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Managing Your Own Home

Aids and Adaptations

There is a huge range of devices or aids which can assist you to live as independently as possible. Some of these items could be useful wherever you live, but they are particularly relevant if you are living alone in your own home. It is also possible to have adaptations carried out to your house or flat so that, even if you have limited mobility, you will be able to continue living there.


In addition to specialist manufacturers and retailers of Aids to Living equipment, there are also about 40 Disabled Living Centres across the UK – all of which display a wide range of equipment and have staff to offer advice. Getting proper advice is vital, to ensure that your purchases are suitable, safe and cost effective.

The range of aids covers simple pieces of equipment such as specially designed cutlery, crockery, tap handles, grip handles for reaching or picking up things, amplifiers for telephones and magnifiers for reading or watching television. For personal care, such things as commodes, raised lavatory seats, devices to lower you into and raise you from the bath are all available. Even more complex equipment such as powered hoists and powered beds can also be obtained.

For more information, call the Disabled Living Foundation Helpline on 0845 130 9177, or visit www.dlf.org.uk.


How the Occupational Therapist can help

Many of the above items can be provided by, or organised for you by Social Services. If you feel that you have need of these types of assistance you should first contact the social worker – and ask whether you meet the criteria for an assessment by an Occupational Therapist (OT). We give more information about this in the Section on The Role of Social Services. Unfortunately, OTs are in short supply and there may be a wait before you can obtain an appointment. If you meet the criteria, the OT will undertake a comprehensive and expert appraisal of your physical ability and needs, and will advise you on what might be provided or is available. Many of the items will be provided free of charge but some authorities may ask you to make a contribution towards costs. Larger, more expensive items, such as motorised armchairs and beds, may need special disability funding grants. However, from April 2003, subject to legislative procedure, these charges will be eliminated. The government has, in fact, recently announced extra funding for equipment – and your local Primary Care Trust will also be sharing equipment resources. This should all mean that obtaining the equipment you need becomes easier and quicker.

Adaptations to your home will also need funding and the OT will be the best source of advice. Such things as additional handrails on the stairs, other wall gripper bars, ramps, replacement of baths by showers, lowered or raised working surfaces or stair lifts can all help immensely in making living at home a realistic choice instead of an impossibility. It may even be possible to have internal lifts fitted within your own premises. It is, of course, also possible to get adaptations of this sort done privately if you can afford to pay for it. If you have a Home Improvement Agency in your area, they may also help with adaptations.

The Health and Safety regulations now stipulate that employees should not endanger their own health, particularly their backs, when caring for people who are not able to move independently. Any care organisation moving you around, therefore, may supply or require additional equipment to assist staff in such tasks.

It should be noted that, as part of a care package, you will not be charged by your local authority for either loans of equipment or for making home adaptations, costing up to £1000 in each case.


Wheelchairs and mobility aids

Wheelchairs and mobility aids can be obtained privately, or may be made available by the NHS. These include powered and manual wheelchairs, walking sticks, crutches and walking frames. If these items are provided by the NHS, there will be no charge, but a returnable deposit may be required in some cases.

Your Occupational Therapist (OT) will be able to advise on your needs for mobility aids as part of your general assessment. However, if you need a wheelchair your GP will normally have to ‘refer’ you to the NHS wheelchair service. An OT or NHS physiotherapist should be available to advise choice and fit to your particular needs.

The NHS long term wheelchair service is free, but only standard models and limited choice will be available. If you decide to purchase a wheelchair independently, NHS vouchers may be available to put against the cost. It may also be possible to obtain charitable help in purchasing a wheelchair. For information concerning sources of funding for elderly people in need, contact: Charity Search. Tel: 0117 982 4060.

You can purchase a wide range of Mobility Aids budget furniture, commodes and many other items of medical supplies at unbeatable prices by clicking onto this link to Medisave. Secure on-line ordering.


Home Repairs and Maintenance

It is a well established fact that poorly maintained homes are more likely to belong to older people. Maintaining the living condition of your house or flat is crucial to your well being. Indeed, a key factor in older people having to give up their homes and to seek long term residential or nursing care is the unsuitability or poor condition of their own accommodation.

