Aids and equipment

Let alone transport outside the home, for many even getting around the house can be a painful and exhausting experience. If this is the case often a piece of equipment can make all the difference to the carer's task.
Bathtime with an appropriate hoist can become relaxing and not terrifying; going shopping with a wheelchair for someone who normally walks with a stick or crutches can become manageable again.
But how do you know what you need and what is likely to be available?
If the person you care for has been discharged from hospital with a new problem the hospital Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapy department should give you advice on what equipment you may need and how to get it. They may also be able to tell you how to fund the equipment or if it is available on loan or hire.
If the problem has changed without involving a hospital visit, your first point of help should be your Community Occupational Therapist. They are the real experts on equipment and aids for daily living. They are, however, not always the easiest professionals to get hold of, but you can try your social services or health centre.
You can also try the Disabled Living Foundation (DLF), who develop and test all kinds of equipment; most of their expertise is available online or by phone. There are networks of disabled resource centres throughout the country where you can see equipment, try it out and get advice. These are all listed on the DLF site. They can also help you source equipment, but you should be aware of the costs.
Finding it
Your GP practice or your pharmacist should have catalogues of the equipment available. Community pharmacists do not usually stock large amounts of equipment, but they often have to order it for the local health services and will probably be able to get it for you as well.
Your local Red Cross may well have equipment loan or recycling schemes which can help you in the short term or to try out solutions to your problems before committing to an expensive piece of equipment.
Other carers have learned all about various equipment from their own experiences, so you could try posting a question for them on our discussion boards.
Shopping around
Before embarking on an expensive purchase think if you can accomplish the aim more cheaply. For instance a toilet 10cm higher than normal (useful for people with stiff leg joints) can cost several hundred pounds. Getting your plumber to build a little plinth and put a standard toilet on it should cost less than £100.
A really useful website, which offers online price reductions on all sorts of specialist equipment, is Clearwell Mobility. Another useful website is Manage at Home
Also maybe think about buying second hand. People often buy mobility or bathing aids, which for one reason or another are not used for long. Cheap second hand options can be found in many of the disability magazines or in local classified ad papers such as Loot or Trade It.
Finding the funds
If you require extensive equipment or modifications to your home, talk first to your local social service department to find out what grants are available.
Other sources of help can be the local Lions or Rotary organisations, who can often help either with volunteer effort or with funds.