There is a lot we can do to ensure our family’s health and safety. In our daily lives, we can encourage healthy habits and identify potential safety hazards to avoid. Looking toward the future, we can seek home, vehicle, and life insurance in case of an emergency. While there are so many situations we can — and do — prepare for, there are plenty we overlook. A sudden disability, for example, is an occurrence that families rarely plan for, and it can be emotionally and financially overwhelming. It’s important to understand all that’s involved when a family member is disabled after an accident or is diagnosed with a physical impairment.
Like any new lifestyle change, a person’s recently-acquired disability will require time to adjust, not only for themselves but for their family members, as well. While this can be a time of great emotional struggle, for many families it can also prove to be a bonding experience that strengthens family relationships. Depending on the disability, a family may need to adjust to a new schedule with medical appointments, new mobility equipment throughout the home, and/or the long-term care needs of their relative.
These new changes will not only be time-consuming, but they can be financially draining, as well. Take, for example, a person who has lost the ability to walk and is confined to a wheelchair. This person requires certain home modifications and mobility throughout the home to give a wheelchair full access, like wider hallways, larger bathrooms, and lowered countertops. A child diagnosed with a birth injury, like Erb’s palsy, might require more inclusive fixtures to better accommodate limited mobility in the arm or hand. Examples include rocker light switches, lamps with touch sensors, and door handles, to name a few. These particular features are highly recommended for a person with limited fine motor skills.
Technology can also take on a new meaning for the disabled and their families. Apps that provide home safety features for families can be especially helpful for a person with limited mobility. With the touch of a button on their iPad, a person with home safety technology (depending on the software) can turn the lights on or off in the home, change the thermostat, lock or unlock doors, or call for emergency help if needed. These services can give more freedom and control to a person with limited mobility or a physical impairment.
As previously mentioned, these home modifications can add up. To preserve some of the family’s savings and aid in the costs associated with a home renovation project, there are several financial avenues available to explore.
In some circumstances, a family may be able to take legal action against the party that caused the permanent disability. We often don’t think of this as viable option while adjusting to a new situation, but for many people, these lawsuit settlements can provide a great deal of financial support for both home modifications and other needs that might arise in the future. A family whose child suffered a birth injury due to medical malpractice might consider seeking legal action on behalf of their child. For example, families may file a cerebral palsy lawsuit to combat the exponential costs of long-term care.
For those in which legal action isn’t an option, there are also several great loan options that are specific to home improvements. First, there is the FHA Title 1 loan provided by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The FHA is not the lender (you have to go to a private FHA-approved lender), but it does ensure the loan making it less risky for lenders and easier to obtain for borrowers. An FHA Title 1 loan can be used for a broad number of home improvements to make a home more functional and livable which is perfect for someone who needs disability-based modifications in their home.
Second, a Section 203(k) loan is another FHA-backed loan that many homeowners use for broader home improvements. Again, these loans can be easier to obtain because they are insured by the FHA. The standard 203(k) has no price cap or a higher maximum depending on the state, which can make it a better option for larger home improvement projects. It is important to remember that these two solutions are loans; a steady income and some savings may be required to cover the payments. If you already have significant debt accumulated, these might not be the most viable options for you or your family.
For those who are struggling financially with a disability, but are unable to obtain a loan, consider seeking out your local advocacy group. Organizations like the National Council on Independent Living often have a part of their budget set aside to assist with home modifications or other costly needs. To find your local Center for Independent Living, call 703-525-3406 today.
Living with a disability or adjusting to a family member’s disability can be difficult, but it shouldn’t leave you with a financial hardship. There are products and resources available to help you carry the financial burden, make life easier, and renovate a home to be more inclusive for the whole family.