Making a house a home: How the six million carers in Briton can adapt their home to help them nurse their loved ones

Making a house a home: How the six million carers in Briton can adapt their home to help them nurse their loved ones
July 29, 2013 Sarah Green

Six million Britons work as a carer for an ill family member – with a further 6,000 taking on the responsibility every day
British Medical Association has released a new Carer’s Manual to help
The guide offers advice on everything from finding support to how to make necessary adjustments to the home

For the six million Britons who are carers to an adult – and the 6,000 people who take on this huge responsibility every day – finding the right support can be daunting.
The British Medical Association has released a Carer’s Manual to help. In the second of three extracts, we look at how to make the necessary changes to the home .  .  .

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
When you think about how to adapt a home to suit a person’s particular needs, it is important to consider costs, aesthetics, the impact of the changes on the home, and how they may affect other household members. Hasty decisions can be costly, so it can pay to seek professional advice.
The changes made will depend on the circumstances of the person you are caring for. Someone who is convalescing for a short period after illness won’t need expensive changes – look for low-cost, practical solutions.
If specialist equipment is needed for a short period, you might be able to borrow it. For example, the British Red Cross lends medical equipment such as wheelchairs (redcross.co.uk, 0844 871 1111).

SEEK ADVICE
Before making any adaptations, it is a good idea to seek advice from an occupational therapist – health professionals who specialise in enabling people with limited mobility, illness or other special needs to maintain their independence in the home.
They also give advice on equipment and can make arrangements for home adaptations to be carried out. They can be accessed through your doctor or social services.
Before you meet the therapist, it’s worth listing all the areas where you feel that help is needed. For example, does a person have difficulty accessing the bathroom because it involves climbing stairs?

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
There is a vast array of equipment and gadgets designed to help people with particular needs carry out everyday tasks. Items are advertised in newspapers, magazines and on TV, and even sold in supermarkets. Of course, some modifications are expensive, so remember:
Research the market before buying anything.
See if you can try out an item before deciding to buy.
All equipment designed for people with disabilities is exempt from VAT.

PAYING FOR ADAPTATIONS
Whether or not you receive financial support for modifications is dependent on whether a home is privately owned or rented, council-owned or rented through a housing association. Disability Rights UK (disablityrightsuk.org, 08450 264748) and Disabled Living Foundation (dlf.org.uk, 08451 309177) may be able to provide further information.
If you are eligible, some assessments can be fast-tracked, especially if an individual’s needs are not complex. For instance, all that may be required is the fitting of a rail for them to hold on to.
The British Medical Association Carer’s Manual is published by DK, priced £14.99. To order your copy at the special price of £11.99 with free p&p, call the Mail Bookshop on 0844 472 4157 or visit mailbookshop.co.uk.