Adapting a home for an older or disabled person
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
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.
Adapting your home may be expensive, particularly if structural change is involved. There are several ways to reduce the financial burden:
- You may be eligible for a means-tested Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability. The maximum grant is €30,000.
- For smaller alterations, such as grab rails, exterior handrails or a stairlift, the Mobility Aids Grant Scheme (also means-tested) provides a maximum grant of €6,000.
- 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. The type of work that is covered depends on your local authority. For information on what is covered in your area, contact your local authority.
- You may qualify for a local authority home improvement loan to improve, repair or extend your home.
- If you have a medical card or a long term illness card, you may be entitled to get essential items of equipment free of charge. First, you must be assessed by a relevant professional, such as an occupational therapist or a physiotherapist.
- If you are paying for equipment needed for someone with a disability, you may be able to claim a VAT refund.
- Depending on the work being done, you may be eligible for the Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme or the Better Energy Homes Scheme.
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.