Whether the injury is temporary or permanent, remodeling the home to accommodate a handicap is often an unexpected necessity for safety purposes.
According to Dana Tardif, an independent physical therapist affiliated with Bangor District Nursing, the place to begin such renovations is the hospital, not the home. Patients and their families should make the necessary plans for change before the injured party returns home. This way, all potential dangers can be eliminated.
“Far too many people return home, then make changes,” said Tardif. “The ideal scenario is to have the house ready prior to the patient’s arrival.”
Tardif has witnessed a variety of injuries that require no more than a ramp at the entrance to the home. Other injuries often demand substantial changes, especially for those people who live alone. Regardless of the severity of the injury, however, two rooms demand immediate attention and easy access: the bedroom and the bathroom.
For example, many two-story houses have bathrooms on the second floor. Some houses don’t have a first-story full bathroom or even a half bath, which makes the basic necessities of life arduous for the handicap.
Tardif said that most people tend to move their sleeping sites to the lower level after an injury. The real difficulties often arise, however, with changing the bathroom facilities. Although portable commodes are available, bathing routines are not easily changed, and complete renovations are required.
If moving the bathroom and bedroom proves impossible, many people opt for easier access to the upstairs.
Lori Trask of the Downeast Medical Shoppe in Bangor said that Stair Glides often suit the needs of those people who wish trouble-free transport to the second- and even third-story rooms in their homes. Manufactured by the Braun Corp., Stair Glides are popular among the elderly, especially those with heart and respiratory dilemmas. The elevator-like devices carry a hefty price tag of $2,795, and that often forces patients to move rooms to the lower levels of their homes.
“Money is most definitely a factor,” Tardif said. “People generally do what they can afford.”
Many major structural changes in the home are required for the permanently injured. The standard door width of 32 inches can be a nuisance for wheelchairs with a width that starts at 25 inches, wheel to wheel.
Other major changes often include buying appliances that are safely accessible for the disabled; yet another major change involves shower installments that range from the hand-held variety to the wheelchair-accessible type.
Home additions can be accomplished without doing any renovations. According to Anne Minahan of Mac-Lin Medical Supply Inc. in Bangor, items such as the Seat Lift Chair are popular with those people who have trouble standing without help. Priced from $650-$850, the Seat Lift can eliminate the danger of falling, while aiding the user in coming to an upright position.
Other in-house devices include amplifier phones and electronic door openers, devices similar to standard garage-door openers.
Tardif stressed that patients must properly assess their own situations with their social workers, nurses, or therapists. “Preparation is everything,” said Tardif.
Ron Brown is a free-lance writer who lives in