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Finding your own assisted living equipment

If you're having difficulty with some areas of daily living, you may consider getting items to help you with various tasks.

We may be able to help you with this (see Equipment and adaptations), but if you're not eligible for support you may have to buy your own items. 

Before you start to look around for equipment, it's helpful to be clear about exactly where you're struggling with day-to-day tasks, then pinpoint why this is so.

This may seem obvious, but not all difficulties are best helped by equipment and some items can be more helpful in certain situations than in others. 

Working out your needs will also help when you talk to a supplier.

Some common difficulties you may find with daily living are:

  • Getting in and/or out of the bath
  • Getting up from a low toilet
  • Getting up and out of an easy chair
  • Carrying things between rooms
  • Reaching down to put on socks, stockings or shoes
  • Turning the taps on/off sometimes and/or generally managing in the kitchen

Equipment to assist with using the bath

A wide range of equipment is available and the most common types are listed below. 

Bath seat

This usually sits on the bottom of the bath to reduce the distance you have to get up to get out of the bath.

It may be of use if you're able to step in or out of the bath but unable to sit down on the bottom or easily get up again.

Most bath seats come in a range of sizes and heights and can usually be completely covered in water, allowing you a reasonable soak.

It may be possible to transfer from the seat to the bottom of the bath, but this depends on how mobile you are and how much room there is - the bath seat should normally remain in position so you can use it to get out.

Some bath seats are not suitable for plastic or acrylic baths. If your bath has moulded contours or an uneven surface on the bottom, the seat may not fit safely.

Bath board or shower board

This is a board which is secured over the top edges of the bath and allows you to get in or out sideways (as if you were getting onto a bed), rather than step in or out of the bath.

You'll need to be able to swing your legs over the rim of the bath whilst seated on the board.

Some boards are padded while some are wider and more substantial with drainage holes, designed for use with a shower.

You'll need to look at the manufacturer's guidance before buying, as some bath/shower boards will not safely fix to plastic or acrylic baths.

You'll also need to ensure there's enough space on both sides for a bath/shower board to rest (normally 20-30mm or three-quarters of an inch to one and a quarter inches minimum). Sometimes the edge is reduced on the wall side or there may be integral grab rails in the way. Mouldings and contours can affect safe fitting.

The board should not overhang the edge of the bath once fitted. As baths and shower boards are different widths, measure the overall (outside edge) width before you consider which is the right size board.

Bath step

These are platforms placed beside the bath, designed to reduce the height of stepping in/out of the bath.

You may find one useful if you still prefer to step in and out of your bath but don’t feel confident due to the height you have to step over. 

Some steps have an integral hand rail, which can provide extra support if you think you need it.

General considerations before buying bath equipment 

Check the weight limit of the equipment you want to buy. If your own weight is more than this, then ask if a heavy duty model is available.

All equipment should come with written instructions for correct fitting, cleaning and technique for safe use. Make sure you have these before you leave the shop.

Ask the supplier to run through these with you and give a demonstration or, even better, an opportunity to try out the equipment.

Maintenance is also an issue to think about. Ill-fitting equipment or seating surfaces which are worn can be hazardous and/or uncomfortable.

Equipment to assist with getting up from a low toilet

Raised toilet seats and toilet frames can help if you have difficulty getting up from the toilet.

Raised toilet seats

These raise the height of a toilet seat, making it less of a distance to get up from or sit down. 

Most clamp onto the top of the existing toilet bowl and require the existing toilet seat to be permanently lifted or removed entirely.

Different sizes and shapes of raised toilet seats are available - normally they raise your toilet seat height by 50mm, 100mm or 150mm (two inches, four inches or six inches).

You can buy contoured seats, as well as padded ones for added comfort and convenience.

To estimate the size of raised toilet seat you need, your feet should rest flat on the floor, with your hips in line with your knees. A 100 mm (four inches) raised toilet seat usually is suitable for an average-sized person.

The shape of your toilet bowl can sometimes affect the safe fixing of a raised toilet seat. For most toilets the shape of the bowl rim is not a problem, but you should discuss this before you buy to be sure you get the best fitting seat. 

Toilet frames

These sit around the outside of your toilet bowl and provide arm rests, supported by legs, which allow you to push up  more securely to get off the toilet.

Some toilets are very small and there needs to be enough space on either side of the bowl and the wall for the frame to be positioned.

If you have a tendency to push down or lean to one side you might not be confident using a free standing frame, but it's possible to secure some frames to the floor. 

If you have a pipe positioned to one side of the toilet, this may not allow a toilet frame to be installed.

Think about the height of the arm-rests. These should be high enough to provide enough support but not too high that you have to pull up, rather than push down, to get off the toilet.

Carrying things from room to room

A trolley is useful if you have difficulty carrying and some are height adjustable.

However, they're not always easy to push on carpeted floors and if you usually push down heavily on a walking frame, you may not be able to use a trolley safely. 

An alternative is a basket or plastic walking frame “caddy” that fits to a walking frame.

Dressing

If you have difficulty reaching or bending below your waist, there are several items of equipment available which can extend your reach.

The “easi-reach” or “pick up stick” can make it easier to pick up items from the floor or low down, while long-handled shoe horns and stockings, tights and sock aids can make dressing more manageable.

Kitchen equipment

If you have trouble gripping, for example to turn taps on and off, it maybe possible to fix tap-turners or purchase other small equipment to make things easier.

If you're thinking of installing a tap-turner, you'll need to work out which type of tap (X-type or capstan) you have before you buy. 

There are also other items available which can make tasks like opening jars, pouring hot liquids and peeling vegetables easier to manage. Many of these can be bought online.

Seating

You may find that your favourite chair has become more difficult to get up from. It may also not be as comfortable as it was or it doesn’t give you enough support.

It may be possible to adapt your existing chair by raising the height of the seat using special blocks or chair raisers. These are designed to be easily fitted, but you should get further advice from the suppliers.

If your chair is too soft and you sink when attempting to get up, a wooden board placed under the cushion may give you a more stable base. A folded pillow or cushion can sometimes help support the small of your back.

If you want to get a new chair, these are some key things you should consider before buying:

  • Is the seat of the chair high enough for me to get up/down easily?
  • Is it firm enough to be stable (not tip over) when I get up?
  • Is it comfortable to sit in?
  • Are the arm rests far enough forward and high enough to allow me to get up and down comfortably?
  • Is the back rest supportive, is it the right shape for my back and does it also need to support my neck/head?

Where to get equipment 

Equipment can vary greatly in price between suppliers, so shop around to get the best deal.

Always ask what the supplier’s policy is if you're not happy with the equipment after you have bought it.

Several major retailers, such as Argos and B&Q, now stock equipment for disabled people at reasonable prices.

The Disabled Living Foundation provides information and factsheets about what to look for when choosing equipment or having adaptations done at home. 

The Trusted Trader scheme for Norfolk lists trusted contacts that can assist with equipment under mobility/disability equipment sales. Equipment repairs and hire are also listed, along with stairlift installation and wheelchair lift supply and installation.

The British Red Cross is able to provide short-term loans of equipment to people in need, including wheelchairs and commodes.

VAT

If you're disabled or have a long-term illness, you won't be charged VAT on products designed or adapted for your own personal or domestic use.

Your supplier should be able to advise you if zero rating can be applied to a particular item. More information is also available at the GOV.UK website.

Wheelchairs and walking aids

Talk to your GP if you think you need a wheelchair or walking aid. They will arrange for your needs to be assessed.

Wheelchairs needed on temporary loan may be available through charitable organisations, such as the Red Cross or local commercial ventures. There may be a charge for their hire.

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