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Obtaining independent living products for your relative can improve their safety and wellbeing and also ensure they stay independent for longer.

In this article we give you information about:

1. Choosing home care products
2. Buying home care products
3. VAT exemption
4. Disability equipment loan and hire

Choosing home care products

On this website, we have divided products into the following guides to give you a thorough overview as to what items are available to help your relative’s safety and wellbeing at home:

In each of the guides, we give suggestions for products that you can buy, sometimes hire or even acquire through the health and social care services.

In the first instance, you might also want to get professional advice from an occupational therapist or physiotherapist, especially if you are considering spending a large sum of money. These experts can help prevent making an expensive mistake.

The therapist will also let you know if the equipment is likely to be available on long-term loan from the health or social care services. Although you may have a longer wait, acquiring equipment in this way will mean that you are generally not responsible for any potential maintenance or servicing costs.

Buying home care products

Whatever you and your relative are thinking about incorporating into their life – maybe a mobility aid, a new reclining chair, items to help prepare food more safely, a stairlift or bath hoist – in addition to the information on Which? Elderly Care there are other places you can go to find out more information before buying:

  • Our Useful organisations and websites page where we provide you with a list of online retailers that specialise in home care products for older people.
  • Mobility shops will often visit you at home with larger items of equipment to try in and around your home, so take up this service if it’s available.
  • In some areas of the UK, Disabled Living Centres have displays of equipment and there may be a centre close to where you live that you or your relative can visit. These centres are interested in supporting you and your relative to make the best choice, and will allow you to try out products on display as well as provide information on how to purchase them.

Whenever possible, take the opportunity to try out the equipment before you buy to make sure it addresses the problem and that you have found the right solution.

When purchasing an expensive item it’s also important to think about the long term. If your relative has a medical condition that is likely to change, it’s advisable to plan ahead and invest in a product that is going to meet their needs now as well as in the future. This is where either an occupational therapist or physiotherapist can assist you.

We strongly recommend that you only buy larger pieces of equipment, such as a stairlift or scooter, from a supplier registered with the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA).

VAT exemption

If your relative is registered disabled or has a chronic health condition, they can claim VAT exemption on certain products and mobility aids. Your relative will generally not qualify because of his or her age alone - they will have to have a permanent medical or health need.

Whether an item is exempt from VAT is generally determined by whether it’s manufactured solely to assist a person with a disability. For example, a wheelchair or walking stick would be exempt. Equipment that has not been specially designed for use by a disabled person will generally not qualify.

Disability equipment loan and hire

If you're looking after someone on a temporary basis, you might want to borrow equipment. Your local Red Cross can often lend wheelchairs and other equipment for short periods. They are likely to make a small charge for this service or may ask for a donation. The range of equipment is generally limited.

Alternatively, there are many mobility shops and equipment companies who are prepared to rent equipment to you for an indefinite period. This can be a useful option if you aren’t certain about purchase, as it will give you an opportunity to determine whether it’s going to be useful for your relative in the longer term. This is also a good option to consider for holiday use.

More information

Page last reviewed: November 2016
Next review due: April 2018