Home safety and home modifications are important aspects of fall prevention, which is critical to prevent medical costs and loss of independence.
Occupational Therapists provide expertise in useable and adaptable living environments.
The ADA makes requirements for public buildings to have standards for accessible design, but these requirements do not carry over to your personal property and home. Accessibility is a legal, code defined standard for places people of any age or ability can access.
Your home is much different than any public building you may need to go to. This is somewhere you spend a lot of your day, if not most of it. Every layout and floor plan is unique to you, and how well you manage in your home is also personalized to you. That is why it is important to have an occupational therapist provide home modification recommendations. Occupational therapists are trained to be client centered and focus on their individual goals. They will evaluate your habits, routines, and interests and how these may be impacted by your unique home environment.
Promoting universal design is a good initial plan for new builds and remodels. It allows for any person, of any age or ability level, to be able to engage in functional use of the product or space. Examples of incorporating universal design would be having countertops of varying surface heights. There are seven principles for guiding universal design.
While universal design and the ADA guidelines can be helpful as a starting point when you are designing for any user, home modifications should attempt to be more individualized. They should take into account the person/environment fit.
No one size fits all.
The standard is not appropriate for everyone. An occupational therapist will do an in depth evaluation of your current abilities and health status, as well as your current living situation. When making home modification recommendations, occupational therapists also take into consideration the other people who live in the home or will be sharing the living space ensuring a proper adjustment for everyone. As healthcare professionals they have a medical background and provide an individualized approach to identify how your current needs may change over time with normal aging or progression of a disability. Occupational therapists also make great additions to collaborative professional teams.
The National Association of Home Builders has a program for contractors, architects and occupational therapists to become Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS). These professionals can collaborate together to ensure that home remodels and retrofits will maximize safety and independence as someone continues to age in their home. It is recommended that an occupational therapist be part of this process due to the mentioned skill set and ability to recommend individualized home modifications. AARP CAPS and OT information
Examples of home modification recommendations provided:
- Recommend appropriate durable medical equipment and/or adaptive equipment including grab bars, shower chairs, ramps, stair lifts, and toilet safety products
- Determine where to place grab bars or handrails
- Recommend furniture layout to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers
- Recommend re-organization and clutter reduction
- Bathroom or kitchen design and remodel
- Recommend additional lighting to reduce risk for falls
- Learning assistive technology and how it can assist in home
- Fall prevention assessments
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