Modifications for Assistive Devices and Technology Around the House

Posted on July 12, 2021

After a stroke or brain injury, it is crucial to function safely in your home. The challenges faced due to poor balance and coordination, numbness, tiredness, weakness, memory loss, and lack of bladder or bowel control are addressed. Clear, frequented walkways of furniture, toys, and cords to create space and reduce the risk of tripping. 

Modifications around the house:

Firstly it is essential to rearrange the furniture to allow adequate open space between furnishings, hallways, and doorways. If your loved one needs a wheelchair or walker, vinyl or laminate flooring are good options. Consider removing all carpets and rugs as they can get caught in the wheels. Consider reversing hinges or replace hinges with 'swing clear style to obtain the full width of the doorway. If the front door is not accessible, consider adding a door to the side or back of the home. 

Install railings on both sides of the stairs, extending beyond the last step in either direction. Consider keeping a spare walker upstairs if climbing stairs is mandatory. A stair lift can help ascend a flight of steps comfortably but can be expensive if there are turns or if there is a landing. 

Also, a portable ramp can be rented or purchased for wheelchair use. They’re easy to set up and can fold conveniently, find one with anti-skid fabric for secure traction. Be sure to consult your occupational therapist to assess your home and help you manage activities of daily living to regain independence. They may also advise you about the size and type of ramp for your home entrance. 

Modifications in the bedroom and bathroom:

The most common challenges are entering and moving into the room, getting in and out of bed, accessing closets, and making the bed. Closets are easier to access than drawers; open shelves or shelves with lightweight bins make getting dressed easier. 

Replace bedspreads and blankets with a comforter in a duvet. Keep a 'corded' phone or smartphone close to the bedside as cordless phones and internet phones won't work during power outages. Loose cables and cords should be taped down to avoid tripping hazards. 

Install a low hanger rod in the closet (at approx.42 inches off the floor) to easily hang or retrieve clothes, keep a richer handy to access items stored on high shelves, install a battery-powered ‘touch light’ in the closet for better lighting. 

Entering the bathroom using a walker or wheelchair may require installing a long grab bar or railing for support to move through the narrow area to the toilet. However, if the bathrooms are small, space may need to be added from a bedroom or closet to make it easily accessible. A wall-mounted bathroom sink can free up floor space, also consider lever handles or a motion sensor for the faucet for easy use. 

Also, get rid of doorknobs with locks, or at least do not lock the doors so that your caregiver can teach you quickly in the event of a fall or other emergency. If your doorknob does not have a handle, use doorknob extenders so that you don’t need to twist the knob in order to open. 

Raised toilet seats make it easy for stroke survivors to get on and off the toilet with muscle weakness. Some are available with armrests too to help keep your balance. Bedside commodes can be used early during rehabilitation which can then be placed over the toilet once mobility returns. 

Shower hoses, adding a tub transfer bench, and an anti-slip mat to your bathtub will make taking a shower more convenient for a brain-injured survivor. You may also need to replace your bathroom flooring if it is too slippery when wet. 

Smart home technology: 

Being able to control devices such as lights, fans, TVs, thermostats, doors, and windows from your smartphone or with your voice can afford more control and independence at home. Installing a CCTV camera can also be a good idea to keep an eye on the stroke or TBI patient. 

Whatever kind of assistive device is installed, make sure it works for your loved one. Study the options carefully before making any home modification.