Staying Put: Making Your Home Fit Changing Needs

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**This is the last in a three-part series about adapting your home to your family’s changing needs. Kitchens and bathrooms require special consideration when planning to “stay put” throughout the lifecycle. Comfort, convenience, safety, and an attractive living environment are all attainable when adapting these rooms for persons with special needs.

Altering a kitchen for a hearing-impaired person is largely a matter of replacing audible signals like buzzers with visual cues. A kitchen used by a visually impaired person may need to have Braille knobs, have hard surfaces to aid in sound detection and use high-contrast colors. Gas ranges are often recommended for the visually impaired because the odor of gas will signal the cook that the gas range is “on”.

It is more difficult to make a kitchen work for a cook who must sit a lot or use a wheelchair or walker. A wheelchair needs a 5 foot turn-around area to maneuver easily. Most kitchens will need to be enlarged to accommodate a wheelchair. Counters and cabinets should also be lowered for wheelchair accessibility.

Changing a bathroom to allow more space for people who have mobility issues or need help bathing or toileting can be a real challenge. The average size of a full bathroom is 7 by 5 feet, not large enough to maneuver with a walker, wheelechair or for two people. It may be possible to use adjacent closet space or bump out a wall to make a larger bathroom. Doorways will need to be widened, grab bars installed, counters lowered, and toilets raised. Also, thresholds may need to be removed, lighting improved and floor coverings changed to improve safety and maneuverability.

It is possible to remain in your home when your needs change. Planning and attention to details can make the finished project work for you and your family.

Resource: Lifestyle Housing, N.C. Cooperative Extension