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Increasing numbers of older people now live with long-term health conditions and restricted mobility, meaning independent living is more important than ever. Adapted homes should enable people to remain safely in a 2-storey+ house whilst avoiding expensive relocation to bungalows, later living apartments or care homes. With accessible property in short supply or at a premium cost, home adaptations can provide a cost-effective, independent living solution whilst reducing the need for domiciliary carers or social care.

 Add to this acute risks such as pandemics which typically target older people with compromised immunities or underlying conditions, how could the addition of an accessible product such as a homelift, deliver a future-proof solution for both personal budgets and government finances?

The Effect of Unsuitable Housing

Unsuitable houses create substantial physical and practical care challenges which can be stressful and undignified, whilst appropriate external care can be a huge financial burden for both families and/or Social Services. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), there are nearly nine million people in the UK over the age of 70 which approximates to 15% of the population.

Many are fending for themselves and adopting coping strategies at home to manage failing health and mobility. Inappropriate living conditions can exacerbate many chronic illnesses, such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, dementia and Parkinson’s disease, along with hindering future wellbeing. Care & Repair England, in its report ‘If Only I had Known..’ states: “Poor housing has a profound effect on physical, psychological and social health, and hence on quality of life, and this is amplified when the individual is coping with disability”. It goes on to say: “Unsuitable home conditions can directly cause health problems, and hence hospital admissions. If individuals are discharged to unsafe, cold, unsuitable homes they are more likely to return to hospital.”

Maintaining Independent Living

The ability to remain living at home is regarded as paramount in maintaining independent living. However, as people get older and mobility diminishes, risk of falls and injuries increase within the home – often resulting in recurrent hospital stays, and the possibility of a care home if living standards are not improved. Eyesight, muscle strength and balance all naturally deteriorate with age and even minor difficulties can cause undue worry and depression. Long-term health conditions can cause a lower physical activity level and additional adaptations should be installed to safeguard home usability and independent living.

Struggle to Climb The Stairs

Many people with reduced mobility, functional limitations or impaired vision tend to avoid the daily struggle to climb stairs. Instead, sleeping on the downstairs sofa can become normal which is not a sustainable solution. This can compromise personal hygiene levels if the only bathroom is upstairs, leading to other health-related problems.

The Benefit of a Home Lift

By adapting your home with a Stiltz Home lift, safe and accessible living can be achieved. User-friendly in terms of access and operation, a Stiltz Home lift enables you to sleep upstairs in a bedroom, carry items safely between floors and to return downstairs in good time to answer the door – with dignity and independence intact. Specialist home adaptations such as a Stiltz Home lift with a self-supporting structure and small footprint, can also be quickly installed with minimum building work and stress.

Support for Carers

Following a healthcare professional’s risk assessment, appropriate home adaptations can offer a cost-effective and reassuring solution for extended family as well. The immense pressures on family members to help with day-to-day care tasks – such as carrying disabled children upstairs to assist with dressing and toileting – can be draining. Support is often hindered by work commitments and living further apart.

Increasing Demand for Residential Care

Over the last few decades, the demand for care home places has risen dramatically. Residential care homes and nursing homes are expensive and according to Fidelity’s Modern Life report, a quarter of the population haven’t thought about saving to pay for long-term care, despite the fact we spend an average of 16-19 years in failing health. Age UK states: “Costs average around £600 a week for a care home place and over £800 a week for a place in a nursing home.” Costs also differ according to location and individual care homes. According to independent consumer body, Which?: “Care home fees across the UK for people paying for their own care are something of a postcode lottery. For example, on average, residential care in a nursing home in the South East of England is 42% higher than for a nursing home in the North East.”

Covid-19 and Residential Care

The recent Covid-19 crisis means that many care homes may need to reassure potential clients that their infection control protocols are robust and safe. It is likely that one carer or family member entering a private household offers a lower risk of infection however it still presents possible exposure to Coronavirus. Add to this the fact that family members would rather be relatives and not carers, the case for independent living is even more apparent.

Domiciliary Care

Domiciliary care is often suggested as a cost-effective alternative to residential care, yet the NHS advises that a live-in carer costs on average £650 a week and indeed this can be much higher. Investment in specialist products and home adaptations can support mobility and enhance moving and handling capabilities at a fraction of the cost, long-term. A Stiltz Duo+ costing £15,000 for example, will have paid for itself within approximately six months compared to the average fees for a live-in carer or residential care home place.

Independent Living Reduces the Cost of Care

Safe, accessible independent living can also reduce the cost pressures on the UK health service where available beds for older people have rapidly declined in the last thirty years and is now a cause for concern. Older people admitted to hospital have a greater risk of declining ability and of developing delirium and therefore dementia, perhaps due to stress and unfamiliarity. The Nuffield Department of Population Health states: “Keeping people in hospital is costly, and people over 85 account for a quarter of all bed days in the NHS. Avoiding this would be better for older people, reduce admission to residential care and keep people living at home longer, and also save money.”

Home Adaptations

Specialist advice regarding personalised living can be provided by Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs), Occupational Therapists and local Social Services where needed. Reputable adaptation companies can provide home assessments for equipment and work with healthcare professionals to ascertain particular requirements are met. The Centre for Ageing Better reports: “Both minor and major home adaptations can improve a range of outcomes for people in later life, including improved performance of everyday activities, improved mental health and preventing falls and injuries.”

Disabled Facilities Grant

To help finance adaptations including Stiltz homelifts, grants such as the Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) can help cover costs. In England, disabled people and those with limited mobility are able to apply for a DFG grant of up to £30,000. In Wales, disabled people and those with limited mobility are able to apply for a DFG grant of up to £36,000. In Northern Ireland, disabled people and those with limited mobility are able to apply for a DFG grant of up to £25,000. In Scotland, the Scheme of Assistance can provide financial assistance through grants and loans.

By planning homes more effectively for future years, whether during the initial build or through later accessible alterations,homeowners can remain for longer and perhaps indefinitely with safety, independence and peace of mind.

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