Most people prefer to “age in place” in their homes. Making a house safe and comfortable can allow an individual to remain living independently at home as their physical health changes. You may be able to make some simple modifications to someone’s home with relatively little cost or assistance. For larger modifications, such as widening doorways, lowering counters, remodeling hallways, and installing lifts or elevators, you may need to hire a licensed contractor.
Checklists, guides to finding professionals to make changes, and other tools help identify home modifications to make the house safer and more accessible for older adults as they age. Essential to identifying needs for a safer home is a thorough and objective evaluation. Refer to the checklists below.
- Check for Safety: A Home Fall Prevention Checklist for Older Adults
- Home Modifications
- Modifying Your Home for Healthy Aging
- Preventing Falls at Home
- Rebuilding Together
- Home Improvement Scams: Tools to Reduce Your Risk
Some modifications are both affordable and easy to install:
- Grab bars, bath seats, and transfer benches
- Bathmats and skid-resistant rugs
- Glow tape for hazardous furniture
- Attachable grips for turning doorknobs, lamp switches, and faucet handles
- Tape or markers for high contrast on stairs or in the bathroom
Other useful home modifications may require professionals and cost more:
- Lever door handles
- Handrails for stairways
- Wheelchair and threshold ramps, which come in a variety of pre-designed sizes with pre-drilled slots for easy installation. Lightweight portable wheelchair ramps can be folded or rolled up for easy transport and storage. Permanent ramps are more expensive due to custom fitting and grading and need to be installed by a contractor.
- Elevators and lifts, which need to be installed by a contractor to assure that installations meet code and safety standards. Lifts and elevators are available for most inclined or vertical surfaces, including porches, balconies, and curved or straight stairs.
Vehicle Modifications and Accessible Vans
Vehicle modifications can help your care recipient continue to drive or, more easily, be a passenger. Accessory items such as car door openers, handles to assist with transferring, tie-down systems for wheelchairs, and portable swivel seats require little or no vehicle modification.
Wheelchair lifts or automatic transfer seats can be installed in minivans, station wagons, and some cars.
Kneeler systems, which lower one corner of the vehicle for boarding, and driving controls, which mount all the vehicle’s control features onto the steering wheel are examples of more extensive vehicle modifications.
For information about adaptive equipment, accessible vehicle dealers, or funding and reimbursement programs, visit The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association website: https://nmeda.com/
Local hospitals and centers for independent living may also have information on how to get a driving evaluation completed by a driving rehab specialist.
- Family Caregiver Alliance in cooperation with California’s Caregiver Resource Centers and reviewed by Dory Sabata, OTD, OTR/L and Joan Augustyn, OTD, OTR/L.
- Texas Health and Human Services Durable Medical Equipment
- Seniorliving.org Durable Medical Equipment
- Medicare coverage durable medical equipment
- Christopher Reeve Foundation: https://www.christopherreeve.org/living-with-paralysis/home-travel/home-modification
We hope this information is helpful to you in the important work you do as a family caregiver.
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