If you find your needs changing over time, perhaps after an operation or period of illness, you may find yourself struggling with tasks in your house which were once simple.
These suggestions for making your house more accessible are low cost and easy to install, but if you’re unsure what would be best for you, ask your local social services for a free care assessment.
An occupational therapist will visit your home and make recommendations. To find out what to expect, read our guide to having a visit from an occupational therapist.
Wireless doorbell and receiver
Never miss deliveries and visitors again with a wireless doorbell plus portable receiver that you can take with you, wherever you are in the house or the garden. If you find it a struggle to get to the door in time, some versions incorporate an entry phone or video intercom.
If you use a wheelchair, a ramp can help you get in and out of the house. If you live with other family members or a carer, a removable ramp that fits over outdoor steps is an instant solution. Otherwise one will have to be built by a specialist builder.
Remote controlled sockets
Are your electrical sockets at floor level? To avoid the disruption of getting them rewired to waist height, install remote controlled sockets instead. These plug into the existing wall sockets: get the grandchildren to scramble around and plug them in for you and then plug in the tv, radio etc as usual. Then you can use the battery-operated remote control to switch the sockets on and off. They can also be operated by smartphone.
Whether you prefer a conventional fixed telephone or a portable cordless phone both types are available in versions with large easy-to-read number keys – the keys’ size also makes them easier to press than smaller fiddly designs.
Grab rails installed on the walls either side of the toilet make life a lot easier. If the layout of your bathroom means this isn’t possible, social services can provide a special frame that fits over the loo to create hand rails on either side. The frame can also be used to adapt the height of the loo by adding a raised seat on top of the existing one, making it easier to sit down and get up again.
Do you have steps up to your front or back door? Having a rail installed will make them easier to use. If they are steep, consider having the flight of steps rebuilt at a shallower angle. Add a grab rail beside the door to help you over the doorstep.
If a long hot soak in the tub is your idea of heaven there’s no need to give up on it: a bath lift will help you get in and out safely. Typical designs use an inflatable/deflatable cushion or a type of sling to raise and lower you. The big advantage is that they can be fitted to your existing bath.
Already got a walk-in shower cubicle? Add a shower seat and grab rails for safety. If there isn’t enough room, consider making the cubicle bigger, if possible.
Rise and recline armchair
A rise and recline armchair puts an end to struggling to get out of a comfy chair. Most designs have a handheld control that operates a moveable seat, backrest and footrest. When you want to get up, the seat tips forward – gently! – making it easier for you to stand. Bear in mind the chair needs to be near an electric socket and it will also be larger than a conventional armchair.
If you’re liable to get in a muddle about any pills you are taking, a dispenser can help. The simplest are boxes with flip lids labelled for the days of the week that you fill yourself. The next step up are ‘dosette’ boxes that also have compartments for the time of day.
The most sophisticated are wireless electronic versions where the pills are pre-loaded by your pharmacist and then the dispenser beeps and/or flashes when it’s time to take your medication. Your carer can even access the dispenser remotely to check that you’ve taken your pills.
Adjustable bed grab rail
An adjustable grab rail can help you sit up in bed and also get in and out of bed more easily. The rail attaches to the bedframe and is best positioned close to the head of the bed. Some versions feature handles on both sides of the bed, some on just one.
Get a care assessment
These suggestions for making your house more accessible are low cost and simple to install, but if you’re unsure what would be best for you or an ageing parent, ask your local social services for a free care assessment. An occupational therapist will visit your home and make recommendations. To find out what to expect, read our guide to having a visit from an occupational therapist.
An occupational therapist will visit your home to assess how you can be helped. If social services decide you do need help, most small home adaptations under £1,000 are provided free of charge – for example, grab rails, or ramps. (More substantial work – such as installing a downstairs bathroom, installing a wet room or even building an extension – can be funded by a means-tested disabled facilities grant.)