Why aids and adaptations at home can be life-changing for people with arthritis
For many of the 18.8 million people living with arthritis and related musculoskeletal conditions in the UK, accessibility is an issue they manage daily. In this guest blog, Versus Arthritis’ head of policy and public affairs Tracey Loftis reflects on the impact that home aids and adaptations have on people with arthritis’ lives and the challenges they face accessing them.
Versus Arthritis exists so the world no longer tolerates the impact of arthritis. The charity is working to ensure that arthritis is seen as a priority and make sure that one day, no one will have to live with the pain, isolation and fatigue that it causes. As part of our activities, we are campaigning for people with arthritis to have improved quality of life and be enabled to live independently. A critical part of this is ensuring people with arthritis have access to the home aids and adaptations they need.
Arthritis impacts all parts of a person’s life. It can have a huge impact on someone’s ability to do fundamental things like sleep through the night, stay in work or be intimate with a loved one. Yet arthritis is something that is too often dismissed as ‘just a bit of pain.’
Home aids and adaptations – from a grab rail in the bathroom to a portable ramp – can make a major difference to people with arthritis’ lives. Our survey found that 95% of people with arthritis who do use this equipment have said it has a positive impact on their lives. With 79% of people with arthritis surveyed saying that home aids and adaptations help them maintain their independence, it’s clear these make a real difference.
But many people with arthritis struggle to access the equipment that they need.
Under the Care Act, local authorities have a legal duty to provide information and advice on care and support, including aids and adaptations at home. Local authorities also have a legal duty to supply aids and adaptations without charge to a person with eligible needs.
Despite this, many people with arthritis find it difficult to access home aids and adaptations. We found 43% of people living with persistent pain struggled with basic tasks at home for more than two years before discovering what support could be available to them. Additionally, 54% of people told us that they had difficulty accessing equipment and adaptations through their local authority. The problem we’ve seen time and again is too many arthritis sufferers with eligible needs are unaware that this support is available and could be provided for free by their local authority. Sometimes the first hurdle is the process of finding the right information or the right person to speak to. We are also concerned by reports that some local authorities are introducing local pricing thresholds.
As a charity that works to support people to live more independently, this understandably concerns us.
Ensuring that homes remain accessible can even have an impact beyond the individual. For example, a grab rail in the bathroom could prevent a fall and potentially a hip fracture – both helping the individual affected, but also lessening the strain on hospitals.
Versus Arthritis has been highlighting to the government the challenges that people with arthritis are experiencing and the changes we’d like to see. There are a few key steps the Department of Health and Social Care and local authorities can take to ensure obligations are met under the Care Act.
We recommend that the department commissions an expert body to bring together information and advice about home aids and adaptations. This should include updated best practice guidance alongside evidence about return on investment. We also recommend that local authorities investigate their information and advice services about aids and adaptations – it’s crucial to ensure services meet the needs of people with arthritis.
Home aids and adaptations can make a real difference to people’s lives – they can enable accessibility at home and support an independent life. It’s essential that people with arthritis can access the very equipment that they are entitled to.
To find out more about the work Versus Arthritis is doing to campaign for better access to aids and adaptations, including more information on ‘knowing your rights’ please visit https://www.versusarthritis.org/campaign-with-us/current-campaigns/care-and-support/aids-and-adaptations/