I’ve gotten wrangled into doing a LOT of home evaluations here recently. On a home eval, myself and often times my OT partner will take a patient to their home to basically make a trial run through the home, trouble shoot any problem areas and make recommendations. Sometimes those recommendations are easy fixes– rearranging furniture– and sometimes they are more involved– home renovations!
I doubt very few people make decisions on their large ticket times like a home, car, furniture with future limited mobility in mind. Younger people it may not be so much a big deal for several years. It may limit the people that can visit their home, but it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But as we age, it becomes increasingly likely that we may be hit with a sudden illness or disability. Many of my patients are forced to move out of their homes, purchase new furniture, borrow someone’s car, etc. because theirs doesn’t work for people with limited mobility.
What I wanted to do here is describe the perfect environment for people with limited functional mobility. This will not be an extensive list of medical equipment, but what to look for in things that are more or less readily available already on the market if you know what to look for or how to do a simple change to existing items.
Let’s start with the home and furnishings.
Floors: Neat and tidy. No clutter on the floor as people can trip over the dirty (or clean!) laundry left on the floor, toys, etc. Remove all other tripping hazards, such as electric cords, throw rugs which are in walking paths. If there is a drop off with the same flooring on both levels, consider putting a piece of contrasting color tape on the higher edge to signify a change there.
Living Room: Have the individuals favorite chair/couch be comfortable and of generous size. It would be great if there were something they could get their feet up on too, either with a recliner or an ottoman. It should not be a low surface. If their knees are higher than their butt, it’s too low and will be hard to get out of. Having a warm blanket available to snuggle with is good too. Although I wouldn’t recommend an electric blanket, because those cords can trip them up when they go to get up.
Kitchen: Keep things they will be utilizing a lot at waist level. So maybe bring a place setting of plate, bowl, spoon, knife, fork, cup into a drawer instead of all over kitchen in overhead cabinets. Same thing in the fridge/freezer/pantry– keep anything they will be using frequently in the front as close to waist high as possible.
Bedroom: Same goes here for the bed height as for the seats above. Also, if the mattress is above the place where your butt cheeks meet your legs when you stand next to it, the bed is too high. Take off the bed raisers if you have those and store your stuff somewhere else. I find most of my patient’s bed are too high and there’s nothing to do about it except buy another bed, or buy a step stool. However, there are many people that doing a step stool just isn’t feasible. The individual should sleep on the side of the bed that is closest to the restroom. Consider putting some night lights with light sensors between the bed and bathroom.
Restroom: These are usually the most tricky. If possible, purchase an elevated toilet to begin with. Grab bars that are drilled in the walls near the toilet are also helpful. Also, a walk in shower without a step over is best. If it can be built on a slope so the water drains toward the back, that would be helpful so the step over isn’t necessary. A shower wand on the shower head is very helpful. Bath rugs also need to be removed. Stick on grippers on the bottom of the shower/bath are good too. If you’re concerned about the water getting on the floor, you can throw that dirty laundry on the floor after the fact and let it soak up the water before you take it to the laundry. Haha.
Hallways: You can use the night lights again here. I find hallways are terribly lighted. All hallways and doors should be 36″ wide to accommodate a wheelchair.
Entry to the home: Again, make sure there is plenty of lighting, no rugs or electrical cords. If you have stairs, consider a ramp instead. There are many ways to incorporate a ramp into the home’s exterior and landscaping that look classy and not tacky. Speak with a contractor to make one appropriate for your home. Whether you have a ramp or a few steps, there needs to be a rail on each side which can be reached at the same time. Gripper strips on the edge of steps and every 2 feet or so on a ramp would be helpful to folk in ice/snow prone areas. Also keep your approach to the home free of ice/snow as much as possible. These approaches again should be at least 36″ wide.
Vehicle: Usually a decent sized car is best. Trucks, SVUs, etc. might as well be monster trucks, because those seats are higher than butt cheeks. The front passenger seat should be able to slide back and recline a good deal or conversely there should be a bench type seat available in which an individual could comfortably prop themselves up on. Having several interior handles to choose from are often helpful. Or one of those little removable handles that fit on the locking mechanism for the door do well too. As hoakey as they look, my Grandad loves his!
Alright, I think that about covers it. So, as you can see, there are many things you can do to your existing home to make it workable, but there many things you should keep in mind when purchasing those large ticket items too so they don’t become a burden to you later.