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Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence

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Home Safety Evaluation

Lisa Mitchell, RN, MSN, MSCN

A person with MS may begin to experience challenges in their home as their MS progresses. If you find that your home presents challenges to your safety and independence, a home safety evaluation may help you live more safely in your home.

A home safety evaluation can identify hazards that may affect your safety in the home and give recommendations for eliminating these hazards through the use of assistive devices and home repairs and modifications. A home safety evaluation can increase your use of the home and improve your safety, security, and independence. A home safety evaluation is often helpful for those who have fallen at home, have balance issues, or have decreased their physical activity. It is also useful for those with changes in cognition (memory, attention, making decisions) and sensory systems (vision, hearing, taste, smell). If you have experienced any of these issues, let your provider know so they can assess your concerns and, if appropriate, request a consult for a home safety evaluation, and possibly refer you to physical therapy for an assessment of your balance and gait.

For a home evaluation, a registered nurse, or occupational or physical therapist will come to your home to evaluate your needs and identify strengths and weaknesses of your home. The nurse or therapist will assess the entrance to your home as well as the hallways, staircases, living room, kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms for 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 too high or low toilet seats. Following the evaluation, the nurse or therapist will provide recommendations to improve your safety in your home.

The VA offers a range of resources and grants to help Veterans cover some costs of the home safety evaluation recommendations. The Prosthetics Department of your local VA medical facility 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 improving access to kitchen and bathroom counters. The grant is limited but 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 of these 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. Please view the VA's disability housing grants for Veterans webpage for details regarding qualifications and grant amounts.

The VA has resources that can help you maintain your independence and improve your safety in the home. Please contact your provider about any home safety concerns that you may have.