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Home Modifications

Home modifications are changes to the living environment that facilitate independence, ease of use, and safety in routine activities. For many older people there is a virtual equivalence between health and home.

  • The home is a power base in social interaction, a fount of personal meaning and biography, a familiar and therefore navigable environment, and, not least, a financial cushion.
  • It is no wonder that most studies indicate that a large majority of elderly people prefer to stay in their own home and neighborhood for as long as possible.
  • Home modifications can contribute directly to the well being of a frail older person or a person with a disability by reducing the need to relocate.
  • Research indicates that home modifications can have a dramatic effect on the levels of independence attained by older persons and those with disabilities in performing routine household activities.
  • Home modification and repair can help prevent accidents such as falls.
  • Research suggests that one-third to one-half of home accidents can be prevented by modification and repair.
  • Home modification and repair can allow people to remain in their homes.
  • Older people tend to live in older homes that often need repairs and modifications.
  • Over 60% of older persons live in homes more than 20 years old.
  • Home modification and repair can accommodate lifestyle changes and increase comfort.
  • Home modification and repairs promote independence and prevent accidents.

Common Modifications –

The most common modifications in the bathroom are:

  • addition of grab bars on one or both sides of the toilet, shower entry, and around the tub
  • raising toilet seat
  • installation of a freestanding lavatory or removing the front to create an open vanity
  • installation of a transfer bench
  • installation of a flexible hand-held shower
  • installation of non-skid flooring
  • replacement of rotating faucet handles
  • emergency alert devices
  • better illumination

More costly modifications in the bathroom are:

  • installation of a motion sensor faucet
  • bathtub with a door
  • addition of a water temperature regulator

The most common modifications in the kitchen include:

  • installation of additional illumination
  • installation of a wall oven
  • lowering the sink
  • providing open space beneath the sink
  • installing slide-out shelves
  • furnishing open shelves
  • creating open space beneath the cook top
  • Installing non-skid flooring.

Additional modifications in the kitchen that are more costly may include:

  • installation of brackets behind the counter top and upper cabinets for flexibility in height adjustment (may be power-operated)
  • installation of magnetic induction cook top
  • installation of a kitchen island with seated level appliances

Types of Home Modifications

Generally, modifications may be categorized in one or more of the following groups:

  1. Adjusting the way in which activities are carried out, e.g., moving the bedroom from an upper level to the first floor or converting a family den to a bedroom.
  2. Changing the location of an item, e.g., moving the sofa to make maneuvering space for the wheelchair or the location of the coffee table so that one with poor eyesight may be safe while walking from the bedroom to the kitchen.
  3. Adding or replacing special equipment, e.g., adding a spacer to raise the toilet seat, addition of grab bars or handrail, etc.
  4. Changes or additions to the structure itself, e.g., adding a ramp or first floor bathroom, widening doorways or hallways, etc.

Modifications that may apply to most or all rooms are replacement of rotating door knobs, installation of outlets at a higher level, adjustable rods and shelves in closets and storage.

The bathroom is the most commonly adapted environment, with the kitchen the second, although, this occurs more often for cosmetic reasons.

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