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Bedroom Accessibility Modifications for People With Disabilities: Change Amid COVID

Bedroom Accessibility Modifications for People With Disabilities: Change Amid COVID

Having a disability should not limit your independency by harming your quality of sleep.

Your bedroom is your haven and your sleep sanctuary. It is a place of rest and peace, and a space made just for you with all of your favorite comforts to gently lull you off to slumber. For the 61 million adults in the U.S. living with a disability, however, the bedroom is not always a comfortable place or even a safe one at that.

The CDC identifies leading function disability types as first mobility, followed by cognition-related disabilities that involve trouble with memory, concentration and decision-making. Other function disabilities include independent living, hearing, vision and self-care.

More than 40 million adults experience difficulty with physical function, while almost 19.5 million adults are unable to walk even a quarter mile. 

When you do not have the right bedroom, it’s highly unlikely that you will find the rest that your body so desperately needs to fight off disease and illness. Not only can it be difficult to find rest, but you may also find it harder to maintain the basic responsibilities and duties of everyday life when your mobility is so severely impacted. When you redesign your home, don’t forget to take into account any remodeling that can make your bedroom a more appropriate place for your lifestyle and provide the better environment your body needs in order to heal. 

How Having A Disability Affects Your Sleep

A disability can impact your sleep in a number of ways, and make it difficult to get the quality rest your body requires.

  • Sleep habits. This can mean everything from an irregular sleep schedule to an uncomfortable bed without the pressure relief or support that you need to rest comfortably. Blue light from electronic devices like computers, phones, and TV can all be extremely counterproductive to good sleep. 
  • Sleep styles. Sleeping styles can also be affected. It can be harder to find and hold onto deep sleep when your body is adjusting to a new sleep style. For example, side sleepers may now have to learn how to sleep on their backs, and the discomfort could be enough to significantly impact your sleep.
  • Poor Sleep. Many of those with disabilities suffer from poor sleep, with researchers reporting that it is a common complaint about those with an intellectual or developmental disability. An estimated 40% of adults with disabilities suffer from long-term sleep difficulties. Common sleep disorders can include daytime exhaustion, insomnia, and narcolepsy. 

Researchers say those with chronic conditions like spinal cord injury, MS, and Parkinson’s Disease are almost three times more likely to experience trouble with their sleep. 

Disabilities That Can Impact Your Sleep

These are a few of the disabilities that can cause disruption to your mobility and sleep.

  • Cerebral Palsy. Also known as brain paralysis, cerebral palsy occurs when there is damage to your brain’s motor area, impacting your brain and nervous systems. This disorder can impact movement, learning, hearing, seeing and thinking.
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MS attacks the central nervous system by damaging and reducing the natural myelin sheath around your nerve fibers. This leads to either isolated attacks in a relapsing form or a progressive form that steadily worsens over time. There is no cure because much of the disease still remains a mystery to medical experts.
  • Paralysis. Tetraplegia, paraplegia, and quadriplegia are all forms of paralysis that come from damage to your spinal cord. When you hurt your spinal cord, you risk injury to multiple areas of your body, including your arms, hands, legs, trunk, and pelvic organs.
  • Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinson’s impacts the brain, causing such symptoms as shaking and stiffness. There is also significant disruption to your balance, coordination, and ability to walk, with symptoms steadily worsening over time. 
  • Stroke. A stroke can have significant impacts on your muscular, physiological, and psychological health, causing a lack of movement and coordination to the body. Not only can walking be difficult, but it can also lead to a fear of fall that can come to prohibit movement altogether.
  • Muscular Dystrophy (MD). When your muscles begin to shrink and deteriorate, this is a key sign of muscular dystrophy. This disease results in the eventual loss of muscle mass, making it difficult to move or shift without difficulty or injury. Many who have MD experience frequent falls, have trouble running and jumping, and have difficulty sitting up or standing. Learning disabilities and delayed growth are also possible.
  • Arthritis. A common sign of aging comes from a loss of tissue covering and protecting your joints. This, in turn, can lead to both swelling and tenderness in the joints. This can also lead to pain and stiffness, making it difficult for you to move around without discomfort. Gout, psoriasis, and lupus can also stem from arthritis.
  • Absent limb/reduced limb function. When a limb fails to fully develop during pregnancy, it can result in limb reduction, or the limb may be missing altogether. About one in every 1,900 babies born in the U.S. have a limb reduction defect. This can cause significant disruption to one’s motor skills and require assistance with daily activities such as dressing, eating, and bathing.

Tips To Make Your Home More Sleep-Friendly

Living with a disability, you may need to spend more time in your room than the average person, which means that it should be designed to ensure comfort and accessibility. Most homes are not prepared to handle the demands of your disability, so there will likely be some alterations and remodeling required to make you more comfortable. Regardless of where you live, there are some modifications that you can make to your home in order to make it more suitable for you.

Choose the right location

Just because a room is designed to be the master bedroom doesn’t mean that that is the right room for you. When you decide where you set up your new and improved room, consider the layout and space of your home. For those with mobility issues, a room on the ground floor is ideal. 

The larger the room, the better for many folks with disabilities, but typically, a room measuring 10’x12’ is a recommended size to accommodate all of your necessary belongings. You will also want to account for at least three to five feet of clearance around the bed with a minimum of 5’x5’ floor space so you can turn your wheelchair easily and without obstruction. 

