Adaptive living: aids, adaptations, and assistive technologies

It can be a worrying prospect to find that you no longer feel safe in your own home. Fortunately, there are a whole host of aids, adaptations, and assistive technologies that can allow you to continue living independently in your own home, happily and safely.

Adaptive living helps to make your home more accessible. This doesn’t simply mean making it easier to get in and out of your property but allowing you to live in your home the same way as everyone else. It may be the case that the most suitable option for you is to move home but if your home can be adapted then you may be able to remain in your home for many years to coming.

Aids and adaptations include things such as handrails, lever taps, and ramps through to more complicated interventions such as level access showers and stair lifts. You may also consider assistive technologies (telecare), which include devices such as personal alarms and medication dispensers. Whatever you need, there is an abundance of adaptations that could help you or your loved one feel safer and more secure at home. After all, research has shown that remaining in your own home can provide the best health outcomes and these small adaptations can make this a reality.

Aids and Adaptations

Aids and adaptations may be recommended by a doctor or social worker, suggested by friends and family, or you may come across them yourself. No matter how you come across them, knowing what is available can be a great first step to identifying the adaptations that could improve your life.

Aids and adaptations may target these different aspects of daily life:

  • Moving around your home
  • Getting up and down stairs
  • Getting up and dressed
  • Washing, bathing, and using the toilet
  • In the kitchen

They may also help if you are living with any of the following:

  • Sight problems
  • Hearing loss
  • Combined hearing and sight loss
  • Memory loss

Minor adaptations are small home improvements to the home of a disabled person that allow them to live independently. These may include:

  • Hand rails or grab rails – to aid with stability, balance, and prevent falls
  • Lever taps – including self-closing and elbow operated
  • Bathing equipment – including bath boards, pillows, and slip mats
  • Police approved key safe

Major adaptations are permanent works to the home of an individual with permanent or substantial disability. These may include:

  • Access ramps and wheelchair lifts
    • If you are a wheelchair user or use other mobility aids, a few small steps can be a huge barrier
      • Access ramps or wheelchair lifts can mean that you can get from room to room with ease
      • The type of ramp you need will depend on the equipment you use and the size of the steps
      • Companies such as The Wheelchair People can provide access ramps
  • Stair lifts
    • Being able to get up and down the stair with ease can transform your living situation and mean you don’t have to move home
      • Age UK provide advice on stair lift installation and have links to reputable suppliers, including Stannah and Handicare
  • Changes to the layout of your home
    • Widening doorways for wheelchair users
      • Bathroom conversion to install a level access shower
      • Adding a downstairs toilet or bathroom to reduce reliance on stairs
      • Installing low level kitchen units
      • New heating or lighting systems
      • House extensions (in exceptional cases)

Assistive Technology: Telecare

Beyond aids and adaptations, assistive technology, also known as telecare or telehealth, is widely available to improve the safety and quality of vulnerable and disabled people’s lives. When incorporated into a personal care place, these technologies can transform people’s lives – and those who care for them. It also allows reliable care to be provided at home without vast numbers of staff, which is preferable to many families and the elderly.

There are lots of choices available to meet your needs. These technologies are often complex systems that can be used with simple gestures: touchscreen, voice, gestures, waving, tapping.

Examples of telecare that you may want to consider, include:

  • Safety monitors and home care alerts
  • Emergency bracelets for falls
  • Tracking devices to keep your loved from wandering or to locate them if they go missing – they may also include a panic button
  • Door alarms which send an alert if your loved one leaves
  • Chair alarms if your loved one leaves their chair when you aren’t in the room with them
  • Enuresis sensor to help identify if your loved one experiences urinary incontinence during the night
  • Fall detectors
  • Cold monitors
  • Pill dispensers
  • Door entry intercom

Where to find them?

Your local authority may provide the aids and adaptations you need or you may choose to do the work yourself. Shopping online can be one of the easiest ways to find the products and services you need. A great starting point is with the Disabled Living Foundation, who provide impartial advice and support on suppliers throughout the UK.

It’s important to know what aids and adaptations you need and how much you are willing to spend before you begin your search. Next, you need to find reliable tradespeople with reasonable fees. Your local Home Improvement Agency (HIA) can provide some invaluable support and advice on where to buy products. To find your local HIA, please refer to one of the following websites:

Another great way of finding reputable tradespeople and companies is through reading reviews on products and customer service If your trader doesn’t have reviews online you can ask them to provide testimonials from previous clients. Websites include:

How do you pay for them?

There are many ways to pay for aids and adaptations, from local authority support to equity release schemes. The financial support you can access will depend on the adaptations you need and your home situation, including disabilities and finances.

Local Authority Support

Your local authority must provide community equipment and minor adaptations to your home free of charge. In England, specialist disability equipment is provided free of charge if recommended by the local authority after your assessment.

If the adjustments are minor (less than £1,000) then social services should fund the changes and the adaptations should be funded free of charge. For adjustments costing more than £1,000, you may still receive local authority support but this will depend on your financial situation. In any case, it’s still worth applying.

If following your care assessment, it is decided that you don’t have any eligible needs, your local authority may not provide you with any equipment or adaptations but they must still give you free information and advice, such as on where to buy equipment.

Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG)

DFGs are administered and paid for by your local authority’s housing department and you can usually only receive one for work that your local authority has assessed you as needing. Moreover, your local authority has a legal duty to provide a DFG for adaptations in certain circumstances. They are also available to both homeowners and renters.

It’s a means-tested grant and there is an upper limit on how much you can receive but it won’t affect any benefits you receive. Your local council will also take into account any savings over £6,000. They may then offer a contribution towards or cover the full cost of changes. In England it’s possible to receive up to£30,000. If you’re a council tenant, the council should pay for major adaptations that you’ve been assessed as needing.

You can apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant through your local council. To find out more about DFGs and how to apply, just click HERE.

Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs)

Home Improvement Agencies help elderly people make adaptions to their home to allow them live as independently as possible. They not only offer invaluable advice and support, but can sometimes offer funding in their mission to help the elderly live with dignity.

To find out whether there is an HIA in your area, contact your local council’s housing department. To find your local HIA, you can also check out the following links:

Equity Release

Equity release is the various ways in which income can be generated from your parents’ home. It allows cash to be released from the home without the obligation of moving.

Boost your income

Make sure you check whether your entitled to any other benefits. Many people who need help with care will qualify for a disability benefit – either Personal Independence Payment or Attendance Allowance depending on their age. Neither benefit is means-tested so your income and savings won’t be taken into account.

At Home Instead, we can help you arrange home care for yourself or a loved one, so that you can keep living safely in familiar surroundings.