Home Modifications: Staying safe and independent at home = peace of mind

Creating a home that is safe, liveable and allows you to do the things you want and need to do is important to everyone. Removing the barriers and creating more functional spaces provides enhanced safety, greater use of space, independence and freedom, more social opportunities and there is less impact on carers.

Does your house stop you from doing things you want to do? Or are you no longer able to carry out the activities you used to due to physical barriers or falls risks? For some people steps, narrow doorways, showers over the bath, and poor lighting can become safety risks in their own home. Due to injury and illness sometimes getting on and off the toilet is hard to manage or stepping over the hob into the shower with no supporting rail is difficult.

Occupational Therapists are trained health professionals that match your physical and mental needs to the environment to enable you to do the things that are important to you. We may recommend equipment, different strategies or home modifications to give you and your family peace of mind that you are safe in your environment and are given the option to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible.

When it comes to home modifications Occupational Therapists (OTs) are trained to work with you and your builder to organise the safe set up of your home. Guided by the Australian Standards 1428.1  (AS1428.1) OTs recommend home modifications to match your physical and functional needs. They can advise on the height and placement of grab rails, ramps, wheelchair accessible buildings, stair climbers, platform lifts, lighting, types of taps and switches to things as simple as magnetic door latches. As creatures of habit many people who have lived in their houses for many years are surprised at how small and large changes to the environment can provide so much help in negotiating their living environment with ease.

OTs pay attention to the detail of the home modifications that they recommend to ensure safe surfaces and all weather materials. We understand that your home and its appearance are important and that not many people go for the ‘hospital’ look. Being sympathetic to the look of your house and a focus on an enhanced sense of home provides an increased long term outlook to help you live at home happily into the future.

A major consideration for OTs is the injury or illness and whether it is stable or permanent (modifications vs equipment), whether it is a long term living situation, is the home suitable for modifications, estimated costs and funding options, and if the modification is the most suitable to meet your needs.

Once the modification is decided the OT will draw up the plans and share these with you and the builder to make sure all aspects are thought of and your functional goals will ultimately be served. OTs will also consider other users in the household, prognosis, dominant side, and cognitive status.

Examples of just some of the more technical aspects OTs need to know about home modifications include:

  • AS1428.1, Building Code of Australia
  • Waterproofing for bathrooms (this can effect home insurance if tiles are removed)
  • Weight of user/s (most rails are weighted to 100kg and for people over 100kg extra structural support is required)
  • Installation of access steps over 1 meter total height must be 1000mm rail height, 850mm minimum door width for clear access or 910mm for cavity slider (wider for bariatric clients)
  • Option of using stainless steel rails – these are less likely to rust in outdoor environments but are more expensive
  • Installation of bilateral rails for multiple steps with the rails extending 300mm beyond the top and bottom of the steps
  • Step ramps with a gradient of 1:10 should have the platform at top and bottom even if it is just one step
  • Access ramps are built according to a gradient of 1:14 with landings
  • Spacing between wall studs pre 1970’s is usually 450mm and 600mm post 1970’s homes.

An OT comes to you in your home and provides an invaluable service with a great depth of knowledge and practical advice to keep you and your loved ones safe at home now and into the future. To find out how we can help you live life to the fullest please call us now. We would love to hear from you. 1300 588 851