Home adaptations for disabled older people

Home adaptations for elderly individuals with disabilities.

Older adults can begin to struggle living independently at home if they start to encounter more mobility limitations, cognitive struggles, dexterity issues, and more. Home adaptations can be a helpful way of making their house safer and easier to use, enabling them to stay independent for longer while remaining in the home that they know and love. 

Here, we are exploring home adaptations for older adults with disabilities, the benefits of adapting your home instead of moving, how your home might be adapted for your needs, what to consider when pursuing home adaptations, some of the most common adaptations available, how to fund them, and where to get further advice on adapting your home as an older person with a disability.  

At Home Instead, our aim is to help people age positively and in place by bringing expert care to their home. For nearly 20 years, we have been providing the highest standard of care, and creating industry-leading training programmes for our Care Professionals that are accredited by nursing and medical professionals. Today, we are the world’s largest global home care network, supporting over 100,000 older adults with personalised, tailored care at home. So whatever questions you have about home adaptations, we can help. 

What are home adaptations? 

Home adaptationsare modifications made to a home to accommodate the specific needs of an older person with a disability or additional needs. These could be mobility challenges, dexterity issues or cognitive struggles. 

By either removing or adding certain objects or devices to the home, adaptations can enhance accessibility, safety and comfort within an older person’s home environment, which allows them to continue living independently and could improve their quality of life by making difficult tasks easier, and providing peace of mind when it comes to their safety. 

Adaptations could be things like: 

  • Having a stairlift fitted to make going up and down the stairs safer and easier 
  • Installing grab rails in areas where levels change, both inside and outside the house 
  • Installing a walk-in shower instead of a bath to make bathing easier and safer
  • Installing aids to make getting on and off the toilet easier 
  • Building an outdoor ramp to help wheelchair users or those with mobility issues access the home
  • Lowering kitchen countertops to make meal preparation and cooking easier
  • Installing community alarms to alert local operators or family members to any falls or other emergencies
home adaptations for disabled

What are the benefits of home adaptations? 

For those hoping to stay in their own home for as long as possible, home adaptations make a lot of sense and can offer many benefits for older people with a disability. Some of the benefits of home adaptations include: 

  • Making life and everyday tasks easier, which can significantly improve quality of life
  • Promoting independence by enabling individuals to perform daily tasks without assistance
  • Enhancing accessibility to areas of the home 
  • Reducing the risk of falls, accidents and injuries by making the environment safer
  • Facilitating more socialising by making it easier for others to visit the home 
  • Potentially alleviating some of the tasks performed by the caregiver, making their work easier and freeing them up to provide more stimulating activities 
  • Alleviating the need to move to a new home, assisted living facility or care home (which may also be a more cost-effective solution) 

Home adaptations are installed to make the lives of older adults easier and safer. In one study – which involved adapting the bathrooms and other areas in 15 homes belonging to older adults – found that participants reported improved safety, independence, ease of use, positive feelings, and comfort after home adaptations were made. Perceived levels of difficulty during certain activities were reduced by 93.4%, quality of life was improved by 9.8%, and fear of falling was reduced by 12.5%.

By making a few changes – sometimes small, simple ones – you could start to feel more confident staying in your own home, spend less time figuring out how to do things in a house that is not designed for your needs, and spend more time on activities you enjoy and with people you love. 

How can I get home adaptations?

As an older disabled person living in the UK, there are a number of ways you can access home adaptations. According to advice from Age UK, the first step is usually to contact your local council to arrange a Care Needs Assessment, which is done to determine whether you are eligible for certain types of care and support. Home adaptations are also covered by this assessment, and you can read more about it in our dedicated guide: The Care Needs Assessment.

If your financial situation meets the criteria, your local council should pay for any minor home adaptations that cost less than £1,000, such as grab rails and ramps. Major home adaptations requiring building work are likely to be more expensive, so the council may not cover this. If this is the case for you, you may be eligible for funding through a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) – more on this later. 

If you do not meet the financial requirements to be considered for home adaptations, you can reach out to independent providers that you can pay for yourself, and they will recommend what you need and install it for you. 

home adaptations for disabled

What should I consider when deciding which home adaptations to make? 

If you seek a Care Needs Assessment for home adaptations, you will be assessed based on your needs and offered the adaptations they believe can help you stay safe at home and improve your quality of life. If you are funding your own home adaptations, you have the choice of what should be installed or what should be done in your home. This could be something as simple as installing a grab rail by the toilet to make it easier to use, or it could be a bigger job such as lowering the kitchen countertops so they are accessible for wheelchair users. 

Usually if you reach out to a company that specialises in home adaptations for older people, they can make a home visit and recommend what they believe could be the most useful adaptations for you. However, if you are deciding what to install yourself, you may want to ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • What is your biggest challenge each day in the home?
  • Are you planning to stay in the home you are in now for a long time?
  • Does the layout of your home work for your needs? 
  • Where could you make use of grab rails to make moving around safer?
  • Are any areas of your home slippy or difficult to walk on? 
  • Is every area of your home well-lit?
  • Are there any obstacles in the way when moving around your home? Would they be safer elsewhere?
  • If you are in a wheelchair or using a walker, are all of your doorways wide enough? 
  • Are you unable to carry out certain tasks that you used to do easily? If so, why? Is there a way to make these tasks easy again?
  • Is your health condition likely to progress further, and will you need future home adaptations as a result?
  • Has your doctor recommended any home adaptations based on your health needs? 
  • Could any simple changes enhance your comfort around the home?
  • Are the home adaptations you would like to make possible within your budget? If not, would a move to a new property, assisted living facility or care home be more helpful for your current situation? You may find our guide on this helpful: The Benefits Of Home Care vs A Care Home.

