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The role of Occupational therapists in home adaptations for the elderly

:The bottom line:

  • Home adaptations help seniors live safely and independently in their homes for longer.
  • Occupational Therapists assess seniors and their houses to recommend the home adaptations best suited to their needs.
  • Once the adaptations are implemented, OTs give continued support to ensure Seniors are comfortable using them, and that their needs are met.

Occupational therapy provides individuals with the information and tools they need to optimise their home environments to meet their individual needs, enabling them to fully participate in their daily activities. As the population of older adults in Ireland continues to grow, home adaptations are a key factor in enabling individuals to “age in place” or live in their place, or home, of choice. In fact, growing percentages of older people wanting to age in their own homes for as long as possible have even affected Irish legislation, with support for those wishing to do so being a key concept included in the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion since 2007. 

Home adaptations are changes made to living spaces to increase usage, safety and independence. Making these changes as they age enables individuals to age in place successfully. The home adaptation process begins with evaluating a user’s needs, usually carried out by an occupational therapist. The results of this evaluation may be recommendations for alterations, adjustments, or additions to home environments through the use of specialised, or customised, adaptations. Whether users are already having mobility problems or are preparing for their future, home adaptations ensure their individual needs are met, to get their mobility back or make sure they never lose it in the first place.

The Role of Occupational Therapy in home adaptations what does the OT do?

  1. First, an OT will assess an individual’s needs – what they require to safely and independently carry out their everyday activities in their home. 
  2. Next, they’ll assess the individual’s home to see which types of devices would be the most appropriate to meet their needs.
  3. Once suitable home adaptations have been selected and implemented, the user is shown how to use them independently.
  4. Finally, the OT will come back to carry out a final assessment, checking whether the home adaptations have met the user’s needs and whether they are as safe as they could be in their home.

Individual Evaluation

Occupational therapy plays a key role in identifying strategies that enable individuals to modify their homes, thereby maximising their ability to participate in daily tasks/activities independently and safely. In the evaluation of their initial needs, an occupational therapist evaluates a series of capabilities to get an overall picture of what they may need help with. These include balance, coordination, endurance, safety awareness, strength, attention, problem-solving, vision, communication, and many other functions that affect an individual’s ability to perform daily tasks. The OT will also assess potential future needs a person may face, therefore allowing individuals to implement solutions pre-emptively, ensuring their comfort and safety in their home is guaranteed for as long as possible

Home evaluation

In addition to evaluating individuals, the OT will also review various aspects of the home that may require adaptations or modifications to facilitate safer usage. For example, secure upper body supports such as handrails, grab bars or gripo poles can assist someone who has difficulty balancing during functional mobility and self-care activities. As part of the evaluation, occupational therapists will assess how they interact with their environment to complete a task or activity, and then provide specific advice based on these observations. By evaluating an entire home, they are able to effectively safeguard it against potential, or current, risks, suggesting solutions adapted both to a user’s needs and each part of their environment.

Training on Home Adaptations

The whole idea of implementing home adaptations is that a user will be able to use them independently to meet their needs. Most adaptations are straightforward – levelled flooring, grab bars, adapted bathrooms and alert devices – but an OT can provide specific guidance on how best to use each modification in the safest way for the user. Whether it’s going up a ramp in a certain way, how to best steady oneself or the best way to adjust a bed for optimum support, this step is essential in the process.

Final Assessment

Once the individual has got to grips with their newly accessible home, an OT will carry out a final assessment to see whether every need has been met by the modifications made. As we age, our needs change, but having an OT to support you in the process could make all the difference to both your confidence and independence. 


At Ageing in Place we advocate strongly for the involvement of an OT to help assess and then recommend any home adaptations based on functional needs. If you intend to apply for grant support for your housing adaptation, you will also need an OT to assess and then specify the work as part of the grant application process. The Association of occupational therapists in Ireland (WWW.AOTI.IE ) is a great resource to help you find a qualified OT in your area, and you can click here to begin that process.