Make the bathroom more accessible

When mapping out your new bedroom, don’t forget access to the bathroom. Certain homes, especially older properties, feature narrow doorways that can make it impossible for people to cross in their wheelchairs or with other equipment. While doorways about 42 inches wide are ideal, both wheelchairs and walkers should be able to traverse doorways at least 36 inches wide without trouble.

Improve bedroom accessibility

When you are working with a bedroom, you are limited to the space that you can use, but there are some truly great options that you can add to maximize your space and better leverage comfort.

  • Ceiling lifts – This is a kind of motorized lift that uses a track system in your ceiling to lift you out of your wheelchair and into your bed. Since it is a more complicated system, you will definitely need a professional service provider to complete the installation. 
  • Bed rails – These rails run along the sides of your bed to ensure that you don’t fall off the bed. They are also recommended for those who have issues causing them to move around in their sleep, with rail pads available to further protect from any injury. 
  • Grab bars not only help you get in and out of bed, but they can also help you sit up, roll over, or move around without assistance from a caregiver.  You can attach them to your bed, wall, or floor, depending on the construction.
  • Hand blocks are similar to grab bars, but these are portable weighted handles that are built for convenience. They can be attached to your headboard or bed frame to give you an added boost when you need to lift yourself to move or use a bedpan.
  • Rope ladders are a play on the hand blocks, attaching to your bed frame or headboard to work as an anchor when you need help pulling yourself up. 
  • Bed steps are an easy solution if you have a high bed that is giving you trouble when it comes time to climb in and out. 
  • Headboard pads are also a great option, especially if you move a lot in your sleep or spend a lot of time sitting up in bed.
  • Floor pads are also a great option to put around the bed for an extra cushion in case you fall off the bed.

Build your dream bed

Removing an old box spring and replacing it with a new, accommodating mattress and cozy sheets can help make your sleeping space more comfortable and sleep-inducing. There are a few different types of beds that can be helpful when you have a disability.

Mattress Buying Guide for Disabilities

Types of BedsTypes of Mattresses

Adjustable mattresses and bed frames are ideal because they allow users to adjust positions, elevate their head or legs and enjoy much easier entry and exit from the bed. Chair beds can be helpful because they move between a chair and bed with little fuss.A turning bed can be a way to help change positions when you can’t move positions on your own. A low-profile bed is one that usually sits within 10 inches of the floor, making it very easy to get into and alleviating the pain and pressure that are normally associated with higher beds. This is also a safer option if you are worried about rolling or falling off the bed at night because it sits so close to the floor.

Foam and gel mattresses provide temperature regulating capabilities.Foam and memory foam mattresses can help provide pressure relief to those who need it, and help increase sleep quality.Latex mattresses are supportive, durable, but can still provide relief to your pressure points and mold to the shape of your body.Exceptionally firm mattresses provide solid support for those who weigh ~230 pounds or more.

Who To Contact For Guidance

Outfitting your home with the appropriate assistive devices can seem like an overwhelming task and an expensive one at that. However, a physical or occupational therapist can provide a professional evaluation of your home and give the best advice regarding how and where to get the modification services you need. Your therapist can also help with specialized training on safe use and maintenance for your new modified equipment.

There are many organizations available to help you find the right support you need to make your home a safe and comfortable place again. 

Telephone NumberEmail Address/ ContactProcessing TimeAverage Grant Amount
Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Waivers877-267-2323Medicaid.gov@cms.hhs.gov30 months$7,617
Veterans Disability Housing Grants SAH GrantSHA GrantHISA Grant800-827-1000, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.sahinfo.vbaco@va.govVariesSAH grant: up to $90,364
SHA grant: up to $18,074 
HISA grant: up to $6,800 
HUD Home Improvement Loans800-767-7468answers@hud.govVariesUp to $25,000 or up to $60,000 for multi-family dwellings
Rural Repair and Rehabilitation Grants202-720-2791State Office InformationVaries by area$20,000
Rebuilding Together Safe at Home Heroes at Home National Rebuilding Day703-528-1999Online contact formWaitlistVaries
The Administration for Community Living(202) 401-4634Contact formVariesTotal of $547,000 per budget period
Muscular Dystrophy Family Foundation(317) 615-9140Financial Assistance ApplicationVariesVaries
BenefitsCheckUp® 1-800-794-6559Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm ET.Online search toolOne month or longerVaries
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Grants1-877-696-6775Contacts by departmentAverage of 1,447 daysVaries
U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD)(202) 708-1112Local Public Housing Agency (PHA) search toolVariesUp to a few months
U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) 1-866-4-USA-DOLOnline contact form798 daysVaries
Medicaid state programsVaries by stateVaries by stateVaries by state2019 maximum of $2,313 per month in income and $2,000 in countable resources for some states

The Bottom Line

Life with a disability certainly comes with its challenges, but it does not have to impact your sleep or home mobility. Today there are all kinds of tools, equipment and aids that can help you transition from your bed and into other areas of the home. 

Many disabilities, such as Parkinson’s and MS, can cause deterioration over time, meaning that even though you may feel strong today, you will likely need additional support in the future. You can retake control of your life or that of your loved one, and empower yourself through the mobility and accessibility that these bedroom modifications can give you, but it is not without some planning and budgeting. 

Many of these aids are very expensive and would remain largely unaffordable, if not for the additional support of government and private grant programs. However, you can also start slowly with things like grab bars and bed rails, giving you a chance to save up and wait for grant money while you get some extra help and preserve your mobility in the meantime.