Obesity rates are climbing. Over 41% of US adults are considered obese, and that rate is predicted to be over 50% by 2030. That’s a mere seven years from now. And claims costs for bariatric workers are three times higher than those for healthy weight injured workers with comparable injuries according to NCCI.
What does this mean for us?
We need to equip more bariatric injured workers for independence and prepare payers for higher claims costs.
In this WorkCompWire article, Melissa Smith, OTR/L, ECHM, CAPS, CHAMP, our Clinical Specialist for Adaptive Housing Solutions, discusses the specialized home modification requirements for this population. Some changes seem second nature – widening doors, for example. But a myriad less obvious considerations, like the larger turning radius of a bariatric power chair, affect the home’s modifications.
Because medical costs for these cases are already high, providing the most appropriate equipment and adaptive housing program the first time is vital. You don’t want to have to switch out equipment or repair a failed ceiling after the lift is installed.
Our adaptive housing team collaborates with our medical equipment and mobility specialists to select the most effective and cost-effective equipment and modifications. It’s ATF Medical’s holistic, highly collaborative approach that sets us apart.
Although she oversees all our rehabilitation services, our Executive Director of Rehab Technology Erin Zablocki has a special love for adaptive housing solutions for injured workers. So it comes as no surprise that she recently became licensed as a Minnesota Certified Accessibility Specialist.
Erin took a day-long class on the scoping and technical criteria of the Minnesota Accessibility Code and commercial building plan review and then sat for the exam. She has added AS to the long list of initials after her name. Erin was already a Certified Environmental Access Consultant (C.E.A.C.) and was one of the first five people in the country to earn the Master C.E.A.C. certification. Since she also holds the Executive Certificate in Home Modification (ECHM) and Certified DME Specialist (CDME) certifications, you can address her as Erin Zablocki, CDME, Master C.E.A.C., ECHM, AS.
ATF Medical strongly supports the professional development of our team members. Making the effort to earn certifications and licenses shows dedication to grow in their fields, and expand their expertise. And staying on top of the new products, technologies, and techniques empowers our specialists to provide the most appropriate mobility, accessibility, and rehab solutions to workers’ comp patients.
Give Erin a shout-out! Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ATF Medical is genuinely excited about our new occupational therapist, Melissa M. Smith, OTR/L, ECHM, CHAMP, CAPS.
Melissa has dedicated her OT career to helping injured people obtain home environments that are safe, and accessible, and facilitate mobility. We sat down with her to learn why she became an OT and what led her into an adaptive housing practice.
What can you tell us about occupational therapy?
Occupational therapy takes a unique, holistic approach to working with people. We look at the health conditions—whether they come from an injury or progressive condition—and how their conditions impact them, how it affects their daily lives–what they like to do and what they need to do to take care of themselves. Then we address the deficits they’re experiencing because of the condition. In the case of a back injury, for example, we might modify a job task, so the employee doesn’t repeatedly pick up heavy objects, teach good body mechanics, or recommend a long-handled sponge so the injured worker doesn’t have to bend over to reach their feet. We take a broad view of how the injury affects them.
You seem to have a strong interest in construction, did you ever work in the construction field?
No! Well, I was always been interested in design and function and how it affects a person’s happiness and independence. I thought about being an interior designer, but my interest in occupational therapy was stronger. Keeping people in their home is very important to me because “home” is so much more than a house.
Where did you go to college?
My occupational therapy degree is from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. I also have a bachelor’s in psychology from the University of Iowa. Later I took courses to learn more about building in construction, architecture, and interior design at Portland Community College.
Tell us about your early career.
I worked in acute care hospitals in Denver and Portland for several years. I was also a Traveling OT. Like traveling nurses, we work in one location for three months, then move to another. I worked in nine locations, including two stints in Portland. I worked in inpatient rehab, home health, and nursing facilities. I also worked two summers at a camp in Newport, Rhode Island called Shake-A-Leg. We provided occupational therapy for one group of young campers with developmental disabilities and another group of adults who have spinal cord injuries. In addition to general rehab, we adapted different sports, sailing, swimming, tennis…all kinds of sports and that was a lot of fun.
You traveled so much and saw so many cities; why did you decide to settle in Portland?
My cousin and aunt live here and when I was a Traveling OT, I lived in Portland for two, separate three-month stints and just fell in love with the city and area. There are so many cute neighborhoods, with beautiful landscaping and old homes. It’s just a lush, green and very cozy city and the people are very friendly. Plus, it’s ideally situated, just 1.5 hour’s drive to ski resorts in one direction and 1.5 hours to the ocean on the other side. It’s an unbeatable area.
