What is a Home Modification?

23 Nov, 2020

Home modifications are changes made to the structure, layout or fittings of a home to increase access, safety, security, and independence.

As the population of older adults continues to grow, home modifications are a key factor in enabling individuals to live in a place or home of their choice for as long as possible. Home modifications can also benefit clients of all ages with health conditions, sensory or movement impairments, or cognitive disorders by supporting the performance of necessary and desired daily activities (occupations), safety, and well-being.

Home modifications vary, they can be low cost and have a low environmental impact, these are called minor home modifications. Or, they can be quite extensive and have a high environmental impact; these are called major home modifications.

 

Shower seat

Minor home modifications

May comprise of small, low-cost installations such as:

  • Grab rails and drop down rails
  • Handrails
  • Hand-held shower installation
  • Lever taps
  • Step modifications and step ramps
  • Shower curtain, rods and screen removal
  • Door wedges
  • Bed boards
  • Magnetic door catches
  • Non-slip spray application to bathroom flooring
  • Light switch and power point relocation 
  • Installation of emergency alarms
  • Bed raisers
  • Chair raisers
  • High visibility tape
  • Sensor lights
  • Doorbells
  • Key safes
  • Hose reels
  • Reversal of bathroom doors or installation of lift-off hinges

Major home modifications

May comprise of significant structural changes to a home such as:

Level access bathrooms

Bathroom redesign to achieve level access is becoming increasingly common and necessary to allow for independence, required circulation, safety and access. Many homes have over-bath showers or hob showers which can increase the risk of falls and prevent access. A level access bathroom can allow access for wheelie walkers, shower commodes, wheelchairs and extra space for carers to assist in showering or better still, allow the individual to shower independently. Features that can be included in a bathroom redesign include:

  • Level access showers
  • Step-free thresholds
  • Non-slip tiles
  • Grab rails
  • Wider doorways
  • Accessible powerpoints and light switches
Previous Bathroom

Before home modification

  • Mobility specific taps and plumbing fixtures
  • Hand-held shower hoses
  • Mounts for seated showering
  • Shower curtain, rods and screen removal
  • Bathtub removal
  • Wall-mounted and wheelchair accessible vanities with easy access storage
New Bathroom

After home modification
intervention with Gen Physio OT

Kitchen modifications

A kitchen redesign is implemented to create a space that is accessible and functional. Features that can be included are:

  • Lowered benches
  • Accessible pantry spaces
  • Smart spacing to allow for appropriate circulation
  • Non-slip flooring
  • Mobility specific appliances
External access and large ramps

Home accessibility can present a wide and varied scope. When designing external access solutions, the following is considered:

  • Intended use of access/ramp
  • Is support required?
  • Are kerbing rails required?
  • Slope ratio and gradient requirements
  • Construction material
  • Ongoing maintenance
  • Restriction of building block impaction on-ramp size and location
Internal access
  • Stairlift
  • Platform lift
Ramp

Ramp installed for an 8-year old girl

The role of Occupational Therapy in home modifications

Occupational Therapists play a key role in identifying strategies that enable individuals to modify their homes, thereby maximizing their ability to participate in daily activities. Occupational Therapists are skilled at recognising how the environment affects the ability to perform desired occupations. By analysing how a person interacts with their environment to complete a task or activity, occupational therapists can identify appropriate modifications and interventions.

During the assessment process, our mobile occupational therapists can observe and evaluate all occupations occurring around the home, from activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, other self-care activities) to instrumental activities of daily living (preparing meals, doing laundry, performing home maintenance chores) to play and/or leisure activities. Based on that evaluation, recommendations can be made for modifications to promote safety and independence in the home. 


Written by Matika, Occupational Therapist – Logan

Matika graduated from the Australian Catholic University with a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy at the end of 2018. Her previous clinical experiences have enabled her to gain a depth of knowledge in aged care and community practice, including assessment for mobility and daily living aids, home modifications, energy conservation and falls prevention. Also, she has an avid interest in hand and upper limb therapy and hopes to continue growing her skills and knowledge in this area.

Matika is a kind and passionate clinician who strives to help her clients reach their full potential. She values and is committed to personal and professional growth. She believes each client is a unique individual who not only deserves but is entitled to optimal care and support. 

 

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