Modifying Your Home for Independence
As people go about completing tasks in their homes everyday,
it is important that the environment be appropriate and allow for
the greatest degree of independence. When the environment
doesn't "fit" the individual living or working in
it, modifications can be made to facilitate independence. Changes
also can be made for older adults and people with disabilities to
accommodate their ability and changes in health. A home modified
for greater accessibility promotes energy conservation and helps
prevent falls and other in-home injuries.
Occupational therapists have expertise and training in
recommending and implementing strategies in every room in the
home that could help a person complete daily tasks effectively
and efficiently no matter the degree of his or her ability. These
strategies can help a person live independently for many
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What can an occupational therapist recommend?
- In the bathroom, replacing the toilet with a
higher model or a longer seat for people in wheelchairs or with
limited hip movement. Install handheld shower heads, large shower
and bath controls, and grab bars around the bathtub walls.
Install faucets with a lever control for people with a weak grip.
Identify design features that will promote safety and
- In the kitchen, lowering sinks and
countertops to accommodate wheelchairs. Store often-used items in
easy-to-reach places. Design work space that accommodates seated
activities, such as lower countertops with beveled, rounded
- In hallways and doorways, creating clear,
unobstructed openings that a person in a wheelchair or with a
cane can pass through easily. Create entryways and hallways with
a 32-inch clearance. Ensure that thresholds are level with the
floor. Install secure carpets or runners in hallways or
stairwells to provide traction, and install handrails for
- In the living room and bedroom, arranging
furniture so that it creates open space and clear passage. Place
the bed where it is easily accessible to a person in a
wheelchair. Place the telephone where it is easily accessible. If
a person is likely to wander, install locks on exit doors.
- Increase home security if a person is likely
What can families do?
- Investigate and suggest resources that can help an older
person or someone with a disability to remain independent in the
- Help facilitate a person's independence
by helping them access necessary community resources.
- Introduce changes at a slow pace to cause as
little disruption as possible.
- Ensure that the contractor and builder you
choose are licensed and insured.
Need more information?
Home modification can provide an alternative to older adults
and people with disabilities that can allow them to live in their
own homes as long as possible. Occupational therapists and
occupational therapy assistants are trained in helping both
adults and children with a broad range of physical,
developmental, and psychological conditions. Practitioners also
help clients in wellness techniques that may prevent injury and
disease. If you would like to consult an occupational therapist,
practitioners are available through most hospitals, medical
centers, and community clinics.