medical college education research patient care departments
Injury Prevention Product Safety Assessment Articles NYC Resources Hoarding

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find information on home safety for people with dementia?

The comprehensive booklet, Home Safety for People with Alzheimer's Disease, (National Institute on Aging) identifies potential problems in the home and offers possible solutions. The booklet contains a room-by-room checklist, along with a description of specific impairments associated with the disease that can create particular safety hazards in the home.

Another booklet, "The Caring Home Booklet: Environmental Coping Strategies for Alzheimer's Caregivers " is available on-line at in the library section.

For a short handout on home safety, GEM recommends the following two documents, both produced by the Alzheimer's Association:

Fact Sheet on Safety

Steps to Enhancing Your Home: Modifying the Environment

Back to Top

What types of home modification and adaptive equipment does Medicare pay for?

Unfortunately, Medicare pays for only "durable medical equipment" that is considered "medically necessary". For example, Medicare does not pay for grab bars or bath seats as these are considered "convenience items". Examples of covered items are wheelchairs, walkers, and hospital beds. To learn more about what Medicare does and doesn't pay for, please go to our write-up on Medicare coverage.

Back to Top

What safety hazards should I look for when conducting a home safety evaluation?

GEM has a home safety assessment form that can guide you in both detecting environmental hazards and finding possible solutions. On our website, we also have an excellent fall safety assessment from the Centers for Disease Control.

Back to Top

Is a tenant allowed to make modifications to their rental apartments?

The federal law Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) mandates that landlords must allow tenants with impairments to make "reasonable" modifications in both common use areas and in private apartments. Residents of New York City are also covered under NYC's Human Rights Law, one of the most comprehensive in the country. NYC's Human Rights Law requires the landlord to provide and pay for "reasonable accommodations", which can include structural changes.

What is deemed "reasonable" will vary from situation to situation. The law takes into account the nature and cost of the accommodation and the financial resources of the landlord. "Under the NYC Human Rights Law, a landlord must accommodate the needs of a person with a disability, including paying for structural changes, if the accommodation is deemed reasonable". "Reasonable Accommodations" can also involve changes in policy or rules, such as permitting a tenant who is blind to have a guide doe even though the building has a "no pet" policy.

Back to Top

What are considered "reasonable" modifications that tenants are allowed to make to their individual dwelling units?

Examples of reasonable modifications include:

  • installing grab bars in the bathroom
  • installing special faucets
  • widening doorways
  • installing wheel-in showers
  • lowering countertops

A landlord is entitled to ask for a description of the proposed modifications, proof that they will be done in a workmanlike manner and evidence that all the necessary building permits if needed, will be obtained.

If you plan to modify the unit in a way that would affect the usability of the space by a future tenant (such as replacing the bathtub with a walk-in/roll-in shower) the landlord may require you to pay into an escrow account the amount estimated for the restoration. The widening of doorways would not have to be restored as this modification would not effect the next tenants' use of the apartment.

New York City's Commission on Human Rights brochure, "Reasonable Accommodation in Housing Is the Law", describes the law and lists examples of possible accommodations and environmental modifications that tenants can make. To obtain a copy, contact the Commission on Human Rights at 212-306-7530. The same information is available in text format on their website at

Back to Top

What should I do if my landlord refuses me permission to make changes to my apartment?

The NYC Commission on Human Rights has a brochure, "Reasonable Accommodation in Housing Is the Law", that describes the landlord's legal responsibilities regarding a tenant's right to make reasonable changes to both the public and private areas to accommodate their disability. If the landlord is denying you or a client permission to make modifications, GEM recommends that you give him/her a copy of their brochure. To obtain a copy, contact the Commission on Human Rights at 212-306-7530. The same information is available in text format on their website at Under the section "For the Consumer" click on Disability Issues and the click on "Reasonable Accommodation in Housing Is the Law".

After receiving the brochure, if the landlord still refuses permission, contact the Commission on Human Rights at 212-306-7450. If they decide your situation has legal merit, they will contact the landlord and inform them of your legal rights. If the landlord is still not willing to accommodate your requests, NYC Human Rights Commission will then refer the case to the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, where it will be prosecuted before an administrative law judge. "At any time during the course of a proceeding, if appropriate, a settlement agreement may be reached. After trial, the judge will issue a Report and Recommendation: if the judge determines that the respondent engaged in unlawful discrimination, he or she will recommend appropriate remedies, which may include the imposition of civil penalties of up to $100,000. A panel of commissioners will review the decision of the judge and will issue a Decision and Order in the case. A Decision and Order can be appealed to the State Supreme Court." This information is directly from NYC's Commission on Human Rights web page on "How to File a Compliant" at

Back to Top

My client recently had a stroke and is now using a wheelchair. The building he lives in is not accessible; there are three steps at the buildings' entrance. Is his landlord required to pay for and build a ramp?

The City's Human Rights Law may require landlords (and coop/condo boards) to build ramps to accommodate a tenant's disability, if the cost is not an undue financial hardship for the landlord. For more information, contact the New York City Commission on Human Rights at (212) 306-7500. Q. What are the best locations for installing grab bars in the bathtub area? A. The placement of wall-mounted grab bars depends on many factors: bathtub placement, wall structure, plumbing layout, user's physical characteristics, method of bathing (full emersion or shower). Please see our write-up on General Guidelines for Grab Bar Locations for more information.

Back to Top

My client, who lives alone, cannot afford the monthly fees for a personal emergency response unit (PERS). Are there any programs that can offer financial assistance?

Yes, The Red Cross offers reduced fees through their "In-Touch" Program (212) 875-2224. Normal monthly service fees are $35 but on a case-by-case basis, they may be able to offer financial assistance. A person must be utilizing the services of a community agency to be eligible.

Back to Top
New York-Presbyterian. The University Hospitals of Columbia and Cornell