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Home Safety Evaluation

Lisa Mitchell, RN, BSN, MSCN -- Baltimore, MD

Our home is the place where we live, and it is filled with an abundance of memories. But what happens when your home presents challenges to your safety and independence? While moving and purchasing another home is not always an option, a home safety evaluation may help.

A home safety evaluation is a process used to identify hazards that may affect your safety in the home. It provides recommendations for eliminating these hazards through the use of assistive devices and home repairs and modifications. The benefits of a home safety evaluation include increased use of the home as well as safety, security, and independence for you. A home safety evaluation is often helpful for those who have experienced a fall in the home, have balance issues, or have observed a decrease in their physical mobility. It is also useful for those who have noticed changes in their cognition (memory, attention, making decisions) and sensory systems (vision, hearing, taste, smell). If you have experienced any of these issues, notify your provider. Your provider will assess your concerns, request a consultation for an evaluation, and possibly refer you to physical therapy for an assessment of balance and gait issues.

For a home evaluation, an occupational or physical therapist will come to your home to evaluate your needs and identify strengths and weaknesses of your home. The therapist will assess the entrance to your home as well as the hallways, staircases, living room, kitchen, and bathrooms for various hazards. These hazards may include inadequate lighting, lack of or unstable handrails and grab bars, unsafe steps, slippery or uneven flooring, inaccessible cabinets, slippery tubs, and high or low toilet seats. Following the evaluation, the therapist will provide recommendations to improve your safety in the home.

The VA offers various resources and grants to help you cover the costs of the therapist’s recommendations. The Prosthetics Department of your local VAMC can help you obtain assistive devices and offers a home modification grant through the Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) program. The HISA grant covers modifications to improve access to the home and essential lavatory and sanitary facilities. It can be used for installing handrails, lowering electrical outlets and switches, improving paths or driveways, and increasing access to kitchen and bathroom counters. The grant is available to service-connected and non-service-connected Veterans. 

The Special Home Adaptation (SHA) grant and the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant are provided through the VA Benefits Office. These grants are available to Veterans who have a service-connected disability. Both grants allow you to modify an existing home for a barrier-free living environment while the SAH can be used for constructing a new, adapted home. A Temporary Residence Adaption (TRA) grant may be available for those who are or will reside temporarily in a home owned by a family member. Additional information can be found on the VA's disability housing grants for Veterans webpage

The VA has resources that will allow you to maintain your independence and improve your safety in the home with the installation of assistive devices and home modifications. Please contact your provider about any home safety concerns that you may have.