Equipment and assistive technology

There are many ways to adapt the home of the person you care for, to make it safer and more accessible. Some adaptations, aids and technology may also help you in your caring role. An assessment from an occupational therapist can help you to find out what is available, as well as assessing what would be most appropriate for the person that you care for.

Aids and equipment
Adaptations
Assistive technology (AT) and telecare
Where can I find out more about the full range of aids, equipment and adaptations available?
Help through the council or GP
The person I care for is in hospital and is going to need some equipment when they get home
How much will I have to pay towards any aids and adaptations?
How do I arrange an assessment from an occupational therapist?
The person I care for needs a wheelchair, can I get one?
How do you get a powered wheelchair or mobility scooter?

Aids and equipment

Aids and pieces of equipment are readily available to keep people independent and safe at home. They can help with physical tasks, to overcome a sensory impairment, or as prompts for those with memory problems. The equipment can range from small gadgets, such as a doorbell that lights up, to larger aids, such as a hoist for getting in/out of a bath.

Adaptations 

Adaptations are changes to the structure of the house.  A straightforward and inexpensive change like fitting a grab rail by the front door or toilet, can make everyday living easier and safer.

Major home adaptations may be necessary if the person you care for has a permanent and substantial disability. Larger scale adaptations could include installing a wet room or fitting a stairlift.

Assistive technology (AT) and telecare

Assistive technology is a range of electronic aids that can help someone live independently but can also alert a carer if there is a problem. Some of the technology can enable a person in need of care and support to feel more confident being by themselves – and this may help you to have a break.

There are alarm and sensor systems, some of which require the person you care for to wear a pendant or something similar. If help is needed they press this and will be connected to a monitoring centre. Some systems can detect if someone has fallen, gone out or even left a tap on, and do not require the person to actually press the device.

Assistive technology can benefit many people but is growing fast in demand for people with memory problems. The Alzheimer’s Society has a guide to assistive technology.

Where can I find out more about the full range of aids, equipment and adaptations available? 

If you can, go and visit your nearest Home Independence Centre which showcases aids, adaptations and technology. You can try out things and see adapted bathrooms and kitchens. It is best to make an appointment so a member of staff can show you round and answer any questions. They can advise you on what would be available through the NHS or your local council or where you can purchase privately.

In Bristol, West of England (WE) Care and Repair, have a Home Independence Centre in St Phillips. Make an appointment by calling 0300 323 0700 and find out more on the West of England Care and Repair website.

WE Care and Repair also offer occupational therapy home assessments for which there is a charge.

In South Gloucestershire there is a Home Adaptations Centre in Yate. The Celestine Centre is a fully adapted property which can be visited by ‘prior appointment’ to show how a variety of disabled adaptations can look and work within a normal home setting. Items on show at the house include; a through floor stairlift, automatic toilet, high low kitchen units, telecare services, hoisting equipment, bathing and level access shower aids etc.

Please contact Private Sector Housing at South Gloucestershire council on 01454 868 126 and ask for Julie Dowle or Joy Jackson for more information.

If you cannot get to one of the centres, you can view a broad range of aids, equipment and assistive technology on the Living Made Easy website and Age UK website. AskSara is a tool you can use to find aids and equipment that may help, its particularly useful if you don’t know exactly what you are looking for but the person you care for needs help with a particular activity.

You could consider buying some second hand equipment but it’s worth doing some research first to make sure you are getting the most appropriate item for the person you care for. You will need to make sure anything you buy has been well maintained and is in good working order, as well as asking for any instruction manuals. Buying something second hand can always be a bit of a risk and especially when buying bigger items its worth taking as many precautions as possible.

You could also look at the Disability Equipment Service website and the Disabled Gear website where people buy and sell second hand equipment.

Help through the council or GP

If someone is struggling to manage in their own home, and it looks to be a long-term problem, then the GP and local council may suggest equipment or adaptations to the home.

Some small health related aids, such as commodes and walking aids, may be available through your GP, district nurse or community physiotherapist.

For anything more than the limited items available through the GP, contact the local council’s duty desk and ask for an assessment by an occupational therapist. The purpose of the assessment is to meet someone in their home environment, identify the tasks and activities that they find difficult and recommend equipment, aids or adaptations that would help. Find out more about equipment aids and adaptations on the NHS UK website.

See Bristol City council website for home adaptations, telecare and Bristol Care Line, an alarm and emergency line.

See South Gloucestershire council website for information on telecare. Someone from the council can visit you to advise on suitable telecare systems. You can make an appointment by calling 01454 868 007.