It should be noted that research shows that more than 60% of fatal domestic accidents occur to people of age 60 and over.

Whilst the sheer cost of building work is an over-riding consideration, there may well be anxiety about the integrity and competence of builders. Stories of builders claiming, falsely, that extensive work is necessary, or of them charging excessive sums for doing very little, are rife. Such practices do nothing to instil confidence in the public and older people especially often feel very vulnerable to being ‘ripped off’ in this way.


Home Improvement Agencies

In many parts of the country you can now find Home Improvement Agencies which will provide excellent support and assistance, to ensure that essential repairs are done competently by reputable builders.

The agencies will be able to offer technical expertise, to ensure that work you commission is identified and specified properly. They will also have case management skills to assist in obtaining essential grants or funding to pay for, or help pay for, the work. The agency should also be able to supply a list of reputable builders in your area and will even supervise the work, if you wish. There will be a charge for the use of the Home Improvement Agency, but it will be a very small proportion of the total cost of work, and invaluable for the technical expertise and reassurance provided. You can find your nearest Home Improvement Agencies using this online search facility.

If there is no Home Improvement Agency in your area your local authority planning department might be prepared to recommend a builder. It is wise in any case always to obtain two or three estimates and to ask each builder to specify exactly what they consider needs doing. You will then be able to determine a general agreement about the necessary work. It is wise also to ask a builder to provide one or two previous customer references. These customers may be willing to let you see the work the builder has done for them or, at the least, would be prepared to tell you whether or not they were satisfied.


Help with Technology


The most obvious and most common use of technology to support people at home is an Alarm Service. This will enable you to contact help rapidly in case of an emergency, such as a fall or the sudden onset of illness. Even though you may not feel the immediate need of an alarm, the fact that it is installed will be reassuring to friends and family. This should be an important consideration.

The main feature of all alarm systems is the connection to a call centre, with staff on duty at all times. These staff will be trained to respond appropriately to calls. This response might include alerting someone on your pre-advised list of people who can be contacted in an emergency.

There are many different kinds of personal alarm systems. Some involve wearing an unobtrusive pendant or bracelet, whilst others can be voice-activated.


In general, there are two methods of obtaining an alarm system:

  • purchasing the equipment and then paying a quarterly charge for the monitoring service. Likely costs would be £200 for the equipment and £75 per quarter for the service.
  • renting will involve an inclusive charge covering the equipment and the monitoring service. Typically, this would cost around £130 per annum in total.



This is another form of alarm system which is activated, not by your pressing a pad on a pendant or bracelet, but by a marked change in normal living patterns.

With this system in place, a pattern is built up over a period of several weeks, by a small computerised unit within your home. If this pattern then changes noticeably, the call centre will alert a source of help to visit you. Factors triggering the alert may be the fridge not being opened during the times of day you would normally make a meal, the lavatory not being flushed a longer than normal period, or your failing to answer an exploratory telephone call, etc.

The great advantage of this type of system is that it can be effective even if you are unconscious, or too ill to use a normal alarm.

More Local Authorities are now introducing Telecare monitoring systems – but widespread availability will be sometime coming.


Security aids

Security is a major source of anxiety for older people and there are a variety of products which can help to make your home safer from intruders:

  • A keypad door entry system
  • A door entry system with closed circuit television so that you can see who is at the door
  • A safe for keys to enable essential visitors/staff to obtain entry to your home, even if you are unable to get to the door.


Smart homes

On a small but growing scale is the development of what are known as ‘Smart Homes’. This technology is usually best incorporated in new-build environments, because it is much more expensive to adapt existing homes. ‘Smart Home’ technology will: open and shut windows; open and shut curtains; run baths; turn heating on and off; switch lights, TV or radio, on and off; turn ovens on or off; raise or lower the heights of working surfaces or cupboards; and, generally, assist with almost any of the routine tasks of daily living!


Shopping services

The technological revolution has made it easier for large stores to provide shopping services for people who are housebound. Indeed, many people are now taking advantage of the convenience of telephone or internet ordering, for home delivery.

In addition to the services provided by the larger stores, there may also be specific local shopping services in your area. A call to your local Social Services Department will be the best way of finding more details.


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