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A home assessment - The OT’s perspective

If you request an assessment via a local authority, with a view to obtaining some help with day to day living or requesting funds/grant for a mobility aid that will enable you to complete daily tasks at home. They may be able to suggest alternative small improvements/adaptations that can be done for little cost to improve your living environment. One thing worth noting is that in some instances, a disabled facilities grant (DFG) is not the best way to secure equipment, and there may be quicker and more effective ways to meet your needs. The OT will also advise which will be the most effective route to get funding, depending on your circumstances.

These are the things that an OT will be looking at while conducting an assessment:

Getting in and out of the property

Before deciding what to buy or what to apply for, I’d always recommend a site visit to ascertain:

  • The level of the client’s walking ability.
  • The client’s condition – it is likely to get worse and does this need to be built into your recommendations?
  • The client’s budget – clearly there is no point in trying to sell a customer something they can’t afford.

After your site visit, you’ll then have the information you need to decide if other, lower-cost options are available, including aids, appliances, ramps and/or grab rails.

Making the property safe (or safer) for everyone living there

Safety can be fairly subjective but what’s clear is that there are some low-cost solutions that can be done to make a home safer without breaking the bank. For example, a Ring doorbell (or similar product) may help the client to open the front door without getting up while a cage for the letterbox can keep letters at a sensible height to reduce the chances of slips and falls. Thinking creatively can often help improve a customer’s safety without spending thousands of pounds.

Access to the living room

Before removing furniture or prescribing generic equipment, it’s well worth considering something like a riser and recliner chair (or similar) to improve the safety of the living room, rather than relying on low-level furniture that may or not be able to be raised.

Access to the bedroom

Stairlifts are often considered the initial ‘go-to’ piece of equipment but sometimes a second bannister rail or a grab rail can provide safety for your client’s needs while also keeping them active, rather than disabling them.

Access to the toilet

It might sound silly, but no toilet use is the same and understanding how your client uses the toilet will go a long way towards understanding what help you can give them. Do they stand up or sit down? Is continence an issue? Do they need to hold onto something throughout? After a full assessment, you’ll then be in a better position to make recommendations, which may be as simple as continence pads, urine bottles and a commode – until you assess, you won’t know.

Access to a bath or shower

One big issue with bath and shower access is that clients quite regularly purchase their own equipment – like a bath lift – to help them in the area. Often, however, the solution they arrive at isn’t suitable for them. If a client has invested in a bath lift and it hasn’t worked out, they may need a more appropriate lift, or a grab rail or bath step. If you are looking for solutions to bath or shower challenges without adaptation, I can strongly recommend you consider the ‘Ocean Self-Propelled Shower Commode’ from Invacare. As this is a major area for clients, a home visit should also be considered if that is something that your organization can offer.

Access to a wash hand basin

Again, before specifying, it’s important to understand exactly what the problem with the current hand basin is. Is it an issue with the taps? A problem withstanding? An issue of location or difficulty with size? Tap turners and perching stools are two easy, cost-effective ways to improve a wash hand basin, while grab rails can also be recommended, especially if the issue is related to balance and stability. Sensory loss is also something well worth bearing in mind – if the handbasin is in a dark corner of the room, then equipment may not solve the problem and relocation, or additional lighting, maybe the only option.

Preparing and cooking food

It’s often the case that gadgets and equipment can be used, rather than remodeling a whole kitchen. Whether it’s a battery-operated opener, a nonslip mat, adapted cutlery or a universal kettle tipper, there are plenty of devices that can aid the preparation and cooking of food. I’d definitely recommend having a conversation with a company like Ropox as they’re able to offer simple ways of adapting kitchens through equipment or some minor kitchen changes, rather than full-scale remodelling.

Improving or providing heating

Heating is clearly imperative, particularly during the winter months. But it does come with risks, as being burnt by a hot radiator is a genuine problem faced by clients. A few ways to counteract this issue is to use low surface temperature radiator paint or a long grab rail above the radiator to stop it from being used to steady oneself whilst walking. Also, it’s well worth thinking small as well as big – a small heater or fan can help ensure appropriate temperature control without the need for a heating engineer.

Controlling power lifts and heating

This is the area where voice-activated tech like Alexa, Google and Siri comes into their own. A mobile phone can now power most things in your house, from running a bath to turning lights on and off. Some clients may be resistant to technology but, equally, you’ll find that plenty is happy to embrace it, which means that huge gains can be made within a house for just a few hundred pounds.

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