Over the years, you’ve invested so much time, money, and effort into turning your house into your own home, and chances are, you want to be able to age in your home without having to move into a nursing home or assisted living community. One of the biggest obstacles to aging at home is when a resident becomes wheelchair bound; this often makes navigating the home very difficult. For example, 40.2% mobility device users report having difficulty entering or leaving the home; 47% of wheelchair users have difficulty reaching or opening cabinets, and 35.5% of wheelchair users have difficulty using the bathroom.
Luckily, by planning ahead, you can make some slight modifications or purchase home access products so that you’re able to age comfortably in your own home, no matter what your mobility is. Here’s a room-by-room look at making your home wheelchair accessible:
- Bedroom: Install an overhang lift or manual trapeze to assist with getting in and out of bed safely.
- Bathroom: Install a bath tub lift (between 13” and 30” wide) and commode lift, as well as grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower or on the bathtub.
- Staircases: Install a stair lift to safely move between floors.
- Porch/exterior: Install an outdoor stair lift or portable ramp to access your home’s entry. You could also install a vertical platform lift to use as an outdoor elevator. Make sure that any outdoor home access product will be durable in all kinds of weather.
- Kitchen: Check to see that countertop and cabinet height is within reach from a wheelchair. Keep 27” of knee clearance between the floor and table underside, as well as a clear space of 30”x48” at each seat.
- Garage: A two-car garage is best for comfortably moving between a vehicle and your home. You may also want to install a portable ramp or a stair lift for even easier access from your garage into your home.
Throughout your home, three things are especially important to improving wheelchair accessibility: clear pathways, strong lighting, and working alert systems. Indoor and outdoor pathways should be wide enough to accommodate various mobility devices, such as scooters, rollators, or wheelchairs; this generally comes to 36” wide for hallways, 32” wide for doorways, and 36” wide in all directions for 180-degree turns. Lighting is also crucial to decreasing the risk for trips and falls; keep your home well-lit throughout the day and evening, and make sure that light controls are easy to reach and use. Finally, install multiple phone and alert systems throughout your home (especially in the bedroom and bathroom) so that in case of an emergency, you can get help quickly.
Your home is a reflection of your memories, and being in a wheelchair shouldn’t mean that you have to leave your home and all the wonderful times you’ve had there. Instead, use these suggestions to make simple modifications to your home so that you can continue to live there comfortably and safely, no matter what life throws your way.