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Becoming disabled through age, or maybe injury or illness; or finding that your mobility has worsened brings with it a host of challenges. One of these is making sure your home is safe and accessible. The home you live in now might be the one where you raised your family and, as such, may be filled with happy memories, but is it the right home for you now? Maybe it has too many stairs? Perhaps a bathroom or kitchen that you can’t use? Is it now too big a task to keep it clean? How are you coping with cooking meals and doing tasks independently? Whatever your disability and your needs, there are a few options in terms of adapting your existing property or moving somewhere new.
Owning your own property
One option is to stay living in, or buy, your own home. If you need adaptations, the local council may be able to help you. Social Services can provide an assessment to determine what you require and the specialist items that you need are usually provided free of charge. These items could include things like wheelchairs, bath seats, perching stools, kitchen equipment and lots of other equipment that they think might assist you.
If any adaptations are required that cost under £1,000, these are generally paid for by the council. These adaptations could include grabrails, small ramps or external lighting.
If an adaptation costs over £1,000, for example, a wet room, downstairs extension, or a through floor lift, you may qualify for a Disabled Facilities Grant. This is means tested, with the maximum currently allowed set at £30,000. The council must have assessed that you require the work to be carried out before you can apply. It’s worth bearing in mind that if you are required to put money towards the adaptation, your money is usually used before the councils.
If you can afford to pay for things yourself, AgeUk.org.uk has some useful tips on hiring tradespeople. Don’t just ring someone up to come out and do work for you, ask for at least three quotations and make sure you understand exactly what they will be doing. Ask for references so you can get in touch with other people who have had the same or similar work carried out.
If you decide to sell your home or leave your current rented accommodation, you have lots of things to consider, such as where do you go without coming across the same problems?
If you have the money, you could buy a new house, flat or bungalow that is accessible for you, or you could rent an accessible flat or bungalow. There are many companies, as well as councils, with these types of properties, but the best place to start is with your local council who may already have links with the other companies.
There are lots of one, two and even three bedroomed properties out there, but if you need a larger home, or want to live in a specific area, it may take longer for you to find one. When you do, these adapted homes usually have things like grab rails and outside lighting, as well as other small adaptations and are all likely to be on one level. Only accept a property with stairs at the entrance if it seems likely you will be able to use them for the next few years. It is better to wait for a property you can stay in than have to move again a year down the line. Once you have a property, you can be assessed by the council to see if there are other adaptations you need.
If you need more support, you could try sheltered housing. Sheltered housing is a complex of smaller homes. They are easy to manage and have a warden (who is the scheme manager) and/or support staff. They have communal areas such as gardens and/or lounges and 24-hour emergency help through an alarm. This gives people the combination of security, as well as somewhere to meet people and socialise.
Assisted living and extra-care housing
In some areas, there are also extra-care housing or assisted living. These are apartments within a complex with meals provided and personal care staff, as well as support staff, usually on site 24 hours a day. Personal care staff can help with things like eating, toileting, washing, taking medication and dressing.
Care homes and nursing homes
If you cannot find an extra-care housing or assisted living you like you could consider a care home or nursing home. These homes have personal care staff and support staff on duty 24 hours a day. Nursing homes also have qualified nurses on duty who will support you throughout your day. Usually you only have a bedroom and in some homes, you will share that. However there is often entertainment, such as a little show, bingo, keep-fit classes and even outings and day trips.
If you do not have the income to pay for the housing of your choice, there are benefits that you may be able to claim. Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit along with Tax Credits can all help if you are renting. Websites such as AgeUk.org.uk, Scope.org.uk or Turn2us.org.uk all include Benefits Calculators which can tell you what you might be entitled to and how to go about claiming. Some things such as Winter Fuel Allowance are based on age and are not means tested so it is worth checking whether you are missing out on this entitlement. On the other hand, the Cold Weather Payment depends on which benefits you are already on! It can be so confusing if you don't understand the benefits system so a benefits calculator can be helpful in telling you everything you need to know.
To be eligible for care at home, or go into a care home you will need to be means tested. If you go into a home and own your own home, it will be taken into consideration and you may have to sell it to fund your care. Either way, it can be a complicated process, your local social services at your council or information available online can be helpful. Again, Age Uk is one resource that can help.
The Care Act 2014 came into effect in April 2015 (replacing most of the previous laws regarding people who need care and also carers), the government planned to put a cap of £72,000 on the maximum payment a person would pay for care over their lifetime. This would include the over 65s and young adults with disabilities. However, the implementation of this has been delayed until 2020 and may never come into being.
Getting help to find the right care
When we realise our current home is unsuitable it can cause a host of emotions. We may be upset at the thought of moving, relieved to be going somewhere more accessible, or stressed by the move. Using the resources out there can help to find the best place to live for you.
Here at Sunrise Medical we are passionate about improving people’s lives and provide a selection of powered wheelchairs, manual wheelchairs and scooters to help people get the most from life whether at home or out and about.