In my spring 2022 Community article titled “Modify or Move?” I outlined a number of questions to answer to help determine if it makes more sense to modify your existing home, or move to a new home more suitable for your long-term needs.
The main questions to ask are:
What are your needs and your family’s needs now? How about 5 years from now? 10 years from now?
Is your current home suitable to modify?
I’ve worked with many families who made the decision to move because their homes were not suitable to modify. In many instances, stairs were the main determining factor in making the decision to move. If a home has too many stairs, the only solution is a mechanical lift to navigate the height difference.
The interior layout of a home is also a big consideration. Homes with small rooms and narrow hallways often require significant renovations to make them wheelchair accessible.
In addition to finding the right home, consider the community as well. The right home in the wrong location creates different problems and ultimately isn’t a long-term solution.
Most recently I helped Cynthia Berringer and her parents Robert and Maria, find their forever home and I’d like to share their story.
Cynthia is a teacher with the Peel District School Board and a ParaSport Ontario Ambassador for both swimming and downhill skiing. She was born with cerebral palsy and discovered parasport at the age of 12. Cynthia competed in swimming at the national level for 8 years and during that time she also competed internationally for 5 years with Team Canada.
In 2017 Cynthia purchased a one-bedroom condo in Etobicoke. She modified the bathroom to include a walk-in tub/shower, roll-under vanity and a pocket door. These renovations allowed her to live independently, but there were two major events that made her reconsider living in the condo. The first major event was the Covid-19 pandemic and the accompanying restrictions on elevator capacity and rules on visitors into the building. The second major event was a skiing accident last winter that left her dependent on a wheelchair for a month.
“They needed a home that was accessible for Cynthia, and for her parents to age in place; a forever home where all of them could live comfortably and safely.”
During these times she moved back home with her parents for physical and emotional support.
After Cynthia’s skiing accident, the family realized that the interior of the house was not well suited to accommodate her using a wheelchair, nor suitable to renovate. The front entrance had 5 steps up to the main level, the main floor hallway was narrow, the bathroom was small, the family room addition was built at a different level and the stairs presented a significant barrier. This home would require very substantial renovation investment to make it accessible.
Cynthia, Maria and Robert made the decision to look for a home that would be suitable in the long term for all three of them. They needed a home that was accessible for Cynthia, and for her parents to age in place; a forever home where all of them could live comfortably and safely.
Being proactive and planning ahead is the key to achieving independence at home, and the Berringer family is the perfect example.
Another great example is a family I worked with last year. Their one-bedroom condo could not easily be reconfigured to add a separate room for overnight guests or a future live-in caregiver, so they decided to move to a larger condo unit within the same building. The new condo had a large den that they converted into a separate room, and the best part of the move was staying in the same building and the community that they loved.
I’m happy to report the Berringer family found the perfect home and are very excited about moving in. The house was custom-built to be wheelchair accessible; there is a landscaped entrance ramp, wide hallways, large main floor bathroom, eat in kitchen, spacious bedrooms and a main floor laundry room. And the house is located just a short commute to Cynthia’s work.
Choosing to move is a big decision, especially for a person with a disability. You need to know where you’re moving to before deciding to leave. All of this requires a lot of planning, coordinating and work, but in the end, the perfect home will be well worth it.