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Minor Home Modifications and the Fallacy of the DIY solution

It's a New Year, and a New YOU, but maybe the same old home and you are contemplating a change there too.

The American Dream is to age in the home. OT’s can make that dream a reality.

This becomes more difficult and a problem arises when there is a limited understanding of the value of home modifications and the role Occupational Therapists (OTs) play in implementing them successfully.

Often, there is a belief that a minor home modification to the bathroom, kitchen or bedroom, can be performed by anyone, and that the Pinterest solution will work for everyone. This approach and belief can be problematic. A minor modification (a solution that does not involve structural changes) can be considered a simple solution that anyone can problem solve through. However, the process used to determine the minor modification can be complex.

Achieving a successful and well- considered home modification includes a clear understanding of products and designs that are best matched to the needs of the household and those residing in it.

When considering a home modification, not solely focused on aesthetics but rather considers improved functionality or freedom, OT’s should be the first resources consulted. The decision making process involves many aspects.

In order to choose a solution one needs to consider:

  • What task the client needs/wants to be completed.

  • How a person usually performs the task.

  • Where the person performs the task.

  • Personal factors limiting or enhancing the individual’s ability complete the task (range of motion, strength, co-morbidities, balance deficits etc.)

  • Environmental considerations.

OT’s possess the knowledge and skills necessary to determine the most appropriate solutions for a person based off of their individual needs and environmental constraints.

  • OT’s possess the knowledge and expertise in health conditions and disabilities and how these progress over time.

  • OT’s have intimate knowledge of health conditions and how they impact an individual’s needs on a yearly, daily and even hourly basis.

  • They have the knowledge of universal, acceptable and adaptable principals to guide them in product selection and design solutions.

  • Knowledge of client’s rights under various laws such as ADA, Anti-discrimination laws, and the availability of grants or waivers.

  • Skilled observation of transfers and functional performance.

If we don’t’ acknowledge the complexity of the decision making process, and if an occupational therapist’s role is not considered or included in the process, poor home modification outcomes can result.

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