“Instead of having to do a full remodel and put in a walk-in shower, somebody could just swing their legs over the edge of the tub and access the shower,” Watters said.
Occupational therapists also help patients think through whether they can operate things like light switches, televisions and computers. For example, someone with a spinal cord injury might have limited reach or hand control; a person with a traumatic brain injury might not have the cognition for organizing the home and figuring out appliances.
“Each situation is so unique,” said Janet Bischof-Rosario, an occupational therapist. She said they try to think of the simplest fixes, because this can be overwhelming for families.
“It’s definitely a big stress,” she said.
When Gerry Labedz’s wife began to lose her ability to stand and walk after living for years with the brain cancer glioblastoma, they began making adjustments to their West Rogers Park home. An occupational therapist visited their home and gave them advice on what to do to make the situation safer, Labedz said.
“She was in a wheelchair and, let me tell you, life changes from no wheelchair to wheelchair, just super dramatic,” he said.
The first thing they needed was a ramp. He learned there was a lot to know about ramps. First, they must align with the Americans With Disabilities Act guidelines. Options exist: Some get a folding ramp; others rent a ramp, but Labedz found ADA-compliant rentals very expensive.
Their home had only three steps leading up to it, and before the ramp, it would take four people to help his wife into the house, he said. A carpenter friend built them a ramp that stretched all the way to the sidewalk.
“It’s all overwhelming, when it happens,” said Labedz, whose wife died in 2019.
Renovations like these can be expensive, and time intensive. Although financial help for home modifications is available in some areas for people older than 60, when a younger person is ill or injured, support can be harder to find.