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Living Aids and Products

A whole industry has grown up around products and services for older people. It’s not just cruises, travel insurance and walking frames. You can buy massive magnifying glasses, large baby vests,  hoists and even bottom wipers.

 There are commodes for every possible occasion – for use in the shower, on the move and even on wheels. More expensive still are mobility scooters, walk-in showers, stair lifts and even lifts.

   It is tempting to scoff at such products. What could be more amusing than a folding commode or a tracker system for locating wandering oldies? But, watch daytime TV and you will wonder how you ever managed without the older person products and services industry. It can be pernicious and seductive and often very determined to part older people from their money.

   Major scammers are out there who would not think twice about taking candy from a baby let alone cash from a 90-year old. So you need to be very careful and deal only with recommended and reputable businesses – and even then be very careful. It is well worth taking certain obvious precautions, to avoid potential scammers and hard-sell merchants:




 Don'ts and Dos

  • Don't respond to unsolicited phone calls or doorstep appearances

  • Don't allow anyone into your home, unless they have an appointment at that time

  • Don't give anyone your address/phone number or details unless you have contacted them

  • Don't agree to anything on the spot – whatever the enticements

  • Do ask for time to consider a purchase or plan

  • Do try to ensure an older person has a friend or relative with them when dealing with merchants or tradesmen

  • Do negotiate – everything is negotiable even care home fees.


 There are a lot of useful products on the market which can make it easier for older people to live independently. And, if necessary, there are even adaptations which can be made to a home, to make it liveable for someone with limited mobility.


   Before investing in anything, however, contact your local Occupational Therapists (OTs) – who can properly assess needs and advise what is necessary. They can often lend you products and fit them –  for free.

OTs can even recommend that Local Authorities pay for a walk-in shower – in cases of financial need. Remember, as with social workers, OTs are keen to make sure older people remain in their own homes, partly because it is much nicer but also because it is less expensive.




On a small scale, the OTs can lend you everything from beds and hoists to key safes from eating and drinking aids to kitchen equipment, chairs, grab rails and raised lavatory seats, not forgetting commodes. These products can do an awful lot to make lives easier.

   But there are many other products you may wish to consider, such as inflatable bath cushions, big button phones, lap trays and special pens – which can be purchased from specialist shops. Take care, though. And expect any online shop to bombard you forever with brochures and offers.  




If the home is simply unsuitable for an older person – because of all the stairs or because the only lavatory is upstairs or because they cannot get in and out of the bath and there is no shower – you have to consider whether to move or make adaptations. There are arguments both ways.


 Adapting the current house can seem the easiest, least intrusive way forward. But is it going to be:

  • Safe – will an older person be able to live comfortably without risk?

  • Convenient – is an older person going to be able to use the adaptations?

  • Long term – will the older person be able to stay there in the longer term?

  • Too much trouble – will making the adaptations actually be too intrusive?


It may be that moving to a purpose-built home is simply going to be easier.


If you want to stay in your own home, though, then it can often be made accessible:

  • Stair lifts make it possible to stay in a two-storey home. But this market is alive with hard-sell and careful shopping around needs to be undertaken before purchase. Stair lifts can be purchased or rented and fitted quickly. See Pauline's stairlift blog here.

  1. But will it be used? Does everyone in the house need to use it?

  2. Will it be possible to use the stairs as well?

  3.  Do not expect to pay the ‘prices from’ price. It always costs more.

  4.  What are the on-going costs – on top of the initial purchase price? These can be significant.

  • Walk-in showers. Accessibility is key here.

  1. Not every walk-in shower is going to be accessible for, say, someone in a wheelchair or who needs to sit down.

  2. Local Authorities often provide a ‘wet room’- it may accessible but may not be particularly attractive.





One product which is growing in popularity is the Red Button Alarm, and other alarmed services – such as pressure pads on beds or floors – which indicate if someone is in bed or moving around.


These are often installed on a 13 week free trial following an OT or social worker appointment. And there is a lot of sense in having one.

It can be useful:

  • If an older person has a fall

  • If they are wandering or stuck in bed

  • To summon help if they cannot reach the telephone


   But this is a totally unregulated market – literally anyone can set up as a red button provider. There is no official oversight of firms and no compulsory standards.  It is important to remember as well that red buttons are not the answer to everything. They have a fundamental flaw and can be expensive and unnecessary.


Such an alarm is only useful if:

  • You know someone would use it. Dementia sufferers, in particular, may not think of it. Other older people may be reluctant

  • An older person is actually at risk of falling and/or cannot use their telephone to summon help. 

  • You need to remember to test it regularly, to make sure it is functioning.

  • You need to ensure the batteries are changed regularly.


On top of this, there is a design flaw in that a red button alarm will not work if the telephone is out of order for any reason. Red button services boast that they will send help out if there is a power cut – because there will be a warning signal at their exchange. But, if the telephone itself is not working, there will be no warning light. And there have been cases where older people have been stranded because their telephone has been cut off and with it their red button alarm.


   As with stair lifts, the red button industry is keen to sign you up to make on-going monthly payments for use of their alarm. Some charge for the units as well. The costs can amount to more than £35 a month, for a service that may never be used.


   Products and services can make an independent life possible, even for quite frail people, but it is really important to work out what is needed, how much it is going to cost and whether they will be a prisoner in their own home because it may be adapted – but the world isn’t. 

Stair chair lift
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