How did you transition from traditional OT to being a clinical specialist on the home environment side?
I read an article in OT Practice Magazine about OTs working in home modifications and thought, “This is perfect for me!” Being a home mod OT merges my medical and interior design interests. Home Mod OTs help people who have experienced disability function better in their own space by making a personalized fit for them.
To learn more about it, I took some certification programs–ECHM, CAPS, CHAMP—and some architecture, interior design, and construction at Portland Community College. I even got my residential contractor license from the Oregon Construction Contractors Board. And I did a lot of independent reading.
And you started working for Kaiser Permanente Home Care Services in 2012?
Yes, I conducted evaluation and treatment sessions, and generated goals and plans of care. I got into the assessment of home environments and recommended medical equipment to promote independence and better accessibility of the home.
By then, you knew you had found your passion?
I did and I started a company, LiveAble LLC, that assessed and modified homes and recommended medical, rehab and mobility equipment. We consulted on remodeling projects to make sure the accessibility and safety goals were achieved. Our patients ranged from young children to adults who wanted to age in place, and we served quite a few injured workers. LiveAble had a contract with the State of Oregon to provide environmental modification consulting services for Department of Human Services clients, including aging adults and people with developmental disabilities.
You’ve worked with so many different types of payer groups. What do you like about workers’ compensation?
Workers’ comp is generally willing to provide people the things they need—rehab technology, remodels, medical equipment—compared to Medicare which doesn’t usually provide home modifications or complex equipment. Because my recommendations are accepted and the changes get implemented, I can see how they improve workers’ lives. I feel I can make a real difference.
I know you haven’t been here long, but what are your first impressions about ATF Medical?
I got such a warm welcome from everyone – this seems like a company that people end up staying in because the culture is welcoming warm and positive. People celebrate others’ wins. It’s very collaborative – and organized!
Is there anything you’d like to share about your personal life?
I’ve lived in Portland for 15 years and have been married for 10. We like to travel, ski, and cook together. My husband teaches technology to middle school students, and we have a dog, Harriett, who is our baby.
I love to design and decorate. My first project was designing a closet through Ikea in a 483-square-foot studio. It took a lot of thinking and planning. In a home that small the closet needs to be very functional!
But my biggest hobby is tennis and I’m on several Portland teams. I’m very competitive in sports and tennis is great exercise and a lot of fun.
Help us welcome Melissa welcome! Email her at email@example.com.
OTs are frequently associated with helping individuals redevelop and maintain the ability to perform activities of daily living, such as dressing, eating, and grooming. They do that … and much more.
You’ll find OTs practicing in nearly every realm of medicine, including mental health and sleep assessment. Their overarching role is to help people regain strength and functionality after an illness or injury. One thing that makes OTs unique is their ability to look at a situation holistically – which helps deliver the best outcomes.
In workers’ compensation, these highly skilled and highly educated clinicians are valuable members of an injured worker’s care team. Within workers’ compensation, OTs have several different areas of practice, including adaptive housing/home modifications.
A home modification OT’s goal is to maximize a worker’s independence and safety in their home. An assessment of the person and environment is conducted with a focus on what activities the IW is having difficulty performing in the home and what physical barriers the home presents. Then the OT will then develop a plan for a better “person-environment fit.”
This plan may include a scope of work, floorplan drawings, recommendations for structural modifications, medical equipment, complex rehab technology, and/or assistive technologies. Common projects include planning for home entrances, emergency egresses, along with bathroom and kitchen accessibility.
OTs that specialize in work rehabilitation concentrate on the worker in their vocational role. This OT conducts Functional Capacity Evaluations (FCEs) that determine an employee’s work capacity and barriers to performance and writes a customized rehab plan to foster recovery. This may include work conditioning, strengthening, worksite ergonomics, worksite modifications, or task modifications – all with the goal of facilitating the worker’s return to work.
April is the month to recognize the value OTs bring, so thank the OT on your claim for their expertise and service. Tagging them on social media is one way to show appreciation.
CAPS is a credential sometimes found after the names of construction professionals and other specialists involved in home modifications. It stands for Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist.
Aging in place (AIP) is a concept driven by the large numbers of baby boomers who want to stay in their homes rather than move to senior communities or assistive living facilities if they become impaired.
