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Stroke Smart Magazine

November/December 2008

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Home Safe Home
Simple Changes Can Improve Safety

By Pete Lewis

After a stroke, most survivors are eager to go home and resume their lives. But if the home isn’t safe and comfortable, chances of a fall are high. Even people who regain their movement may have trouble due to problems with balance, memory, or thinking. The good news? Even minor adjustments at home can make a big difference.

Just as every stroke patient is unique, every living situation is different. That’s why it is a good idea to consult an occupational therapist (OT). A meeting with an OT may take place at the hospital or in the home.

“Safety is always our first and foremost concern,” said Nancy Hildreth, an occupational therapist and a program director at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minn. “An occupational therapist can evaluate the patient’s skills and abilities to perform daily activities as well [the] communication links with others. For example, it’s important to take into account if the person will be living alone or with other family members. After assessing the patient’s living skills, we’ll recommend any changes to the physical environment and possibly recommend adaptive equipment.”

Home modifications don’t have to be drastic or expensive. Minor changes can greatly improve safety in a home. This can include rearranging furniture, taping down electrical cords, and improving lighting.

For stroke survivors who use a wheelchair or walker, carpeting or slippery flooring may need to be taken out or adapted. Removing clutter, especially in walkways and stairways, can reduce the risk of falls and injury. Some people may need to relocate their bedrooms, widen doorways, or install ramps. The trick is to allow sufficient room to move and turn around as needed.

“Open space is a huge issue for patients with mobility problems,” Hildreth said.

For survivors with even minor mobility problems, an OT often will recommend adaptive equipment such as grab bars and railings in the bathrooms.

Always consult with an OT before modifying any home. An OT can provide tips and specifications and may recommend contractors or even an organization that may build ramps or do modifications for no charge or at reduced rates.

7 Fall Prevention Tips

1. Minimize clutter.

2. Maximize space: remove or position furniture to corners or against walls to provide adequate space for survivor to maneuver.

3. Make sure home is bright and well lit, especially in stairways and doorways.

4. Remove throw rugs.

5. Use tape to secure electrical cords to walls and away from walkways.

6. Install appropriate flooring: low pile—not thick— carpet and non-slick surfaces.

7. Install grab bars and railings.


An occupational Therapist helps stroke survivors learn strategies to manage daily activities such as eating, bathing, dressing, writing, or cooking. Your doctor can refer you to an OT.


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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.

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