Sometimes if you have lived in a property for a long time and see it every day, you may not notice or realise some solutions that could make life safer or easier. For this reason, having an independent assessor come to look at your home – or even a friend who doesn’t spend a lot of time there – can help. With fresh eyes, they may be able to recommend adaptations that you have not yet thought of, and address any safety concerns to ensure the changes you are aiming to make will really help.

What are some of the most common home adaptations? 

There are many possible home adaptations, and if you have very specific needs, you should always discuss this either at your Care Needs Assessment or with the independent company you have tasked with adapting your home. Often, bespoke options can be created from scratch to fit the size of your home, your personal needs, and even your aesthetic preferences. Some of the most common disability equipment and adaptations requested for older adults living with a disability include: 

  • Grab rails and bars: You may have seen these fixed to the wall in other homes. They can be either metal or plastic, and provide something to hold onto while moving in a high risk area. For example, this could be installed inside a shower for added safety, or along a ramp or outdoor steps to make climbing them easier. Grab rails can reduce the risk of falls. In fact research has found that home fall‐hazard interventions such as grab rails are effective in reducing the rate of falls in older adults. 
  • Ramps and lifts: By installing a ramp or a stairlift, an older person can make it to the top of stairs more easily and safely. For a home with different levels, this may be an essential adaptation as many older people will eventually find climbing stairs difficult. 
  • Bathroom modifications: In most houses the bathroom tends to have non-carpeted flooring, which could cause a slip hazard when wet. Since an older person may be trying to get in and out of the shower or the bath when bathing, it can be helpful to add things like walk-in showers, shower seats, grab rails, raised toilets and more, in order to make the bathroom area safer and more accessible. 
  • Wider doorways: If you are a wheelchair user, doorways in your home can be widened in order to make it possible to fit through easily.
  • Kitchen adaptations: If you are a wheelchair user, preparing food and cooking can be difficult if you cannot reach the kitchen countertops, so having them lowered is a common adaptation that can make a huge difference. Other adaptations such as pull-out shelves, adapted utensils and different handles on cabinets can make kitchen tasks easier. 
  • Bed adaptations: For those who struggle to safely get in and out of bed, or who may be up a lot during the night, a bed that can be adjusted in height can make it easier to get in and out of without injury. Other handy adaptations could be a railing along the side of the bed to prevent falls, or special cushions to avoid bed sores. 
  • Voice activated controls: For those with mobility or dexterity issues, smart home automation features such as voice-activated controls can make it easier for a person to do things like turn on their heating, ask for help, and more.

By making some of these adaptations and ensuring they are personalised to your needs, you can enjoy increased independence, safety, and comfort within your own home.

How can I fund home adaptations? 

As mentioned above, you can either fund home adaptations yourself, or apply for a Care Needs Assessment and speak to your local council about the financial benefits you may be entitled to, such as Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA), or Attendance Allowance. These benefits can help cover the costs associated with your disability, including home adaptations.

 You may learn more information about this in our guides: 

When speaking to your local council about what options may be available to you, you may wish to discuss the possibility of a means-tested Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG), which is provided by local councils to help fund necessary adaptations to the homes of older adults in order to improve accessibility and safety. The amount you will receive depends on your income and savings, as well as the cost of the adaptations. The maximum mandatory DFG in England is £30,000, and you may be eligible for major adaptations up to this amount if you have impaired sight, hearing or speech, a cognitive condition, you are physically disabled, or have another eligible reason. 

If you do not qualify for a Disabled Facilities Grant, your local council may also be able to recommend additional grants or financial support for home adaptations beyond this. 

Outside of these options, you can also reach out to your Housing Association if you have one, charitable organisations in your area, or a Home Improvement Agency (HIA) which are not-for-profit organisations run by local authorities. 

If you are unsure about where to begin with home adaptations, it can help to enlist the assistance of a Care Professional who can take a look at your situation, provide care where needed, and refer you to the appropriate organisations who can recommend adaptations to help you feel more comfortable, safer, or happier at home. If you have any questions at all about how this works, please feel free to reach out to our team

Home Instead is an award-winning home care provider and part of a worldwide organisation devoted to providing the highest-quality relationship-led care for older people in their own homes. Arranging care for yourself or your loved one shouldn’t be stressful, so whatever questions you would like answered, feel free to reach out to the Home Instead team to discuss your needs. 

Michelle Tennant

Michelle Tennant, Clinical Governance Lead

I am a Registered Nurse of 20 years and have been in the care sector since I was 17 years old, I have had experience in every role that exists in a care company, including Registered Manager, care consultant, recruiter, scheduling, auditing, complaints, and networking! My role in the National office is Clinical Governance Lead, and most recently have been working with DHSC and Chief Nurse Deborah Sturdy to develop a clinical governance framework for the delegated healthcare activities in social care, I am continuing to take the lead on our Healthcare at Home service and drive this in the network. In addition to my nursing role, I’m 4 years into my PhD in Aging at Lancaster University, with a key focus on the retention of Care Professionals in the social care sector.