Making the right adaptations in the home, at the right time, is an important way to help you stay independent for as long as possible in later life. And while adaptations can be expensive, they will often work out as more cost-effective than other options, such as moving house or residential care.
Home adaptations can help you continue to carry out everyday activities, prevent falls and injuries, and improve health and wellbeing. Appropriate adaptations may also delay or avoid the need for an older person to move into a care home or sheltered accommodation.
If you’re arranging home adaptations for an older family member or friend, try to involve them as much as possible in the planning process. Home adaptations are more likely to be a success when they are tailored to the needs and wishes of the person who will be living with them. Look for expert advice from an occupational therapist (OT) or your local council’s social services team, who can help advise on appropriate solutions.
There are many adaptations that can help make different parts of the home safer or more accessible. These range from inexpensive jobs, such as putting in grab rails to more extensive projects such as installing a stairlift. Some popular options are listed below – these are explained in more detail in separate articles.
Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to get help with the cost of home adaptations. Local authorities in different parts of the UK operate a variety of schemes to help those who are disabled or have limited mobility to continue living at home.
The first step is always to request a from your local authority. During the assessment an occupational therapist will visit your home to see what alterations might help you to continue living there independently. This will enable them to gauge your needs and decide on what level of support you are entitled to.
Following an assessment, you will be given a care plan that explains the recommendations about the adaptations and other support you need. If the care plan says you need professional care as well as home adaptations, you will have the option of having a full .
If the care plan recommends only home adaptations, you will have the opportunity to apply for funding depending on the cost of the adaptations. Minor and major adaptations are funded in different ways by local authorities.
If you live in England and the recommended adaptations cost less than £1,000, social services often provide and fit these free of charge. However, if you’ve been allocated a to manage your own care, adaptations might be funded out of this.
In Northern Ireland and Scotland, local authorities might charge for minor adaptations.
In Wales, local authorities might charge for minor adaptations, but any charges must be ‘reasonable’ and have regard to your ability to pay. For small-scale adaptations, you may be able to apply for funding under the Rapid Response Adaptation Programme, which is administered by the charity . You must be referred for this by a health or social care professional. The scheme can also help fund essential adaptations if you are coming out of hospital.
If the needs assessment recommends major adaptations (costing more than £1,000), you can apply for a grant from your local council to help with costs – read more below.
All local authorities in the UK offer grants to help people with eligible needs make necessary modifications to their homes. The grants have slightly different rules (and names) in each part of the UK.
If you need more advice or support for home adaptations, it's a good idea to contact your local Home Improvement Agency (HIA).
These are small, not-for-profit organisations funded by local and central government. They provide information and support to help older, disabled and vulnerable people live well at home. They can help with planning and arranging home improvements, and with applications for government grants.
A HIA’s advice and first visit are free. If you decide to accept further HIA help, most agencies subsequently charge a fee. If you’re eligible for a local authority grant that could be used to pay the HIA’s fee.
HIAs or equivalent agencies can be found all over the UK:
When you’re planning any home adaptations, it’s important to get the work completed by someone trustworthy. endorses local tradespeople, taking the hassle out of finding the right firm. This includes a range of companies that specialise in home adaptations for people with mobility needs. Search for `Disability and mobility’ providers in your area on the website.
Most local authority funding for home adaptations is means-tested. If you have substantial income or savings, you may have to cover most of the costs yourself. If you don’t qualify for assistance, here are some options that might help with paying the bills.
Family members might be able to contribute towards the cost of home adaptations. This could be in the form of a loan or a gift.
If a relative is thinking about gifting you a sum of money to cover the cost of home adaptations, they should seek legal and/or financial advice first as there could be tax implications. Our guide to explains the basics.
An unsecured personal loan could allow you to borrow the cash you need for adaptations. Lenders offer a lump sum over a fixed period of time: £5,000 over three years for example. An unsecured personal loan is usually cheaper than borrowing on a credit card.
If you own your home, you might be able to use an equity release scheme to ‘unlock’ cash from the value of your property. Always take advice from a qualified independent financial adviser before entering into an equity release arrangement.
Some charitable organisations offer grants to people in need. Most charities will only provide help to those who can't get financial support elsewhere, so you must have exhausted all other possibilities. Most charitable grants have specific eligibility criteria. For example, it might only be available to you if you have very low income or specific illnesses or disabilities.
Some charities or benevolent societies, such as or , are associated with particular companies or professions. If you or your partner worked in a particular trade or profession, it’s worth checking to see if there is a related charity or benevolent fund that might be able to provide help.