Confidence Builders New Mexico owner Karl Thomas with his wife Angie and their son Cody. 8. Courtesy photo
After 21 years in the construction industry, Karl Thomas felt a calling to focus his efforts and experience toward helping people continue living at home despite physical or mental challenges.
He specializes in home modifications that allow people to remain in their homes as they age, termed “Aging in Place”.
“Statistics show 80-90 percent of people don’t want to move to a nursing home or in with their kids,” Thomas said. “It really means a lot to me to help people stay in their homes … to live independently and safely as they age,” Thomas said.
Thomas and his wife Angie moved to Los Alamos from Albuquerque in 2000 when she went to work as a project manager at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Their son Cody, 8, was born in Los Alamos. Thomas started a construction company before taking a job in 2009 as a construction estimating manager at the Lab. Last year he returned to private construction and directed his focus on helping people age in place.
Karl Thomas constructed this bathroom update creating a barrier free wet room. The flooring is one level making it easily accessible from the bedroom, which has no door to the bathroom. A variety of grab bars and a shower bench make toilet and shower transfers safer and easier. Slip resistant tile flooring that slopes to the drain makes slipping less likely. The dual shower heads on a diverter can accommodate anyone and the whole thing is large enough to turn a wheel chair around in. Courtesy photo
“I was inspired to learn more about Aging in Place after my wife and I began talking with our parents about their own experiences with aging,” he said. “I realized that we are all impacted – or will be – by the challenges associated with aging and set out to find a way to apply my skills and experience to help others meet those challenges head on.”
Thomas explained that the goal at Confidence Builders is to do more than just make physical modifications to a person’s home – it’s to give people the ability to age in place with confidence.
In addition to remodeling areas of homes such as bathrooms and entryways to make them adaptable to the needs of older people, Confidence Builders provides residents with a comprehensive home maintenance program that can be customized to fit individual needs.
He takes care of typical items found on “honey do lists” and seasonal checklists involving cleaning out gutters and winterizing swamp coolers.
Confidence Builders trailer parked outside a jobsite Saturday in White Rock. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Many people have the ability to begin planning for future needs, he said, but for others, the reality is that they need more immediate help.
Regardless of where a person finds themselves on the journey – safe and successful aging in place requires carefully matching home adaptations to one’s specific needs.
Confidence Builders owner Karl Thomas at the NAHB Certified Aging in Place course, simulating the effects of aging to gain an understanding of what clients are facing. He is wearing dark glasses smeared with Vaseline to mimic a loss of vision, ear plugs to simulate a loss of hearing, and holding a tennis ball inside of a sock to simulate the loss of strength and function someone with arthritis may be experiencing. Courtesy photo
With aging, people may experience:
- Reduction in mobility and endurance, loss of muscle mass and/or reduction in bone density, and a loss of balance leading to trips or falls;
- Reduced vision;
- Declining cognitive ability; and/or
- Hearing loss.
With the onset of age, people may not be able to:
- Get around within their home like they used to;
- Maintain their home like they used to; and/or
- Socialize with friends like they used to because of access or visibility issues.
“People may think that Aging in Place modifications are just for older people, particularly people who are already experiencing the need for modifications,” Thomas said. “But the truth is that anyone of us can benefit from a little thought and planning.”
He explained that the NAHB and AARP define three categories of people who can benefit from Aging in Place modifications:
- People Without Urgent Needs (the largest segment);
- Planners – Those who are willing to do something now, before they actually need it to enhance their quality of life in later years;
- Procrastinators – Those who are unknowingly, unintentionally waiting for something to happen;
- People With a Progressive Condition such as MS, Diabetes, ALS, or any other condition that will deteriorate their health, requiring upgrades in order to remain at home; and
- People Who Have Experienced a Traumatic Event, such as accident victims, wounded veterans, stroke patients, etc, who require immediate modifications in order to remain at home.
For information, call 505.470.1512 anytime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Tips for Aging in Place
- Falls are the #1 cause of accidental death in the over 65 population. Some ways to reduce the risk include keeping walkways clear of clutter, getting rid of throw rugs or mats as they present a major trip and slip hazard, avoiding uneven surfaces and making sure walking areas are well lit, especially at night and being careful with slick floors like marble and porcelain tile, especially in wet areas.
- Have a carbon monoxide and smoke detector in all sleeping areas and adjacent hallways, including at least one in other living areas on each level of the home. Check them often and replace batteries on a schedule.
- Have an emergency plan in case of evacuation, including a call list and prescription medication list.
- Have a well stocked first aid kit available, check it often and replace outdated items immediately.
- Have a fire extinguisher handy in higher risk areas such as the kitchen and garage.
- Communicate often with children, caregivers, doctors, neighbors and friends. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.