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, raised toilet, back rest against the toilet cistern, level deck shower, bath with hoist, handbasin at appropriate height)
- Locating bathroom or bedroom facilities at 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 stair lift or elevator
- Specialised furniture, like adjustable beds or support chairs
- Setting up 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) 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:
- You may be eligible for a means-tested Housing Adaptation Grant for People with a Disability. The maximum grant is €30,000. Read more in our document on the Housing Adaptation Grant.
- For more basic and cheaper alterations, such as grab rails, level access showers or chair-lifts, the Mobility Aids Grant Scheme (also means-tested) provides a maximum grant of €6,000. Read more in our document on the Mobility Aids Grant Scheme
- 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.
- 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.
- You may be eligible for a tax credit under the Home Renovation Incentive for money spent on adapting your home
- Depending on the work being done, you may be eligible for the Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme or the Better Energy Homes Scheme
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.
Sources of information
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.