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Medicare won’t pay for home safety

DEAR MR. MYERS: My mother is elderly and growing more frail by the week. Would her Medicare plan pay for the cost of making her home more accessible, especially for the cost of installing grab bars around the house? It’s an expensive proposition!

ANSWER: Sorry, but no. Medicare will not pay for most changes to make it easier for seniors to move about their own home, including the installation of grab bars or even handrails for stairs.

Refusing reimbursement for such fall-prevention items is ironic, if not downright moronic. That’s because Medicare spends billions of dollars each year to treat injuries caused by falls, often for surgery or lengthy physical therapy. Many of those tumbles could be avoided if more seniors could afford to outfit their homes with grab bars and the like.

More details can be found in the federal government’s free booklet Medicare and You 2016. Get your copy by calling the agency at 1-800-633-4227 or by downloading it from its internet site, Medicare.gov.

REAL ESTATE TRIVIA: About 56 million Americans, most of them homeowners, depend on Medicare to pay for their medical expenses.

DEAR MR. MYERS: You recently wrote that bedroom mattresses would go on sale in May, but we haven’t seen any big discounts yet. What’s up?

ANSWER: Be patient. Keep your cash in your wallet or purse for a few more days, until big retailers start their annual “Memorial Day” sales — the three-day weekend that starts May 28 and marks the “unofficial” start of summer.

Last year, 27 percent of all Memorial Day Weekend sales were focused on home-related items, from furniture to appliances and kitchen supplies, according to bargain-hunting website DealNews.com.

“If you want to prepare your home or yard for summer, Lowe’s and Home Depot likely will have discounts of up to 50 percent and 34 percent off, respectively,” says DealNews editor Benjamin Glaser. Williams-Sonoma and Chef’s Catalog will be cutting prices by 60 percent and 70 percent, respectively.

“Also look for big sales from Sears, J.C. Penney and Cymax,” Glaser adds.

You can get mattresses at a 50 percent discount or more at this time of year, as long as you’re not too picky, in part because retailers know that many homeowners want to spruce up their spare bedroom for visitors who will be coming to stay for a few nights during summer vacation. Many stores are also offering big discounts on refrigerators, because newer models were released earlier this month.

And, since I’m part Irish, I can give you one final money-saving tip without (I hope) offending anyone: Expect discounts this month of 30 percent or better for that happy Irishman who’s there for every outdoor gathering, Patty O’Furniture.

DEAR MR. MYERS: I grew up on a dead-end street, where there was only one way in and the same way out. Now I see all these ads for homes on a cul de sac, which seems to me like a fancier term for the same type of street. Is there a difference?

ANSWER: Yes, sort of.

A dead-end street makes you go back and forth in your car to get out of a driveway. A cul de sac is closed at one end but has a curve at the end of the street so you can drive up, turn your car’s steering wheel, and then head toward your destination.

DEAR MR. MYERS: We are buying a home, and we followed your advice to hire a professional inspector to look at the place. Her report says that the house is in good shape, but that we should also hire a special “pest inspector” to look for termites and other pests. Shouldn’t this be included in her fee?

ANSWER: No. Most general home inspectors today don’t look for termites or other wood-eating varmints, unless the damage is clearly visible. They instead leave the work to a pest specialist.

Damage caused by termites and other vermin can be hard to detect and very expensive to repair. Many lenders won’t approve a new loan until a licensed pest inspector has examined the property and reported that it’s OK.

Ordering a separate pest-inspection report will probably cost you between $100 and $250, but that’s a small price to pay if it helps you avoid purchasing a home that has serious problems.

David W. Myers’ column is distributed by Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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