Stroke is the number one cause of disability in the United States. Most people find some bodily limitations after a stroke to which they need to adjust, whether they are temporary or long-term. If you have experienced a stroke, you may have to make some adaptations to your home in order to create a safe environment and help you continue to function as normally as possible.
Simple and quick changes
While some home remodeling may be necessary, many changes are quick and easy and will immediately improve accessibility and safety, depending on your limitations. These include:
- Access to a phone or emergency service at all times, regardless of the room you are in
- Door Knob extenders, which are fitted over a round knob to provide a handle for easy opening
- Non-slip bath mat and tub transfer bench which sits inside and outside the tub, so you can shift across the bench rather than step in or out of the tub
- Shower hose, which allows you to hold the shower head and move it around your body
- Grab bars and rails near the toilet and in the tub – these should be professionally installed, so that they securely attach to the wall and will not give way when weight is repeatedly applied to them, but this is an important addition to any bathroom
- Raised toilet seat or bedside commode
- Clear walkways, which may require moving furniture and removing rugs that are not wall-to-wall to eliminate trip hazards
- Cord covers to keep all cords and cables against the wall, eliminating a fall risk
- Night lights in each room, preferably near the ground where you will walk, especially toward the bathroom at night
There are a variety of bathroom modifications that can help stroke patients feel much more independent and may be more attractive than temporary adaptations, such as a toilet lift or tub bench. These may include:
- Walk-in shower with seat and handheld shower head, with doors that swing wide for walker and keep the water in, no matter what direction the shower head is pointed
- Handrails mounted wherever you would like one (certainly in the tub and near the toilet)
- Single lever faucets and soap pumps for easy function with only one hand
- Higher toilet seat
- Open cabinets for easy access to bathroom items like towels and toiletries
- Proper lighting and temperature control so that you feel comfortable and safe
You may find your bed is too high. Risers or a step added along your side of the bed will help you step in or out of bed comfortably. Also consider handrails, properly installed, along the wall toward the bathroom or the closet. Rather than keeping clothes in drawers, consider remodeling the closet to keep clothes on shelves or easy-to-reach clothes racks.
Many adaptations in the kitchen can help you reclaim a sense of independence. Many kitchen utensils are available that have been designed specifically with stroke patients in mind, whether that be eating utensils, knives, plates with suction bottoms and high sides, handy one-hand cutting boards, and more.
Other modifications may require some remodeling, based on your particular needs, for instance:
- Cooking appliances should be lowered for easy access and safety. The stove or oven should have front knobs to avoid reaching across hot burners. Consider replacing a stove and oven with a microwave, crockpot, Instapot, and/or toaster oven. Keep a fire extinguisher that you can operate close by.
- Install pull-out shelves or lazy susans for easy access to shelves and cabinets. Upper cabinets can even be installed with lifts that allow you to lower them to counter level and raise them again. Some lifts can be easily installed in existing cabinets, which lower the shelves without having to open the doors.
- Countertops can be lowered to a more comfortable level, or an island at a comfortable height can be installed.
- Clear pathways that fit a walker or wheelchair should be created or maintained, with no obstacles in the way.
A temporary ramp may be immediately installed to improve access, but if long-term limitations to mobility remain, permanent ramps and a clear, easy-to-navigate pathway to the home should be maintained. For safety, there should be at least two exit points from the home.
Portable ramps can be purchased or rented, or permanent ramps can be built. You will want a comfortable angle for the operation of a wheelchair or walker on the ramp. A physical therapist can advise on the appropriate angle, which would affect the length of the ramp. If you will have a ramp built, be sure to have it installed professionally so you know it will be safe and sturdy, with railings on both sides.
While you modify your home for safety, be sure to follow all the advice of your medical team whose job it is to help you recover as much independence as possible and prevent another stroke. Unfortunately, 25% of strokes are repeat strokes within the first five years after a stroke. It is important to make any lifestyle changes to decrease that risk, and it’s equally important to catch any signs of a second stroke as soon as possible to limit or prevent any additional harm.
At Neuralert, we are committed to decreasing the devastating effects of stroke with our wearable stroke detection monitor, which looks like a smartwatch and is equipped with a state-of-the-art AI algorithm designed to detect the first signs of stroke and send a message within minutes to the medical team and caregivers that you designate. Fast action reduces the risk of long-term damage from stroke. Talk to your doctor about adding Neuralert to your stroke-prevention plan.