Interior of bathroom for the disabled or elderly people. Handrail for disabled and elderly people in the bathroom

Home modifications

Find out what benefits are available for home modifications.

From wheelchair ramps and grab rails to the widening of doorways, there are several modifications that can be made to help elderly people or someone with a disability move around their home. These alterations can make a huge difference to the quality of life of people suffering with mobility issues. The good news is that some home modifications are eligible for government subsidies to help you cover their cost.

What are home modifications?

For older Australians and those living with a disability, moving around the home can be difficult. At the same time, being able to live at home allows them to enjoy independence and freedom. Modifying their residence to cater to their specific mobility needs can make it much easier for them to get around on their own.

Home modification involves changing the structure, fittings or layout of a person’s home to make it easier for them to use on an everyday basis, for example, adding ramp access and bathroom facilities to the home of someone living in a wheelchair. Of course, in many cases home modifications can also reduce the risk of injury by ensuring easy access to all areas of the home.

Home modifications can also have a positive effect on the working environment of carers. For example, if a disabled person can use a grab rail to hop in and out of the bath, this may remove the need for the carer to lift them and potentially risk injury.

What types of services are available?

There are several types of home modifications that can help Australians living with a disability or mobility issue. These include:

  • Installing ramps, handrails and other mobility aids
  • Installing hand-held showers and removing shower screens
  • Installing easy-to-use tap sets
  • Using slip-resistant surfaces and treatments in bathroom areas
  • Widening doorways
  • Adjusting bench heights in bathrooms and kitchens
  • Relocating light switches and powerpoints to lower heights
  • Installing chair raisers, platforms and hoists
  • Installing emergency alarms and monitoring systems
  • Using smart technology to control lighting, blinds and other electronics
  • A range of other minor renovations

Are home modifications subsidised?

Some home modifications are eligible for financial support through a range of federal, state and territory government-funded initiatives. Some of the subsidies available include:

  • For people aged 65 years and over. You or your carer can apply for a home modification subsidy via the My Aged Care web portal. There are two options available:
  • Commonwealth Home Support Programme. This programme provides entry-level home support to older Australians to help them stay independent in their home and community for longer. Subsidised home modification services include the minor installation of safety aids such as alarms, ramps and handrails.
  • Home Care Packages. Designed for older Australians with more complex care needs, this option offers a range of subsidised home modifications as part of a larger package of support services.
  • For children and people under 65 years of age. The National Disability Insurance Scheme offers funding for the design and construction of home modifications as part of a package tailored to each patient’s care needs.
  • For veterans. The Rehabilitation Appliances Program offers funding for eligible veterans based on their clinical needs.

What you can do to make sure your home is safe

If you have an elderly relative or you care for someone with a disability, there are plenty of things you can do to identify hazards and make the home as safe and accessible as possible:

  • Check each surface (inside and out) for slipperiness. Non-slip adhesives, coatings and treatments can be applied to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Check for tripping hazards. These can include uneven surfaces, loose rugs and torn carpets. Repair any broken or torn items and remove loose rugs or securely fix them to the ground.
  • Install grab rails. Install handrails near the shower, bath and toilet to reduce the risk of falls and to also prevent damage to existing fixtures, for example, towel rails that are currently being used to provide support.
  • Check the amount of lighting. For both safety and comfort, there needs to be adequate lighting. Consider increasing the wattage of existing fixtures and installing additional products, for example, night lights or motion-activated lighting.
  • Make sure they can move around unobstructed. Are there clear and accessible pathways that can be used to move around the home? Are there any pieces of furniture or decor that need to be relocated to allow easier movement?
  • Clean out clutter. Clean out storage spaces and get rid of items you no longer want or need. This will help you remove unnecessary clutter from high-use areas, reducing the risk of an accident.
  • Test the furniture. Check whether each item of furniture (chairs, bedding, etc) are stable, comfortable and easy to get in and out of.
  • Check the cupboards and shelves. Are they too high or too low? Can you install adjustable shelving or relocate any cupboards to provide easier access?
  • Provide telephone access. It’s essential that the resident has easy access to a telephone to call for help, particularly beside the bed at night. You may also wish to consider installing a personal alarm system.
  • Make sure emergency contact information is easy to access. Keep a list on the fridge that includes the contact details of loved ones, GPs and any other treating doctors. Including a list of medications is also a good idea.
  • Check the smoke alarm. A working smoke alarm is essential in every home. Check that any alarms are in good working condition and replace their batteries at least once a year.

Services available in each state

There are also home modification and maintenance schemes run by each state and territory government around Australia. Contact the relevant organisation in your state or territory for more information on the funding and services available.

  • ACT: Community Health Intake. The Community Health Intake line helps individuals access community health services. One of these is the Occupational Therapy Service, which assesses the needs of individuals and provides necessary home maintenance and modifications.
    Phone: (02) 6207 9977
  • NSW: Home Modifications Australia (MOD.A). This group is the national peak and industry body that represents providers and promotes the benefits of home modifications for the elderly and differently abled.
    Phone: (02) 9281 2680
  • Qld: Community Care Program. The Queensland Community Care Program provides basic maintenance and support services to eligible Australians aged under 65.
  • SA: Equipment Program. SA’s Equipment Program provides eligible people with equipment and home modifications to help with mobility, home access, communication, bathing, personal care and more.
    For referrals or information regarding eligibility:

    • Access2HomeCare (for Domiciliary Care/Metropolitan Equipment Scheme): 1300 130 551
    • Disability Services information and referrals line: 1300 786 117
    • Novita Children's Services: 8349 2002
  • Tas: TasCarepoint. A service designed to help people stay in their own homes for as long as possible, TasCarepoint provides referrals for a wide range of home and community care services, including home modification and maintenance services.
    Phone: 1300 769 699
  • Vic: Home Renovation Service. The Home Renovation Service is run by Victoria’s Department of Human Services and offers free advice and assessments on a range of home modification and maintenance tasks. Eligible homeowners can also access financial assistance with a Home Renovation Loan.
  • WA: Community Aids and Equipment Program. The Community Aids and Equipment Program is a state-wide scheme aimed at providing equipment and home modifications to help people with long-term disabilities.
  • NT: Office of Disability. Residents of the Northern Territory with a permanent or long-term disability can contact the Office of Disability - Intake Office for more information and referrals for home modifications.

Picture: Shutterstock

Tim Falk

A freelance writer with a passion for the written word, Tim loves helping Australians find the right home loans and savings accounts. When he's not chained to a computer, Tim can usually be found exploring the great outdoors.

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