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How Can You Retrofit Your Home To Accommodate A Disabled Relative?

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If you're planning to have a disabled relative move in with your family to make the caretaking process more convenient, you may be overwhelmed at the accommodations often deemed necessary for those who have trouble getting around. Just as with baby-proofing your home for the first time, making your home handicap-accessible can seem like a monumental task -- and you may not even notice certain dangers or potential problems until after your relative has encountered them. However, there are a few guidelines that can be used to determine which specific changes you'll need to make. Read on to learn more about the most popular handicap accommodations used in homes today, as well as how these structural changes can affect the value of your home.

What accommodations can you make to increase the handicap accessibility of your home?

If your relative has mobility issues, there are a number of renovations or accommodations you can make to nearly any home to ensure he or she is able to travel throughout your home safely. These renovations are listed below in order from least to most labor-intensive.

  • Balance and mobility bars

These bars are often seen near toilets, bathtubs, and other areas where the risk of slipping and falling is high. As these bars are inexpensive and no more difficult to install than a towel rack, they are one of the simplest ways to reduce the risk of falls.

  • Raised toilet seats

Another low-cost bathroom accommodation is the installation of a higher toilet seat. This seat fits securely over your existing toilet and can be ideal for relatives with balance problems or joint issues that make getting up from a seated position difficult.

  • Wheelchair-accessible bathtubs or showers

If your relative is completely wheelchair-bound but would still like to enjoy the independence of a solo bath, you may want to install a wheelchair-accessible bathtub. These bathtubs look like tall versions of traditional tubs, but have a watertight door that opens to allow your relative to enter the bath from a wheelchair. Your relative can then sit on the attached seat and enjoy a full-body immersion. These tubs drain very quickly, so there's no risk that your relative will need to sit and shiver while waiting for a full tub to drain.

  • Widened doorways

Another renovation that may sound complex, but is often simple, is the widening of existing doorways to allow wheelchair access. In many cases, an existing doorway can be stretched a few inches without impacting the underlying construction -- you'll just need to do some painting and trim work.

  • Motorized stair lift

If your home has interior stairs, you may struggle with your relative's ability to access the upstairs or downstairs part of your home. However, the installation of motorized stair lifts can allow your relative a great deal of independence. These lifts are powered by an electrified rail that physically attaches to the stairs and gently carries your relative up and down safely. You'll want to have a wheelchair or other mobility device at both ends of the lift (or have your relative carry their cane while sitting on the lift) to ensure the ability to move about after arrival.

How will these accommodations affect the value of your home?

Many handicap accommodations can actually increase the value of your home -- particularly as the U.S. population continues to age. If your house is located in a fairly urban or suburban area with close proximity to public transportation that would otherwise appeal to those who may not be able to drive themselves, you could be making it much more marketable by adding in handicap-friendly features. And because many of these features can be easily removed if not needed (such as higher toilet seats or tub railings), even the additions that don't add value are unlikely to decrease value.