Choosing equipment and adaptations

In order to make sure you get the right equipment for you, there are a few things to think about before you commit to buying an item.

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Always get advice from an occupational therapist before you buy equipment. A physiotherapist, speech and language therapist or Parkinson's nurse may also be able to recommend something based on your needs. 

An occupational therapist can make recommendations based on your own requirements. These may involve exercises, adapting the way you do something, or other kinds of treatment. 

If an occupational therapist thinks you could benefit from using a piece of equipment, they may be able to provide or arrange changes to your home (such as hand and grab rails in a bathroom) or suggest where to find suitable items. The Disabled Living Foundation can also give you independent information and advice on choosing equipment.  

Finding an occupational therapist

You can usually contact an occupational therapist through your GP, your social services or social work department, or health and social care partnership. They may be able to arrange for an occupational therapist to visit you at home.

You can also ask your GP, specialist or Parkinson’s nurse to try to refer you to a rehabilitation unit if you need to see other professionals too, such as a physiotherapist or speech and language therapist.

You can also pay for private occupational therapy. To find a private occupational therapist in your area, you can contact the Royal College of Occupational Therapists.
 

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If you decide to buy a piece of equipment it’s best to try it out first. There may be different models available that you want to compare. 

You may have an equipment demonstration centre near you that you can visit by appointment. For details of your nearest centre, ask at your GP surgery or visit Living Made Easy.

The Disabled Living Foundation also has an online tool, AskSARA, to help you identify suitable equipment and suppliers and compare products. 

In Northern Ireland and Scotland, you can visit a Disabled Living Centre. 

Some local British Red Cross groups loan out equipment such as wheelchairs. 

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Occupational therapists can give you advice and may be able to help arrange funding for minor home adaptations, such as fitting grab rails and handrails by stairs. 

You can also get advice on more expensive home adaptations, such as stair lifts or accessible showers, from occupational therapists based in local social services or health and social care services. 

If you need major changes to your home, such as an extension, fixed hoists, stair lifts or downstairs bathrooms and shower units, you may be eligible for a Disabled Facilities Grant. If this grant is available, an occupational therapist will assess your needs and will contact the relevant council departments. 

In Scotland, you may be entitled to a Private Sector Housing Grant if you own your own home or rent privately. This entitles you to at least 80% of the approved expense of the work. If you receive a qualifying benefit, you will receive 100% of the cost. If you live in housing association accommodation, you can get up to 100% of your expenses funded. You will not have to contribute to any costs if you live in local authority housing. 

Funding for major home adaptations is often means tested. So the decision as to whether you get money from the government or local authority to help pay for something you need depends on how much money you have, including your savings. 

To find out more about funding for major adaptations: 

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If you’re disabled or have a long-term condition, you shouldn't be charged VAT on products designed or adapted for your own personal or domestic use. This includes stair lifts, adjustable beds, wheelchairs, alarms and building work, like installing ramps. You also shouldn’t be charged VAT on installation, repairs, maintenance or spare parts for equipment. 

Depending on your needs, you can apply for VAT exemption by: 

  • asking your supplier for a VAT relief form
  • applying online when purchasing VAT-free items online
  • downloading a form to take into a shop when you make a qualifying purchase

Visit GOV.UK. You can also call HM Revenue and Customs on 0300 200 3700 for more information.

Getting to know...an occupational therapist

"I love how a simple piece of advice or introducing a small change in how a person does something can have such a significant and positive impact on that person."

Meet Independent Occupational Therapist Emma Bracher and learn more about her work with people with Parkinson's.

Last updated October 2020. We review all our information within 3 years. If you'd like to find out more about how we put our information together, including references and the sources of evidence we use, please contact us at [email protected].