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Modifying Your Home

You may wish to make modifications to your home to improve your loved one's safety, comfort, and independence. Many of these are easy adjustments that can make a big difference.

Depending on your loved one's mobility and autonomy, there will be different things to consider. At first, you'll want to focus on the following main areas to create a safe environment.

Creating a Safe Environment
Home Entrance
  • Will you need a ramp for wheelchair access? Consider which door is widest and which entrance has the fewest steps. Make sure the slope or pitch to the ramp is not too steep to be used safely.
  • Make sure the sidewalk and/or driveway is smooth.
  • Place railings near steps or make sure existing ones are sturdy.
  • Remember to check out different kinds of wheelchairs, they come in various sizes which may better accommodate both your loved one and your home.
  • To insure wheelchair access, check the width of doors in rooms you need to use, like bedrooms and bathrooms.
  • Sometimes just removing the door from its hinges will give you the added width you need to accommodate a wheelchair. Then you can easily put up a curtain for privacy
  • Make sure there are sturdy handrails. If possible, install them on both sides to accommodate a person's dominant hand or stronger side.
  • Install non-slip material on wooden or linoleum stairs. If eyesight is a problem, paint the edge of each step with a bright color (or use reflective or colored tape)
  • Make sure the stairway is well lit
  • Are all the appliances safe?
  • Make sure faucets easy to turn on and off.
  • Install grab bars near the toilet and in the bathtub.
  • Put down non-slip mats in bathtub and shower.
  • Consider purchasing a raised toilet seat; it will be much easier to raise and lower someone.

Any room can become "the bedroom." We moved my father's hospital bed into my parents' bedroom and that worked well. He was in familiar surroundings, and we had just enough room to move around. Consider the following, if you have these options:

  • Choosing the room
    • Try to use a room that's bright, cheerful, and free of clutter, preferably with a window. Make sure you have curtains or shades to block the light for daytime naps.
    • Make sure you can hear them call you from their room.
    • Consider a room which is an easy walk from the bathroom and/or kitchen so you will be comfortable walking back and forth (a spacious room located up or down a flight of stairs may ultimately be too much work).
  • Arranging the room
    • It's helpful to have access to the bed from both sides so that someone can help you from the other side; you may want to rearrange the room to accommodate this.
    • Place a light and a phone within reach of the bed.
    • Consider installing an emergency alert device.
    • Install nightlights so you can navigate in the dark and keep a flashlight by the bed in case the power goes out.
    • Place a calendar and clock near the bedside; it can be easy for someone who's bedridden to lose track of time and dates
    • Bring in flowers and plants to liven up the room.
    • Keep a pitcher of water and a glass near the bedside.
General Tips for Around the House
  • Arrange furniture around the house to allow for mobility from room to room.
  • Consider placing a favorite chair or sofa on a raised platform so it's easier for someone to stand up or sit down.
  • Make sure all area and throw rugs are firmly attached (secured with double sided tape) to the floor to avoid falls. Or remove them altogether.
  • Check to see if you can navigate safely over existing carpet with a wheel chair. You might want to check that the type of wheels on the wheelchair you buy or rent are best suited to the type of carpet you have.
  • Secure all electrical cords to prevent tripping.
  • Get rid of unnecessary clutter. You want to be able to lay your hands on the important things quickly and easily.
Choosing a Medical Supply Company

It's important to take the time to get the best and most efficient equipment so that you only have to buy it once.

When talking to medical supply companies, determine if the people you're dealing with sound like they know what they're talking about and are helpful in explaining clearly the pros and cons of different options. Make sure they offer a good variety of products. You might want to call a few others or check on the web so see what kinds of products are out there; it could make a big difference in comfort or efficiency of effort.

Be sure to ask about repair policies and find out if you will get a loaner while your product is being fixed. Also, ask if you can return a product if you don't need it or the person doesn't like it, and find out what insurance plans they work with.

Wheelchairs are a common need. Be aware that they come in many sizes and models. Some have removable or swing away footrests. Some are narrower than others. Types of wheels can vary and make a difference depending on the kind of floor surface you have. Make sure you check out what's out there before you bring one into the home.

Assisted Living Devices

There are many devices on the market that may make life easier for your loved one at home. Among these are phones with large numbers and voice dial features, large format clocks, emergency response systems, trapeze bars to help people raise themselves in bed, toilet assist rails, bathtub seats, shower adaptors, etc.

Two places to look for assisted living devices on line are:


For additional information on home modification, check out the following web sites:

Here is a list of books and other publications on various aspects of home modification and barrier-free design:

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