Study: Educate wheelchair users on home modifications

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Thursday, February 28, 2002

YARMOUTH, Maine - A recent study in the American Journal of Public Health calls for health providers to educate wheelchair users on home modifications and ask them specific questions, such as whether a wheelchair will fit through a bathroom door, to help prevent injury.

The January study reports 38% of the 525 respondents surveyed had fallen at least once in the past 12 months and 18% had suffered a fall-related injury. It also reports that nearly 44% of those injuries could have been prevented with bathroom and kitchen adjustments, widened doors and halls, railings, and easy-open doors. Yet, only 4% of respondents made those modifications, and 36% made none of them.

Re/hab providers say they do their part to educate wheelchair users on home modifications, and they say they do more than ask questions when providing a wheelchair.

"We do, like any good re/hab company, home inspections to see how a wheelchair will fit in," said Larry Scott, v.p. of sales for the Oak Creek, Wis.-based Rehab Tech.

But re/hab providers say they can only do so much. The height and weight of a patient limit them. If a patient weighs 300 pounds, he's going to need a chair that might not fit as easily through doorways.

In such cases, Scott said many re/hab providers have the names of contractors on hand who can do home remodeling.

Some providers, though, like Jim Poteet, owner of the Germantown, Wis.-based Metrocare Home Medical Center, do carry some home modification equipment like door widening hinges.

One reason why more aren't doing it might be because Medicare, Medicaid and other health insurers don't reimburse for home modification equipment. The report also calls for that to change. HME

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