For individuals suffering from a sudden health event, leading to longterm use of a wheelchair or other medical assistive device, deciding what home modifications are needed is vital to ensure continued independent living. With many years of experience in the adjusting of workers’ compensation claim, I have found the success rate of the medical care often is, in part, attributed to the level of dignity and independence the impaired individual continues to retain. When considering home modifications, the following is a list of general guidelines:
Entry and Exit:
Due to the sensitivity of the health status of the wheelchair bound patient, when possible, there should be, at least, one entry and one exit point within the home. Commonly, the doorway framing will need to be adjusted so as to allow for adequate wheelchair entry. In additional, dwelling entry and exit doors should be modified to allow for smooth transition through installation of slight incline or ramp units which lie over the door framing.
Because the wheelchair requires a large area in which to be mobilize, the space from the driveway or garage should allow for adequate movement of the wheelchair as well as easy ramp access from the exterior of the dwelling. Under American with Disabilities Act (ADA) general guidelines are provided with regard to slope and incline measurements when installing ramp access to the exterior of a home. In addition to slope and incline measurements, ramping should include handrail access to assist the wheelchair bound patient in maneuvering up and down the dwelling ramp.
For some independent wheelchair bound patients, the need for overhead protection is necessary especially in areas where inclement weather is common. To protect not only the individual but also the area on which the wheelchair must manipulate, an awning of some fashion should be installed over walkways, sidewalks and ramps to protect the area from the elements, ie. snow, ice and rain.
Because the use of a wheelchair requires strategic manipulation throughout the house, many wheelchair bound individuals will request the widening of door frames. With most homes built to allow for normal walking patterns, when faced with wheelchair access, it is virtually impossible to manipulate in and around doors and furniture. As a result, widening interior doorways, leading to bedrooms and bathrooms, and re-arranging furniture, will provide the wheelchair bound patient with more freedom and independence.
With most homes equipped with carpeting, a patient confined to a wheelchair will find it is quite fatiguing to manipulate around and throughout the home. Replacing carpet with hard wood flooring will provide for ease of movement and flow when utilizing the wheelchair.
As with any disease, disorder or illness, the physical and emotional implications can be detrimental to daily living. By providing a wheelchair bound patient with the appropriate home modifications, the emotional and psychological impact of disease can be improved. When faced with this dilemna, consider these vital home improvement options.