Living aids and small adaptations ‘could save NHS millions’

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Making small changes to older people’s homes, such as installing handrails, ramps and level-access showers could play a significant role in relieving pressure on the NHS and social care and reduce costs by millions of pounds each year.

That’s according to a new report published today which is urging local authorities to make home adaptations and living aids a greater priority.

Ageing Better, which produced the report, said that access and mobility products are often installed late because they are “poorly designed”. The group has said that next year it will work with retailers, designers and OTs to improve the design of products and their visibility in the mainstream market.

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The group said that retailers and designers should work to improve access to well-designed, affordable adaptations “that look and feel less medical, and therefore less stigmatising”.

The report includes analysis from the BRE (Building Research Establishment) showing that, installing home adaptations and undertaking home repairs in order to reduce falls on stairs, can lead to savings of £1.62p for every £1 spent, and a payback period of less than eight months.

Installing minor home adaptations and making improvements to housing can lead to overall savings of at least £500 million each year to the NHS and social care services in the UK through a 26% reduction in falls, which account for over four million hospital bed days each year in England alone.

There are currently nearly half a million households in England where someone aged over 65 with disabilities or long-term illness does not have the adaptations they need. However, this number is likely to be the tip of the iceberg, according to the Centre for Ageing Better, due to limitations with how these data are collected. The number of people with mobility issues will also grow as people live for longer and the number of older people in society increases, it warns.

Rachael Docking, senior evidence manager, at the Centre for Ageing Better said that while many older people are able to manage at home, illness, long term conditions or disability can severely impact people’s ability to manage day-to-day.

“If homes are not adapted to meet these needs, people are at higher risk of injury, more likely to experience emotional distress or depression and are more likely to need higher levels of care or require hospitalisation if they have a serious fall.

Rachael Docking, Centre for Ageing Better. Image credit: Centre for Ageing Better

“Whilst the government’s recent announcement that they will provide an additional £42 million for Disabled Facilities Grants [next year] is very welcome, local government and services responsible for assessing, funding and installing adaptations need to ensure that all those who could benefit get timely access to minor home adaptations as well as general repairs, and these are tailored to what individuals want and need.

“Our report shows that by identifying those who could benefit from the home improvements and the installation of relatively low-cost equipment like ramps and handrails in their homes early on could help hundreds of thousands of older people to live happier, safer and more independent lives where they are able carry out basic daily tasks, like going to the toilet, for themselves. It could also save our pressured health and social care services a huge amount of unnecessary costs and time.”

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