Developed by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in cooperation with the AARP, the CAPS program teaches the business, technical and customer service skills needed to modify homes for AIP. NAHB administers the CAPS certification, which requires candidates to pass three day-long courses, typically held at building supply stores, builders’ association offices, or conference centers.
CAPS-certified contractors can be good partners in adaptive housing projects for injured workers. They’re accustomed to projects that accommodate mobility, balance and accessibility issues.
However, adaptive housing solutions for injured workers need to take more things into consideration, including their changing clinical needs and the weight and size of sophisticated rehab equipment. For example, a front-wheel drive powerchair has a large turning radius, requiring a wider door than the manual chairs typically used by older people. Power chairs, Hoyer lifts and other rehab equipment used in workers’ comp take up more room and can be much heavier than Medicare-covered equipment.
Additionally, the worker’s recovery outlook needs to be considered for cost-effective solutions. For example, a temporary ramp (pictured above) can be used when the injured worker is expected to be able to use stairs down the road.
It’s best to pair a CAPS-certified contractor with an Occupational Therapist (OT) or Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) who has a lot of experience in workers’ compensation. OTs and ATPs are better able to interpret medical records and progress notes from the rehab center and create precise specifications. They’re also more aware of rehab equipment and how to combine it with home modifications. In short, CAPS is a valuable certification for contractors and remodelers working on workers’ comp projects when they are integrated into teams with clinical specialists, which is ATF Medical’s approach.
We deliver a fully integrated mobility and accessibility solution–ALL the equipment, rehab technology, mobility products, vehicle mods, and adaptive housing projects that a complex workers’ comp case needs.
If you’d like to know more about our comprehensive solutions, please contact Rick Wyche at firstname.lastname@example.org or Erin Zablocki at email@example.com.
As you probably know, the ADA is the acronym for the Americans with Disabilities Act. Among many other things, the ADA provides design standards to ensure accessibility to publicentities.
The operative word is public: office buildings, libraries, courthouses and other government buildings, restaurants, and shopping centers. ADA standards help create spaces designed to be used by the largest portion of the disabled population, regardless of the disability. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach. Hence buildings have ramps, wide halls, wheelchair-accessible restrooms, and features for the visually and hearing impaired.
Similarly, universal design is the “design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.” Again, universal design is for facilities, workplaces, and other public spaces.
Neither standard applies to residences. If they did, halls would be freakishly wide and lined with handrails and every bathroom would be wheelchair accessible.
It’s fine to use contractors with these certifications, but it’s not mandatory. These understand how to build and renovate to accommodate disabilities. But they are not necessarily used to adapting a single home for a single worker with specific functional limitations.
Each worker is different. Each condition is different, and each adaptive housing solution is different.
Our Executive Director/Rehab Technology Erin Zablocki, CDME, Master C.E.A.C., ECHM is an expert in adaptive housing solutions and would be happy to answer your questions about the ADA or clinically driven home modifications. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
You may notice the initials CHAMP after the names of some rehab or construction professionals. It’s an acronym for Certified Home Assessment and Modification Professional. It’s also short for champion, of course, and professionals who improve the lives of seriously injured people are certainly champions.
Created just for workers’ compensation, CHAMP is a contractor and accessibility specialist home modification certification program. It was originally initially designed for contractors, but over time the content expanded to include case managers and claims representatives who want to better understand adaptive housing projects.
The first step to certification involves intense onsite training. The three-day course explains the workers’ compensation market and terms like medical necessity and disability and about common injuries and medical and functional status. Attendees also learn how to complete assessments and develop a scope of work along with accepted practices for estimating and timelines. The course also discusses products and services, e.g., lifts and medical equipment.
There is also a CHAMPConnect conference that brings claims representatives together with contractors to focus on housing issues and home modifications for injured workers.
ATF Medical promotes professional development among our staff. We are proud to have certified ATPs, CHAMPS, ECHMs, CEACs, CAPS and more on our roster. Our new Manager of Rehab Technology Dave Bedard holds the CHAMP credential as well as the Assistive Technology Professional (ATP).
If you’re interested learning more about our adaptive housing solutions, please contact Erin Zablocki, our Executive Director of Rehab Technology at ezoblocki@ATFMedical.com.
Contact us today!
Our expert staff is ready to oversee the selection, fit, client education and user satisfaction. We take the long view - responding to inquiries promptly and staying in touch, one-on-one - for the duration of the injured workers’ recovery.
4046 Sharpsburg McCollum Rd. Ste. 208B Newnan, GA 30265
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