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What Changes Should You Make to Better Accommodate a Disabled Relative in Your Home?

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If you've been charged with the physical and personal care of an elderly relative after his or her release from the hospital, you may be wondering what you can do to make your home safer and more comfortable. Because many hospitals and other skilled care facilities have certain rules in place requiring a home to be suitable for a patient's condition, you may need to begin making these arrangements sooner rather than later.

Read on to learn more about some of the accommodations and home modifications you may need to make for an elderly relative, as well as how you can help pay for any needed equipment. 

What will you be required to have in place before the hospital will release your relative? 

Many hospitals have policies to help prevent readmission of patients by ensuring that these patients have a safe, comfortable, and accessible home to which they can return.

For example, if your relative is unable to move without the use of a wheelchair, and lives in an upstairs apartment with no elevator access, a hospital may refuse to discharge your relative until you can confirm that you'll be caring for your relative in a wheelchair-accessible home. In other cases, you could be required to have a motorized bed, an elevated toilet, or other mobility aids that can make it easier for your relative to get around, and easier for you to assist your relative with his or her personal needs. 

Your best bet is to talk to your relative's physician well before the potential discharge date to ensure you're aware of all that caring for your relative will entail, and what accommodations your home will need in order to provide this care. This will help eliminate extra days in the hospital (or extra expenses on your part) by helping you avoid scrambling around at the last minute to purchase mobility aids.

What accommodations should you make for ongoing care needs?

If your relative was hospitalized due to an injury or illness, he or she may need after-care at home. Often, this care will be provided by a home health nurse or certified nursing assistant (CNA) who can help change wound dressings, administer medication or IV fluids, and assist in other medical needs.

If your relative is over age 65, it's likely that his or her Medicare policy will cover the cost of this care. These home health nurses generally don't assist with bathing, feeding, or other personal needs, so if you're unable to handle these tasks yourself, you may want to hire a housekeeper or personal caregiver to help your relative. 

You can also make the caregiving process much less stressful (for both you and your relative) by installing mobility aids to help your relative access the toilet, bathtub or shower, and kitchen facilities without needing your assistance.

The most common aids include toilet seat extenders (raising the height of the seat to allow your relative to get up and down without straining), balance bars to help keep your relative from falling, grippy floor coverings to prevent slips and falls, and stepladders that can allow your relative to reach to the tops of cabinets while still having a steady bar to grip.

How can you pay for these accommodations?

Even if you're well under age 65, you may be able to have certain modifications to your home and mobility aids paid for through your relative's Medicare plan. If you can demonstrate that providing care to your relative within your own home (rather than your relative's home) was necessary due to your relative's health condition, you should be able to have most eligible expenses covered.

However, many home mobility aids are available at a relatively low cost. Even if you must pay for these accommodations out of pocket, doing so should not result in a significant financial burden.