Thousands with arthritis spend years struggling at home before getting vital support

Lady turning on bath tap with help of aids and adaptations.

A new survey published today by health charity Versus Arthritis reports 43% of people living with persistent pain struggled with basic tasks at home for more than two years before finding out about their eligibility for local authority support. This includes functional aids and adaptations such as grab rails, raised toilet seats and stair-lifts in their homes to assist with routine tasks and facilitate greater independence.

The Versus Arthritis survey further shows that 94% of people with arthritis who regularly use aids and adaptations, report these have a positive impact on their quality of life: maintaining independence at home for longer and delaying or preventing further care needs.

Yet the survey found that nearly half (47%) are buying their own aids and adaptations because they were unaware their local authority could provide them for free1. This is despite local authorities being legally obliged to supply community equipment free of charge to those with eligible needs.

The pain caused by arthritis can make simple movements such as standing or getting dressed difficult and painful. The confusion around what support is available has meant thousands of people have been impeded from living independently at home.

Jennylyn Williams, who has been living with rheumatoid arthritis for 20 years says, “After my diagnosis I found I needed a lot of help around the home and getting around in general. It can be a terrifying time trying to do the things you’re struggling with. It can leave you feeling so alone, and there’s no one telling you help is available. The stress can make the symptoms of my arthritis worse. Aids and adaptations have taken away the stress of everyday life and has meant my fatigue doesn’t get in the way. I’ve gone from being totally restricted to being able to lead a “normal” life.”

Individual costs for aids and adaptations can vary. An illustrative example is 29% of individuals who have self-financed report they have spent more than £1,000. In some cases, this has risen to as much as £5,000.

Tracey Loftis, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Versus Arthritis, says “Around 17.8 million people in the UK live with arthritis or a related condition. Living with persistent pain can impact on your quality of life, mood and can make everyday life harder.

“Aids and adaptations can make a positive difference to someone’s life, enabling people to live independently. We are concerned thousands of people in England who have arthritis are not getting the support they need from local authorities.

“People with arthritis deserve better than this and should be provided with aids and adaptations free of charge when eligible. Versus Arthritis is calling on the Government to play a key role in developing best practice for local authorities as well as asking local authorities to provide information to the public about this vital service.”

Dr Anna Dixon, Chief Executive, Centre for Ageing Better comments: “We urgently need to upgrade and adapt Britain’s homes. Currently the vast majority are not suitable for people with reduced mobility or who have a disability. This can be difficult for people managing health conditions like arthritis. Fitting aids and adaptations into homes is a cost-effective way to meet the needs of an ageing population.”

More information

More information about the impact aids and adaptations can have on people’s lives, people’s experiences seeking support from their local council, examples of best practice in local councils and the six policy recommendations can be found in the full policy report on our website.

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