Charlie, an Army Veteran, can still walk to a certain degree, but he knows that his ALS will one day limit his mobility. His balance is already off, and the risk of falling grows by the day. Working with his case manager from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and taking advantage of the VA Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant, he deployed a plan to make his home accessible and safe. Accessible Systems was his contractor of choice, and here is how his home was adapted to overcome a number of mobility barriers.
“I’m fighting like h*ll not to be handicapped.”
Who is Charlie?
Charlie Bonner is 73 years old, and an Army Veteran from New Jersey. He worked as a high level financial manager for the Department of Defense and retired in 2004. He moved to Laramie, WY when he was 19 and married Barbara in 1968. They had 4 children. Barbara passed in 1998 and eventually Charlie remarried. An avid gardener, Charlie began having symptoms in his right hand for a year, and was then diagnosed with ALS in August of 2017. His symptoms progressed with shoulders deteriorating and fastriculations. His property and home of 29 years is in Colorado, just Southeast of Denver, and is spacious yet several modifications needed to happen to give him safety and preparation for the inevitable. Through the Veterans Administration Specially Adapted Housing grant program, Charlie was able to create a home that will accommodate one level living and indoor/outdoor living. He talks about his 7 grandchildren often and has local family caregiving support.
Overcoming Barriers in His Home
In and Out of His House
Entering and exiting the front door or through his garage door to his home was one barrier Charlie needed to overcome.
- Concrete ramp and railing – Connects the walkway from his driveway to his front door.
- Wood platform with railing and a wheelchair lift – The steps grants easy access to anyone, and the vertical platform lift will allow Charlie to enter/exit his home through his garage when he must rely on a motorized wheelchair to get around.
- Widened door – The main door from the garage was widened to accommodate the width of a wheelchair, and a caregiver entering and leaving the home at the same time.
Showering and Toileting with Safety and Comfort
Charlie’s main bathroom was a challenge. There wasn’t much room since the “skinny parts” of the bathroom limited movement. On a wheelchair, movement would be impossible. The bath was remodeled to be accessible, and was made wheelchair friendly.
- Roll-in shower – The large walk-in shower is threshold-free, so Charlie will no longer have to step over a tub to bathe.
- Roll-under sink – The underside of the sink was cleared out and lowered as a whole, to allow easy rolling in and out while on a wheelchair.
- Grab bars – Were placed in the shower area for necessary grip, and a towel rack was also installed which doubled to provide the same fall-prevention safety.
- Bidet – A bidet is necessary for Charlie, since he has limited mobility in both arms and is able to control it with the touch of a single finger.
Moving About and Transfers in His Bedroom
Charlie had to make room for his wheelchair and the new medical bed he attained through the VA. These types of beds require more space.
- Construction – A wall was knocked out to create space within his bedroom, which can now fit a VA-provided hospital bed. The extra space will also make moving around in his wheelchair much easier.
Up and Down the Stairs
Charlie’s access to the upper level of his home, where a less used bathroom was located, was not easy to access.
- Stair lift – Allows Charlie safe access to the 2nd floor of his home. This proved most beneficial during construction since his main bathroom was being remodeled. His balance with ALS is not as good as it once was, so the stair lift helped eliminate the risk of falling. Charlie feared falling down the stairs most.
“Very pleased with the performance of Accessible Systems and would recommend them to anyone needing work… dealing with mobility, wheelchair, things of that nature.”
VA Special Home Adaptation (SAH) Grant Resources
Visit this link to learn more about qualifying for a disability housing grant for veterans, and how much funding is provided.