Home Modifications for Aging Place: An Occupational Therapist's Top Tips

Home Modifications for Aging Place: An Occupational Therapist's Top Tips

If staying in your home as you age is important, you’re not alone. A 2010 AARP survey found that 88 percent of respondents over age 65 wanted to remain in their homes for as long as possible, and 92 percent said they wanted to remain in their communities. It is natural to want to remain in your home where you are comfortable, and where you have created and shared so many memories. While it may not be possible for you to remain in your home forever, there are simple steps that you can take to make your home safer and more functional.

Making temporary or permanent modifications to your home can allow you to remain in your home. It may seem overwhelming to start making changes to your home as you age. However, simple modifications can not only help you remain in your home longer, they can make your home safer and more comfortable.

Home Assessment by an Occupational Therapist

Not sure where to start? Enlist the help of an occupational therapist. Occupational therapists work with people of all ages, stepping in to help when an illness, disability or chronic medical condition affects a person’s ability to perform functions of daily living. Occupational therapists work directly with physical therapists, speech-language therapists, general contractors, county aging services, and physicians, and can hold certifications in-home modifications as a specialty subset of occupational therapy practice.

To recommend suitable home modifications, your occupational therapist will assess your homes’ accessibility and its fall and safety hazards. They will also assess your sensory, cognitive, emotional, and physical status and your support system. All of these assessments help to build a picture of how you function in your home.

Common Home Modifications

Some common home modifications include specialized home lighting; auditory enhancement devices; adaptive equipment; mobility equipment; medication management reminders and organizers; safety equipment; environmental modifications to allow safe space for mobility; and recommendations for accessibility to enter and exit the home safely.

Improving accessibility may involve making doorways wider, adding ramps, installing grab bars in the bathroom or a shower bench, installing a stairlift, or placing light switches and electrical outlets at easy-to-reach heights. Modifications can also include providing visual reminders for someone with memory challenges to assist them with daily care activities.

In addition, the use of smart technology such as a video doorbell, use of wireless devices such as Google Home or Amazon Echo, medical alert systems, and the use of Zoom and FaceTime will allow you to stay connected with family members and caregivers.

If you are already working with an occupational therapist, they can guide you to local resources to help implement their recommendations. One specific local resource is Neighborworks NEPA. Their aging in place program provides homeowners age 60 and above with services that focus on assisting them to continue living safely in their home and community.

Sheila Mangold Butcher, M.S., OTR/L, is an occupational therapist with Allied Services Home Health.

Click or call 570.348.2200 to learn more about how Home Health can help you.