Spinal Cord Injury or Disorder (SCI/D): Home Modifications
Having a spinal cord injury or disorder (SCI/D) means that your ability to move has changed. You might have to use a cane. Or you may need to use a wheelchair to get from place to place. Transfers may be difficult or you may need others to help you. Because of this, your home may need some changes so it is accessible (modifications). It will need to be set up in a way that allows you to be as independent and functional as possible. Home modification can mean small changes, such as new door handles that are easier to grip and turn. Or it may mean larger changes, such as installing a new entryway or remodeling the bathroom. You will need to think about how to adapt your home to best suit your needs. This is a big task, but you will have help along the way.
Thinking about your needs
Your SCI team will talk with you about your home and accessibility issues. Do you live in a house or apartment? Will you live alone or with family or friends? What kinds of tasks do you want and need to do at home? What barriers currently exist that will prevent you from being independent? Will your wheelchair fit through doorways? Can you reach the kitchen counters? These are questions you will need to ask when thinking about home modifications. Your SCI team will help you determine what changes need to be made to your home to make it right for you.
Evaluating your home
If needed, members of your SCI team or therapists in your local community will visit your home and help you evaluate and plan changes. They will determine what areas are safe for a person with your physical abilities. Or, you or your family may be given a survey to fill out about your home. A list of needed modifications (changes) will be made. Some typical changes that are often needed include:
Adding ramps, elevators, or lifts for entries, exits, and thresholds
Putting down non-skid surface materials
Widening doors and hallways
Modifying walkways around the house and entrances
Changing heights of outlets, light switches, closets, and counters
Adapting the bathroom to allow for easier toileting and bathing
Adjusting or changing appliances and kitchen cabinets so they are accessible to you
Organizing space to allow for a wheelchair to move safely
Making changes to your home
Equipment provided by the VA, such as grab bars, is installed by VA-approved contractors. For small changes such as installing new door handles, you may do it yourself or ask someone you know to do the work. Larger work, such as widening hallways and doorways, may need to be done by a general contractor.
Paying for changes to your home
Making these changes costs money. Financial aid may be available. As a Veteran, you may qualify for certain government grants to modify your home after an SCI/D. Ask your SCI team for information about how to apply for these resources.
A work in progress
Keep in mind that adapting your home to best meet your needs is a work in progress. Keep note of any problems as they happen. Talk with your SCI team about what works and what doesn’t. They can help you make adjustments in your home as needed over time.