Equipment and technology

Finding Suitable Equipment and Technology

There are many different aids, technology and adaptations available to support people to live independently and to help with the caring role. The following guidelines can identify what will be useful in your situation;

The websites AskSara and Living Made Easy give a guide to the range of equipment and technology available. 

Occupational Therapists can give expert advice on suitable equipment and technology.  Request an Occupational Therapy assessment by contacting the Access team at Southend Borough Council telephone: 01702 215008 or ask your GP or Community Health service to make a referral.

Essential equipment and adaptations costing less than £1000 can be provided free of charge following an Occupational Therapist Assessment. The provision of this equipment is not dependent on your income and savings.  

You may be able to view and try equipment by visiting an equipment centre.  Southend in Sight have an equipment centre in Hamlet Court Road, Southend.

Organisations supporting specific conditions can give further guidance.

Mobility shops and retail outlets dealing with disability equipment often have knowledgeable staff able to provide advice and information.

Your GP can refer to services able to provide walking frames, continence products or skin pressure care. Some products may be provided free of charge.

Southend Hospital Physiotherapy department run a drop-in between 12—1pm subject to availability of staff to assess and loan walking sticks of the correct size. (Hillborough building at rear of the hospital) contact telephone no. 01702 385 246

Care Choices UK have produced a checklist to help guide you when making decisions on equipment and assistive technology.

Occupational Therapy Advice

To request an assessment contact Southend Borough Council Access team on 01702 215008 or ask your GP or a community health service to make a referral for you.   It will help if you give some indication of the type of equipment you need and how urgent the need is. 

If you have been assessed by an Occupational Therapist from Southend Borough Council as needing aids or adaptations costing less than a £1000, the equipment will be loaned or the adaptations completed free of charge. This is not means tested.

If the person you care for is in hospital, a discharge assessment might identify equipment required to enable the person to live safely at home.  In most cases this equipment will be delivered at the time a patient is discharged.

If your loaned equipment is not working properly or broken you should contact the Equipment Service on 01702 442133 who will arrange for a repair or replacement.   Please arrange with the Equipment service to return any loaned equipment you no longer need.

Private purchase – Things to consider

  • Do some research either online, by visiting an equipment centre or by speaking to an occupational therapist. Southend Borough Council Occupational Health currently have a drop in service at Age Concern contact 01702 345373 for details of dates and times. Alternatively contact Southend Borough the Access team telephone 01702 215008 or ask a health professional to make a referral.
  • It is advisable to ensure you can try the equipment for a period and take it back for a refund if it is unsuitable. Ask if there is a trial or ‘cooling off’ period.
  • Some charities may offer grants to assist with the purchase of suitable equipment. Search for a grant
  • Consider whether you have space to accommodate the equipment and if necessary check who will be available to fit the equipment correctly.
  • Some aids are stocked by general stores such as Argos. You can find local suppliers of disability aids and equipment from the Living Made Easy website. Living Made Easy – local suppliers
  • If you have a long-term illness or disability, you don’t have to pay VAT on equipment designed to help with daily living.  The supplier needs to be registered for VAT and you have to sign a form declaring that you have a long-term illness or that you are disabled.

Disabled Facilities Grant

Southend Borough Council may fund adaptations to owner-occupied and privately rented properties to meet some of the special needs of disabled residents.

An Occupational Therapist will visit your home to discuss your needs, review your property and make recommendations regarding the most appropriate adaptation(s) for you.  You may be referred to a Social Care worker as you may be entitled to further support.

If you own your home and the recommended equipment or adaptations will cost more than £1000, you may apply for a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) up to £30,000.  You will not be eligible if you have already had the work carried out.

The application for a grant does involve a financial assessment however children’s applications and applicants who receive certain benefits known as ‘passporting’ benefits will not be required to make a financial contribution.

Any form of adaptation can be considered to help facilitate access to and from the property, improve access internally or improve the use of the property generally for the benefit and safety of the disabled person for example installing ramps, stair lifts, widening doorways, bathroom adaptations or improving a heating system suitable for the disabled person’s needs.

More information can be found on the government website https://www.gov.uk/disabled-facilities-grants.

Adaptations to Social Housing

If you live in social housing, adaptations can be provided ranging from grab rails and portable ramps to bathrooms and kitchen adaptations to enable you to remain independent. In some cases, if it is not possible to adapt your current home, you may be offered alternative accommodation to suit your needs.

Technology to keep safe and organised

Carbon monoxide detectors and Smoke alarms –most local fire and rescue services offer free of charge Home Fire Safety Checks.  You may be eligible for free smoke alarms to be fitted where required. You will not be sold anything. For more information and to book your free home safety check contact the

Essex County Fire & Rescue Service website or call 0300 303 0088

Falls detection  

  • Autodial alarms – do not have ongoing service fees. A button on a pendant or wrist strap when pressed will automatically call the telephone of one or more nominated friends or relatives. Other systems for example the Brio system can raise an alarm when a change in heart rate is detected, and is suitable for people with conditions such as epilepsy.
  • Telecare systems – a community alarm system similar to the autodial alarm. These systems incur an ongoing service charge and can be purchased as a private scheme e.g. Buddi from CARERS UK or from the local authority eg. South Essex Homes Careline.  A monitoring centre is the first to receive an alert and an assessment made to contact emergency services or a nominated relative/friend.  Telecare systems may have sensors to detect if the person has had a fall or if there is a gas, carbon monoxide, flood or smoke emergency.

Safety from bogus callers

  • Video intercom system can allow you to see any callers to the home before you open the door and an internet intercom system will allow viewing remotely.
  • Telecare systems may also have a bogus caller alert button.

Trackers

  • Movement detection – Sensors are unobtrusive and may be mats on the floor or small pads attached to the wall. They detect movement within the home so you can have peace of mind that the person you care for is okay one example is Hive Link, a system developed in conjunction with Carers UK.
  • GPS trackers can prevent a person becoming lost so they can maintain their independence while relieving the carer from some anxiety. You can also have a location alarm on items such as your door keys to locate them if ever they are mislaid.

Reminders

  • Auto Reminders can be triggered at particular times of the day or by a movement to remind people of an action to take e.g. to drink enough, take medication or to take door keys with them when they go out. Droplet and Ulla are two different examples of aids to remind a person to drink enough.
  • Medication reminders – Automatic pill dispensers beep alerts when it is time to take the medicine and a small opening allows access to the correct pills at the right time.   The Pivotell Advance automatic pill dispenser can be linked to the Carers UK care coordination app ‘Jointly’ and alert the carer when a pill is dispensed or missed.

Technology to help carers keep organised

Apps downloadable on most Smartphones and tablets have been developed specifically to help carers organise and share care information.

The key functions help carers;

  • Be organised which reduces stress and saves time.
  • Keep important information in one place.
  • Easy to keep information up-to-date.
  • Provide a safe and secure way to share information with a ‘trusted’ care group.
  • Make it easier to share care commitments and responsibilities with others.
  • An invaluable aid in creating an emergency care plan and provide information to relief carers.

 Examples are;

  • Jointly an app developed by Carers UK.
  • Doro Care and Connect designed to be used by the person you care for

Case study

Sylvia had strained her back because she was helping her husband on and off the toilet several times in the day.

She also wanted some hand rails fitted and advice on access in and out of their property.

The Occupational Therapy team delivered a raised toilet seat the next day to help relieve the immediate and urgent difficulties causing back strain.

A full Occupational Therapy visit was scheduled for later the following month to assess how further equipment and adaptions could help.