Getting older means that daily living becomes more of a struggle and everyday tasks become more taxing – but there are ways to make life easier. Dan Parton reports.

Many older people are reluctant to move to a residential care home or sheltered accommodation even when living in their own home becomes almost impossible.

But for those that do want to stay at home, several simple measures can be taken to make life easier.

In this section you will find:

  1. Domiciliary care
  2. Ask your local authority about making adaptations to your home
  3. Do it yourself
  4. Meals on wheels
  5. Shopping deliveries
  6. Check your health regularly
  7. Keep your eyes peeled
  8. Keep warm in winter
  9. Get a community alarm
  10. Claim your benefits

Domiciliary care

If tasks, such as cooking and cleaning or personal care such as washing and dressing, are becoming a struggle you can bring in home – commonly called domiciliary – carers to help. Services are flexible and reflect the amount of care needed. It could just be for half an hour a week, several hours a day, even up to 24-hour live-in care.

Domiciliary carers can be sourced through social services – subject to satisfying the local authority’s eligibility criteria – a home care agency or privately. But note that if you do source carers privately you will have to pay the full cost.

Ask your local authority about making adaptations to your home

Your local authority or NHS may provide equipment and adaptations, such as grab rails, toilet and bath seats or stair lifts. The local authority will send out someone – often an occupational therapist – to assess your needs and advise on the best equipment for your needs. However, there are no guarantees that your local authority will provide any support; again it depends whether you qualify under their eligibility criteria.

Do it yourself

There are an increasing number of retailers – from B&Q to supermarket chain Lidl – that now produce ranges of products specifically for making life easier for older people around the home. From simple devices such as an electrical plug with a handle, to walk-in baths or height-adjustable kitchen units, there are now many products on the market. These range in cost from a few pounds to more than £1,500 for larger items.

Meals on wheels

This long-established service is still available in some areas, although has been cut back on by many local authorities in recent years. The meals normally comprise a main course and a dessert and are planned to provide a balanced, nutritious diet for the user and can be delivered daily or on scheduled dates, as required. Providers should cater for special dietary needs and/or medical requirements as well as cultural or religious preferences, vegetarians or vegans. As your local council about their services. These also carry a small charge to use.

Shopping deliveries

Some councils offer a shopping delivery service for those unable to get out to do their own. With these services, you place an order, which is then delivered to your door for a small charge, usually about £5. In addition, the larger supermarket chains have online ordering facilities, which deliver orders directly to your door, for a small charge up to about £5.

Check your health regularly

It may sound obvious, but keeping as healthy as possible will help you to stay in your own home. Contact your GP to ask for a check-up and get advice on any health conditions you have or perhaps arrange to see a chiropodist, district nurse, health visitor or physiotherapist.

Keep your eyes peeled

Failing eyesight is a common cause of accidents among older people, so it is important to visit the opticians regularly. Some older people may worry about the cost but it does not have to be expensive – pensioners receive free eye tests and can also claim help with the cost of lenses and glasses.

Keep warm in winter

The cold is responsible for the deaths of about 25,000 older people each year. Installing loft or cavity wall insulation – which is often free to homeowners aged over 70 – can make a big difference, not only to the warmth of your house, but also to heating bills.

Get a community alarm

If you are getting frail, and especially if you live on your own, consider having a community alarm. This allows you to call for help 24 hours a day if you have an accident or are unwell.

Claim your benefits

Many pensioners have trouble making ends meet, which can lead to delays in repairs or adaptations – yet statistics show that billions worth of benefits go unclaimed each year. There are many benefits available to older people to help with the costs of living, from Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, through to Attendance Allowance.

Contact your local council or visit to find out which you may be entitled to.