Adapting your home may become necessary as you grow older. You may also need to adapt your home if you or a family member has a disability.
Common alterations to make a home suitable for someone with a disability or limited mobility include:
In case of fire or other emergency, it is important that exits should always be accessible and that you do not rely entirely on mechanical means (such as a lift) to get out.
Before making changes to your home you can consult an occupational therapist (OT) who will assess your daily living needs and advise on adaptations to your home. You can contact an OT through the community care section of your Local Health Office. Alternatively, you may wish to hire an OT privately, as there may be a waiting list for the public OT service. The Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland (AOTI) publishes a database of OTs in private practice, and if you get a grant for the adaptations you may be able to get back some of the costs of hiring the OT.
If you need to add a structure or an extra room, you may need planning permission.
Adapting your home may be expensive, particularly if structural change is involved. There are several ways to reduce the financial burden:
The Housing Aid for Older Persons Scheme is used to improve the condition of an older person's home. The type of work covered includes structural repairs, re-wiring and upgrades to heating systems. Local authorities vary as regards what type of work they will grant aid. For information on what is covered in your area, contact your local authority.
In general, you should check out your eligibility for the above schemes and ensure that you comply with their terms. Most of them require you to get advance approval before starting any works.
You should also check how the various schemes interact – for example, if you are claiming a grant for the works, the total amount you can claim under the Home Renovation Incentive will be reduced - see Revenue’s FAQs for more details.
Assist Ireland provides impartial information on assistive technologies to help people with a disability to live independently. Tools and equipment range from simple items like lever taps on washbasins to more sophisticated devices such as computer screen-readers for people with visual impairments. Assist Ireland describes thousands of products and also provides factsheets describing specialised equipment and what you should consider when choosing it. There are several ways of contacting Assist Ireland with queries or feedback.
If you are visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, organisations like the National Council for the Blind in Ireland and Deafhear.ie offer advice on what you can do to make your home more manageable.
Age Action Ireland offers advice and information tailored to the needs of older people. It aims to improve their quality of life by enabling them to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.
The Irish Wheelchair Association can provide information on alterations to make your home more wheelchair-friendly.
The National Disability Authority has produced a set of guidelines on accessibility, called Building for Everyone. These guidelines show how buildings can be designed, built and managed so that they are accessible to everyone. You can download these guidelines from the NDA website.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000. The Phone Service will operate Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm during January 2017. You can also visit your local Citizens Information Centre.