The Impact of Occupational Therapist-Led Home Modifications

August 10, 2023
by Shivanti Kariyawasam, Manager, Programs, Research & Impact at Rebuilding Together National

Many studies show the impact of occupational therapist-led home modifications. An occupational therapist (OT) can help recommend home repairs and modifications that would be beneficial to older adults or neighbors with mobility issues. A recent study from Western Michigan University’s Department of Occupational Therapy aimed to determine the impact of a replicable two-visit occupational therapy home modification program on occupational performance of low-income, community-dwelling older adults. 

Participants in this study were low-income homeowners, aged 55 years and older, with decreased performance and/or satisfaction in daily activities. Additionally, they had to meet the eligibility criteria for Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, which participated in the study. An OT conducted home safety assessments for each of the nine participants using Rebuilding Together’s Safe at Home Checklist, which was created in partnership with the Administration on Aging and the American Occupational Therapy Association

After the initial visit, the OT made recommendations for each homeowner to Rebuilding Together Philadelphia. The OT then made a second visit to the homeowners, and helped deliver and set up some of the modifications. The OT also provided education on tools, equipment and strategies to the homeowner. Finally, a follow-up phone call was made to the homeowner and total costs were calculated.

The report states that the total average cost of modifications completed in the homes of the nine participants was $10,396.65. “In comparison to annual paid caregiving services ranging from $22,763 to $154,478, the home modifications were a fraction of the health care costs. In combination with noted increases in the homeowners’ self-perception of their ability to perform everyday tasks, this data supports previous research that suggests home modifications, including client-centered evaluations led by an occupational therapist, are a cost-effective and impactful means of supporting aging in place.” 

Overall, this study found that a two-visit model of occupational therapist-led home modifications benefits low-income older adults. Spending the extra time to work with clients and make sure they understand the modifications they are receiving not only improves the client’s quality of life and independence, but saves them money.

Rebuilding Together Philadelphia is just one of Rebuilding Together’s many affiliates that are partnering with OTs. Read more about Rebuilding Together’s work related to occupational therapy here. Download the full report (The Impact of a Two-Visit Occupational Therapy Home The Impact of a Two-Visit Occupational Therapy Home Modification Model on Low-Income Older Adults by Anna Y. Grasso, AnnMarie Murphy and Cynthia Abbott-Gaffney) here.