What We Do
Our Occupational Therapists examine someone’s home, both internally and externally, with two things in mind:
- What are the existing safety hazards that need addressing?
- How can we optimise the environment to enable the person to do more things independently?
They will consider factors such as:
- Safe access into the home and the need for ramps or rails
- Modifications to allow for safe showering and toileting
- Safe and independent use of the kitchen
Beyond the home, our Occupational Therapists can also support someone to gain safe access to the community. This may include the prescription of equipment such as wheelchairs or walking equipment. It can also include ways to ensure safe access to vehicles or in and around key areas such as shopping centres.
There are plenty of strategies that can be put in place to enable safe entry and exit to someone’s home. Often simple modifications can be very effective, including:
- A ramp or a rail to enable easier entry from street level
- Widening a doorway to enable a wheelchair to move safely through a threshold
- Customised rubber ramps to level out different floor heights
There are also a range of more advanced options such as:
- Innovative technology for door-opening buttons and switches
- Intercom systems to enable someone to identify and even unlock the door for a visitor without needing to go to the front door
A client’s level of vision, and the amount of light they need to see safely, is part of our assessment when creating a safe environment.
We know that older adults require quite a lot more light to see safely and to distinguish changes in flooring, and there are many disabilities that impact vision as well.
Many of our Community Therapy clients will need improved lighting. Our Occupational Therapists will also consider sensors and specialised switches so that lighting can be turned on and off in a safe and accessible way too.
Having multiple types of flooring within one house can create trip hazards. The transition from a room which has lino or floorboards into a room that has heavy carpet can create a falls risk.
This risk is exacerbated for many people. For example:
- For those with a disability or a disease such as Parkinson’s Disease, changing threshold can disrupt gait pattern and increase the risk of falls
- Certain disease processes and pathologies can make it difficult to distinguish different patterns on the floor, therefore increasing the risk of falls
An Occupational Therapist will carry out an environmental assessment to determine what risks are presented by the current flooring. Any recommended changes would be proposed for approval by the client or their support person.
Occupational Therapists are always looking to improve someone’s ability to independently access the things they need.
Lowering cupboards or benches is one way to achieve this. They can be installed at a more suitable height to allow access from a wheelchair or to minimize the overhead reaching required. Advanced systems on the market now also allow cupboards and benches to be electronically lowered and raised.
Decisions around what is most appropriate will be based on the existing environment and the client’s budget.
There are standards that need to be met for the installation of ramps.
These relate to the ramp gradient and width and include specifications for turning circles. There are also guidelines relating to the types of materials and surfaces that can be used (such as floating concrete slabs and grip-flooring).
A wide range of technologies can significantly increase safety in the home. Read our FAQ below for more examples.
The most common home safety device would be a falls or safety pendant. It is a wearable device with a button that can be used to call for help. This is suitable for someone who is at risk of falling, social isolation or someone who is living with higher socioeconomic risk with the need to alert someone about their safety.
Why choose Community Therapy?
Yes, there are several ways to move forward or learn more about how we can assist. These include:
- Completing a referral form on our referrals web page
- Connecting with us through our contact page
- Phoning us on 1300 031 935
- Using our website chat to get in touch and ask any questions you may have.
The most important thing with any service is experience, and Community Therapy has a great team of Occupational Therapists who are experienced in the complexities of environmental assessments and modifications.
Creating Safe Environments FAQ
What is included in an environmental assessment and report?
An environmental assessment is completed by an Occupational Therapist and will look at all internal and external elements of the environment and how they may affect the client.
A report will be drawn up to identify any existing hazards, as well as any opportunities to increase independence.
Who can I turn to for help to make my environment safer?
The first step would be to engage an Occupational Therapist.
Access to funding can come through a variety of government-supported plans including an NDIS plan, My Aged Care, Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA), Medicare, a private health insurer or through living in a residential aged care facility.
Regardless of funding sources, an Occupational Therapist is the most suitable Allied Health professional to carry out an environmental assessment and help someone achieve a safer living environment.
When should someone get a home safety assessment?
Typically people engage an Occupational Therapist for a home safety assessment because they’ve experienced a deterioration in their physical capacity, or because they’ve had a fall.
Sometimes an individual will recognise a change in themselves and will then request an assessment. In many cases though the need for an assessment is identified by someone within a care team (a GP, home care coordinator, NDIS Coordinator, or GP practice nurse).
Referrals also commonly occur when someone has had a fall that has resulted in a hospital stay; the Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist at the hospital may recommend a home safety assessment.
What are examples of technology that could be implemented?
These are now available with a range of additional features including:
- Accelerometers so that if someone falls it will automatically trigger an alarm, which can be very important when someone has a fall and loses consciousness.
- GPS devices, which can provide extra safety for someone who is living with dementia and is in the community by themselves
Other technologies available include bedside detector mats, which can indicate to a carer if someone has gotten up at night.