Examining one's home environment is extremely important for a newly diagnosed patient. Falls make up nearly half of all home accidents. PALS's level of stability with walking and getting around the home is constantly changing, so if you can provide the broadest level of accessibility, you can relax and PALS can have more freedom. There are two major rules of thumb when it comes to home modification. Energy conservation is important, and that can be achieved by putting frequently used items within reach, avoiding reaching for items, and sitting for activities whenever possible. Consideration of one's path of travel is also extremely important. One must pick up throw rugs, keep hallways and stairs clear, and make sure paths are lighted. There are a number of simple solutions to make one's home an accessible environment. Look around and see what minor details can pose a problem, and use the tips listed below as a guide for modifying your home.
- Doorway thresholds that are more than 1/2 inch tall should be ramped.
- For accessibility, doorways should have a 32 inch clear width.
- Invest in lever handles and key turners to make unlocking and opening doors much easier. There are products on the market that will allow a door to be unlocked with the press of a button. For more information, visit: www.smarthome.com.
- Installing handrails can be helpful with getting around. Be sure that there is at least 1½ inches between the wall and the inside of the handrail.
- The use of a hand held shower head with an on and off switch makes bathing an easier task.
- Invest in a shower seat or tub transfer bench to help conserve energy while bathing.
For those that need more than a simple solution in creating a safe home environment, several companies offer non-invasive products to make getting around the home easier.
- For bathing, a tub slider allows PALS to roll directly over the commode to use the bathroom, as well as shower. The chair rolls over to the bathtub and the entire seat can slide over the bathtub, making bathing a less stressful experience. For more information, visit: www.pvcdme.com.
- For those who can no longer use traditional bathing facilities, the FAWSsit www.fawssit.com offers a self-contained portable shower stall that can be used anywhere there is access to warm water, a drain, and an electrical outlet.
- A Stair-Trac allows wheelchairs to get up and down steps without having to install a ramp. The Stair-Trac is slipped under the wheelchair and rubber tracks attach to a motor to lift the chair up the steps with ease. Visit www.garaventa.ca for more information.
- A Voyager or Easy Track makes lifting a simpler task for family members and caregivers. This is a ceiling track system that does not require any physical modifications to the home. This device has a track along the ceiling. A sling is used to transfer the patient, similar to a Hoyer lift. This device can be found at www.joerns.com.
Sometimes permanent home modifications need to be made. Common modifications include a ramp to get in and out of the home, lifts to get up and down steps, and a roll-in shower.
There aren't many financial resources offered for general home modifications. Basic items like swing away hinges and lever door knobs are inexpensive, but more intricate modifications can be costly. While insurance will fund basic items such as a hospital bed and a commode, one must look elsewhere for funding for other items. Sources of funding could be Long Term Care insurance or Vocational Rehabilitation. Veterans Affairs and Rural Development offer grant opportunities. Visit www.homemods.org for more information about grants for home modification. The Greater New York Chapter has some home accessibility items available for loan through the Jon Stone Equipment Loan Program.
There are some local towns and villages that have Community Block Grants that are sometimes used to help fund home modifications.
Ben Lieman, ATP, MSW
Assistive Technology Specialist