Returning Home After Serious Injury
When you or a loved one is due to return home after suffering a life-changing injury, adjusting to new healthcare needs can be challenging — requiring significant changes to your home and way of life. Here, we offer advice and support on preparing your home in the wake of a serious injury.
Following an extended stay in hospital, you’ll want peace of mind that the right provision is in place to safeguard the long-term rehabilitation and care of you or a loved one. With healthcare and accessibility needs to consider, installing the appropriate aids and equipment is vital in ensuring comfort, safety and wellbeing when returning home.
Below, we outline the process of preparing your home, including first steps and useful contacts.
Assessing At-Home Healthcare Needs
Before you or a family member is discharged from the hospital, rehabilitation therapists should discuss the ongoing care requirements with you, and give advice on the equipment and aids required. This should be part of the discharge plan, helping you get the right healthcare provision in place.
However, should the hospital trust lack the equipment needed to ensure safety at home, the discharge date may be delayed. In this instance, an occupational therapist (OT) employed by the NHS or a local social services department should discuss the next steps, and help provide access to the aids and equipment required.
Arrangements differ between hospital trusts as to whether this person is employed by the NHS or a local social services department. If a litigation claim is pending, it may be possible to engage a privately employed OT to speed things up.
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Accessing Aids and Equipment
The state offers ease-of-access equipment to those who have suffered serious injury. However, as mentioned above, accessing state-funded aids and equipment can cause delays in discharge, and the equipment provided may not always meet the exact health and comfort requirements of you or a family member.
Where you feel the need to supplement what the state is able to offer, you may find it helpful to contact the following charities and organisations:
- Red Cross — Provide short-term loans of wheelchairs and some other mobility aids.
- Disabled Living Foundation — A national charity providing impartial advice, information and training on independent living. Provides impartial advice about products at livingmadeeasy.org.uk.
At Hudgell Solicitors, we work with a number of independent consultants who can advise on suitable equipment, including wheelchairs. Longer-term wheelchair users may find it beneficial to speak to a specialist consultant who can arrange trials of different types of wheelchair. They can also advise on the benefits of having more than one wheelchair, such as different models for use around the home or on difficult terrain outside.
A list of the healthcare aids and equipment consultants we work with is available upon request.
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Home Adaptations — The Process
Following serious injury, many patients spend time in an acute trauma ward before being transferred to a rehabilitation centre for a longer period of treatment. This is when their at-home care needs are assessed, and a discharge plan drawn up outlining the equipment needed to ensure their health and wellbeing at home.
At this time, the home can be adapted, and in our experience, the sooner attention is given to housing issues, the easier the hospital discharge procedure can be. Local authorities may be able to provide a Disabled Facilities Grant to fund some modest home alterations such as installation of ramps, grab rails and a wet room, but this will require a specialist assessment by an occupational therapist on behalf of the council.
This may not be the best solution, however, as there will be restrictions on the amount that can be spent. The grant may fund safe, small-scale adaptations, but they may not provide the level of comfort or practicability that you or your loved one need in the long-term.
Where you have a compensation claim following your injury, your solicitor can seek an early interim payment from the third-party insurers to assist with accommodation needs. Similar to the help available through local authorities or charities, this may help fund stop-gap solutions to enable you to return home but, where the legal claim is ongoing, they can also fund permanent longer term projects.
In these cases, architects with specialist expertise in disability designs will consider the accessibility of your current home, and may recommend substantial rebuilding works or the purchase of a new property.
Any case manager appointed to co-ordinate care arrangements would also co-ordinate this aspect and deal with much of the paperwork and administration on your behalf. Where a current legal claim is ongoing, they may also be assisted by an independent property finder service.
Travel and Mobility
After an extended period in hospital receiving round-the-clock treatment, it’s important that individuals who have suffered life-changing injuries regain some of their independence on returning home. Travel and mobility are key to this, providing the means to return to a normal way of life.
Of course, depending on the injuries, some people may require a specially-adapted vehicle — particularly those who use a wheelchair. Cars with adjusted controls, whereby all the functions are hand-operated, are common for people who have sustained serious leg and spinal injuries. Some people may also require specific counselling to boost their driver confidence — a service offered by specialist mobility charity, Moving Minds.
The Government offers a Motability Scheme which gives access to cars, scooters or powered wheelchairs in exchange for an individual’s Disability Living Allowance. The Mobility website features an eligibility checker, and there are also details of how to apply for a charitable grant to help those who might otherwise struggle to achieve the mobility solution they require.
Over 4500 dealerships nationwide are part of the Motability Scheme, and we recommend visiting several dealers to test drive vehicles that you might be interested in before making a decision. For those who use a wheelchair, home visits are possible by the dealer to demonstrate various vehicle types.
In our experience, it’s worth engaging the services of an independent mobility expert, who will consider both your current and future needs in conjunction with an occupational therapist. This ensures the vehicle you buy or lease through Motability is not a short-term solution, with which you might soon become frustrated.
Long term package of rehabilitation has Thomas on the road to recovery after life-changing accident
“The support I received has been fantastic. It has helped me to find a new goal in life and given me a career ambition to become an occupational therapist, which I would never have considered before my accident.
“I know I face difficulties and, due to the impact of my injuries, many aspects of my life are uncertain — but I am looking forward now.”
Thomas, Hudgell Solicitors’ client
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