Meet the Experts

Meet Catia Garell!

Catia Garell

Meet our very own Catia Garell, MA, OTR, SCEM, ECHM! Catia is a home modification expert and Instructor for “Course 2: Home Modification: How to Get it Done,” of USC’s Executive Certificate in Home Modification Program…

Tell us about your history in the field of home accessibility.

I graduated from the University of Southern California’s Chan School of Occupational Therapy with my Bachelor of Science in 2001 and my Masters in 2002. After a decade working in clinical settings, I recognized the disconnect between patients discharged with home modification recommendations, and the construction industry. I co-founded Thrive for Life, LLC and have worked on hundreds of home modification projects from simple grab bars and ramps to lift systems, full room remodels, and accessibility equipment that eliminates the need for costly home modifications. I have enjoyed every step of the process, from learning how to read drawings, to talking to building inspectors, contractors and case managers; each case is a rewarding experience. I’m honored to work as an instructor in USC’s Executive Certificate in Home Modification Program as I enjoy providing guidance and support for those taking the critical step of educating themselves as they enter the home modifications field.

What are your special interests in this field?

My focus in home modification is not only on my client, but also the caregivers and family members in the home setting. I am interested in using pre- and post-modification data to reflect the significant impact home modifications have on caregivers and family members, improving quality-of-life outcomes and reducing burden. I love demonstrating how home modifications not only improve the quality of life of my clients, but also the quality of life of their caregivers.

What do you wish people knew about home modifications?

For the well-elderly population, or people looking to “age in place” who are functioning at a near-independent level, please consider basic fall prevention strategies such as: removal of throw rugs, installation of grab bars, increased lighting, and medication and vision checks. I wish for a greater recognition of the value of rehabilitation teams when working with clients who are recovering from a catastrophic injury or disease process that has significantly reduced their independence and functional abilities. The clinical skills of a health care professional (like an occupational therapist) are invaluable for home modification projects.

What is an accomplishment of which you are most proud?

Most recently, in 2019, I obtained the Specialty Certificate in Environmental Modifications (SCEM) from the American Occupational Therapy Association. This designation took over 4 years to complete through a rigorous peer-reviewed process. It is accomplished by less than 1% of all occupational therapists nationally. The SCEM designation reflects my commitment to the field of environmental modifications through professional development. I’m fortunate to be able to contribute to, and benefit from, this important field as it grows.