The Value of Home Modifications
The Value of Home Modifications
By Mary Courtney
Let’s say that you are a relatively healthy person, aged 63 or 71 and you live in a home of your own and are comfortable in. You like your neighborhood and neighbors. You are happy in your home.
Then a miss-step, a fall, the result is of a broken arm or ankle and some bruises. You think nothing really terrible, yet your ability to get around easily within your home has been reduced. You now need a walker, or even a wheelchair, or perhaps are now confined to your home for recovery. This is a common scenario and with homes built in earlier years there were no provisions made to accommodate any disability.
Many newly built homes, with the developers realizing the importance and added value in taking this into consideration, will include the modifications that assist all ages and all abilities to live comfortably and safely in their home. The new home buyer, when looking at what is available, will notice and be appreciative of the installation of design elements and fixtures that allow easy accessibility for all abilities. There is so much more awareness now, and sensitivity to, the needs of all ages, able or disabled. Actually whether you really need some of these changes, it will make your life now, and in the future, much easier too.
In 2009 a survey reported that over 85% of older Americans say they desire to stay in their own homes throughout their entire life until death. Younger people with disabilities also need some modifications to be made to their homes to allow them to live fully and as self-sufficiently as possible.
There is much that can be done to remove the barriers and to increase the safety and comfort level in our homes. Some of it is rather simple such as widening the doorways, increasing the lighting, removing thresholds and elevation changes, installing rocker or sliding light switches and using lever handles on all doors. Change all bath and kitchen cabinet handles to pulls, not knobs and add pullout shelves.
Simple one handled faucets, temperature controlled water sources, grab bars in key areas and low level flooring materials. And, from my own personal experience changing a bathtub to an enlarged floor entry shower with a bench or room for a stool is essential. There is no way that you can get in and out of a tub with a broken foot. You would need to select a non-slippery material for the shower floor, and there are many choices available that are appropriate.
Recently designed and now on the market are bathing tubs that have been built for ease of entry. With a drop down side that, even from a wheelchair, one can enter the tub, sit on the integrated bench, raise the side which seals the tub and then, with a double volume faucets, the tub is quickly filled. Multiple drains allow the tub to drain quickly so that the person can lower the side and exit while still warm. Showers with floor level entries come in many designs and are easy retrofits or new installs. Adding a hand held shower, in addition to, or, instead of a traditional showerhead also works well.
Of all the rooms in our home, the use of the bathroom requires the most exertion and dexterity. This is where many accidents happen. An easy thing to do is to install a raised toilet with a handy grab-bar and enough room around it to allow for a walker or wheelchair. Everyone is comfortable with that arrangement. A wall mounted sink, with no cabinet below and placed at 33” above the floor, serves every need and would also work with a wheelchair. A slightly higher sink also is much easier on the back muscles.
Make sure that the lighting is adequate and has a sliding dimmer control. Towel bars should easily be reached yet not in the way so as to constrict movement. If possible, arrange the cabinetry with pullout shelving. In addition to a wall cabinet or shallow shelves above the sink, I would suggest a tall storage cabinet with a pair of narrow doors and with pulls, not knobs, would work best for linens. Just keep thinking of saving space, keeping it open as much as possible, and removing any barriers.
It’s important to think about these things now. Take the time to walk through your home and look around and see what might need to be changed. You can prepare your home for accessibility now, plan ahead and be creative.
Please feel free to contact me through my website and I will send you a copy a basic list of areas to consider when adapting your home.