Housing design can influence someone’s ability to live independently. A recent study sought to better understand how home modification affects the caregiving needs of older adults and persons with disabilities.
Australian researchers surveyed people who had received government-subsidized home modification through the Home and Community Care (HACC) program within the previous six months. The HACC program was designed to provide structural changes to a home that help individuals to remain living in the community. The program prioritized those most likely to need residential care. Respondents were asked about the number of hours of weekly caregiving support they received prior to the home modification, the type of modification received, and the number of hours of weekly caregiving support received after the modification. Care included formal (paid) and informal (unpaid) caregiving to assist with bathing, toileting, or moving around the house.
Out of the 650 people surveyed, 157 responded. The average age of respondents was 72. Respondents reported receiving bathroom modifications, such as grab rails and hand-held showers; access modifications, such as entrance handrails, ramps, step modifications, elevators, and widening doorways; and kitchen and laundry modifications.
The study found a significant reduction in the amount of weekly caregiving provided before and after the modifications. On average, respondents reported receiving about 15 hours of caregiving per week before home modification, which was reduced to 8.7 hours per week after the modification. Informal caregiving hours were reduced by about 6 hours per week, and the reduction in formal caregiving hours was smaller, at .36 hour per week.
Though it is not surprising that the program appeared to reduce caregiving needs, the authors noted that no research has examined caregiving time after home modification alone (as opposed to home modification in combination with other interventions). The researchers anticipate that the implications of reduced caregiving include lower caregiving costs and an increase in paid employment among informal caregivers. The researchers reported that a cost utility analysis of home modification is in the works.
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Carnemolla P. Housing design and community care: How home modifications reduce care needs of older people and people with disability. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2019); 16(11): 1-12.