Adapting a home for an older or disabled person

Introduction

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:

  • Widening doorways and passageways
  • Moving light switches, door handles, doorbells and entry phones to convenient heights
  • Installing grab rails for support
  • Adapting bathroom facilities (for example, removing a bath and installing a level access shower)
  • Moving bathroom or bedroom facilities to ground-floor level
  • Installing ramps to avoid using steps
  • Ensuring that external approaches such as paths or drives have a firm, level surface
  • Installing a stairlift or through-floor lift
  • Getting specialised furniture, like an adjustable bed or high-support chairs
  • Installing alert devices for someone who is deaf or hard of hearing
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.

Planning to adapt your home

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) maintains a list 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.

Other health professionals, such as public health nurses and physiotherapists, can also advise you on specialised equipment and home adaptations, based on both your short-term and long-term needs.

If you need to add a structure or an extra room, you may need to apply for planning permission.

Financial help

Adapting your home may be expensive, particularly if structural change is involved. There are several ways to reduce the financial burden:

In general, you should check out your eligibility for the above schemes, and most of the schemes require prior approval before work can begin. You should also check how the various schemes or grants interact with each other.

Sources of information

Assist Ireland provides impartial information on assistive technologies to help people with a disability to live independently. Assist Ireland has factsheets describing specialised equipment and what you should consider when choosing it. Assist Ireland also has lists of suppliers of different types of equipment, for example, suppliers of mobility aids and suppliers of dementia care products.

If you are visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, organisations such as the National Council for the Blind in Ireland and Chime, the National Charity for Deafness and Hearing Loss (formerly known as DeafHear.ie) offer advice on what you can do to make your home safer and more suitable for you.

Age Action provides services, support, advice and information specifically for older people.

The Irish Wheelchair Association can provide information and advice on alterations to make your home more wheelchair-friendly. The IWA has also published Best Practice Access Guidelines: Designing Accessible Environments (pdf) which has technical details on how to build or create an accessible environment.

The National Disability Authority also has 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.

Page edited: 7 November 2019