is free, but residents must supply the batteries and/or the smoke alarms themselves.

“I retired from the police force and have been volunteering for about 10 years. I wanted to keep busy and my wife found an article in the paper about the CHORE program. The people we help are very appreciative and I enjoy improving their quality of life,” Stephenson said.

“I like to keep busy and I have been volunteering for 5 years. The old people can’t do anything and when I put in a light bulb, it’s really a big thing to them! I enjoy doing things to help the elderly and disabled people,” Amendola said.

CHORE, a program of Bridges, is supported through a combination of volunteers, a grant from the Rockland County Office for the Aging and the generosity of local businesses and residents. Contact Bridges for more information about the CHORE program by phone at 845-215-1010 or visit bridgesrc.org.