The person I care for is in hospital and is going to need some equipment when they get home 

If the person you care for is in hospital, a discharge assessment might involve an occupational therapist who will consider if any adaptations or aids are needed to enable them to live safely at home. In most cases, the equipment will be delivered at the time a patient is discharged. However, as long as the person returning home has access to at least a commode and running water and is safe in other respects, the discharge may go ahead before other equipment or adaptations are in place.

How much will I have to pay towards any aids or adaptations?

If you are assessed by an occupational therapist as needing small aids or adaptations costing less than a £1000, the equipment will be loaned or works completed free of charge. If larger scale adaptations to the home are needed, and are approved by an occupational therapist, it may be possible for the person you care for to get a Disabled Facilities Grant from the council. There is information about the grant on the government website and on Disability Rights UK website.

The occupational therapist will tell you whether the recommended equipment or adaptations are going to cost more than £1,000. If you then apply to the council for a Disabled Facilities Grant, a Private Sector Housing Officer will visit your home to see that the adaptations are necessary and appropriate. In England, a disabled person can apply for a grant of up to £30,000. Household income and savings are taken into account when assessing how much the person will have to contribute to the cost. Currently disabled children (under 18) and their families are not means tested for the grant.

The process, from initial contact with the council through to getting a grant approved, can take a long time. If you do not own the home you wish to adapt, you will need the permission of the landlord (social housing or private) for the works to be carried out. You will also need to commit to living in the property for five years so would need to discuss this with your landlord.

You should not have any work carried out on the property until your local authority approves the application. If the work is urgent, you should contact the local authority to discuss this. You will also need to ensure that you separately get any planning or building approval needed.

How do I arrange an assessment from an occupational therapist?

In Bristol you need to contact Care Direct if it’s for an adult

Telephone: 0117 922 2700
Email: adult.care@bristol.gov.uk

For disabled children contact the Children and Young Peoples Services:

Telephone: 0117 903 8250
Email: disabledchildren@bristol.gov.uk

In South Gloucestershire contact Children, Adults and Health Customer Service desk

Telephone: 01454 868007

If you are a parent or carer of a disabled child, or young person contact the Access and Response Team

Telephone:01454 86600

Email: accessandresponse@southglos.gov.uk

South Gloucestershire Council also has a booklet which tells you more about Disabled Facilities Grants.

The person I care for needs a wheelchair, where can I get one? 

It is possible to get a wheelchair on the NHS if the person you care for is assessed as needing one. In Bristol and South Gloucestershire you need to be referred to the Bristol Centre for Enablement by a health care professional. Once the centre receives the referral they assess it against their eligibility criteria and may then offer you an appointment. You can find out more about this service on the NBT NHS website.

Some NHS wheelchair services offer a voucher scheme so that you can have more choice of wheelchair. You receive a voucher to the value of the chair that would have been offered after your assessment (which is determined locally in each individual case). You can then put the voucher towards the cost of a chair that you buy privately or in partnership with the NHS.

Some people buy a wheelchair themselves maybe because they don’t qualify for an NHS one. It is still a good idea to try and get some advice as it’s important to get a wheelchair that is the right size and will be comfortable and safe.

You may be able to get help with the cost of a wheelchair through a charity or trust. See our charities and trusts section.

How do you get a powered wheelchair or mobility scooter?

A health professional can refer you to the Bristol Centre for Enablement where you will be assessed to see what type of wheelchair or mobility equipment you may be entitled to on the NHS. You can find  the eligibility criteria for a powered wheelchair on the NBT NHS website.

You cannot get a mobility scooter through the NHS. There is information about scooters on the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs website. 

If the person you care for gets the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance, the enhanced rate of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment or War Pensioners Mobility Supplement, they can use this to  get a scooter or powered chair through the Motability scheme. Find out more on the Motability website.

Alternatively, a charity or trust may help fund this.  The mobility trust is a charity that may be able to provide mobility scooters to people who have no other way of getting one. Also see our charities and trusts section.

You could consider buying a second hand scooter but it’s worth doing some research first to make sure you are getting one that will suit the person you care for. You will need to make sure that it has been well maintained and that you obtain a service history and instruction manual. The charity Disabled Living Foundation produce a factsheet about choosing a scooter that includes a section on buying a second hand scooter. Buying something second hand can always be a bit of a risk and when buying bigger items that may have safety implications its worth taking as many precautions as possible.

You could also look at the Disability Equipment Service website and the Disabled Gear website where people buy and sell second hand equipment.

If you want to go shopping with the person you care for, you could consider hiring a scooter or powered wheelchair through Shopmobility.