Living independently: The power of small adaptations

Sometimes, life at home can get tricky. You – or your loved one – may have limited mobility making it difficult to get to the front door. Maybe you need a hand up and down from a chair. Or there are utensils around your home that you find difficult to operate.

These, and other, challenges can make you think twice about whether you can continue to live at home independently.

But where there’s a will, there’s often a way. And just because you may struggle with certain tasks or with using specific items, that doesn’t mean you have to lose your independence.

Around the UK there are many companies dedicated to providing practical adaptations and gadgets to enable people to remain in their homes. Sometimes all that’s needed is an adaptation, and an individual’s day-to-day life can be transformed.

One organisation working in this area is REMAP. The charity was founded back in the 1960s by Pat Johnson when he started making devices for his sister who used a wheelchair. Today REMAP’s hundreds of volunteer engineers all over the country make a difference every day to people who want to maintain their independence but need a bit of help to do so.

Peter Cattermole, Chair of Trustees and Volunteer Engineer at REMAP, explains how this is done: “We gather together like-minded people who have the skills, equipment and motivation to invent the solutions that change people’s lives. We know our clients have access to professional health care and therapy, but their resources only go so far. It’s often those same professionals who call us, because they know that when their client needs someone to solve a problem and create a bespoke solution, it’s time to call REMAP.

“The fact that we travel to the person’s home, work with them and their occupational therapists to meet their desires and do it all for free is a bonus!”

From devices that help people get dressed, to route-guiding barriers and food preparation aids, we’re sharing some of the innovative tools that have been created to make life easier at home. Maybe you’ll be inspired by one of these stories


A helping hand – or two!

Cora was living with arthritis in both her shoulders but wanted to continue taking trips out alone. Cora was unable to put her coat on without assistance, which she felt restricted her freedom. Though she had tried various dressing techniques and existing gadgets, they were all unsuccessful due to Cora’s very limited shoulder movement.

An engineer from REMAP was asked to come up with a solution that simulated a person assisting Cora with putting her coat on. Steel legs from a stacking chair were adapted with a selection of balanced levers, which raised the coat as Cora sat down. Once the coat was at the correct height, Cora could use the Coat Maid to release the coat using a modified bicycle brake system located to the right of the seat.

Now, Cora can put on coats alone – something she’s been unable to do for 18 months. As a result, Cora’s regained her independence and is once again able to leave the house whenever she pleases.


Feeling stable at the table

One lady found that when sitting at the table to eat she was gradually leaning over to the left. She needed an adaptation that was suitable to be used on a range of different chairs, so that she felt stable and confident when seated. The solution also needed to fold down so it could be taken into restaurants and the lady could once again enjoy meals out with her husband.

An engineer from REMAP got to work on this brief, drawing out suggested dimensions of a folding seat. A final version was then made in birch ply and stained in medium oak to match the lady’s dining table. A velcro strap holds the folded seat together when in transit and secures it to the back of the chair when in use – see the finished product here.

Simple tools like this can make a world of difference – the lady is now able to sit comfortably at the table with her family during mealtimes and enjoys going out to restaurants even more!


Woman in wheelchair prepares food with man also cooking in the background


Spill-free, worry-free

People can feel unsteady on their feet for a number of reasons, but this becomes more worrying when transporting drinks – especially hot ones!

This cup carrier was devised to offer a simple solution. Consisting of a circular wooden platform with a raised rim, the cup carrier is fitted with a rigid wooden hoop over the top, tall enough to go over a cup or mug placed on the platform. A short chain is attached to the apex of the wooden hoop.

Because the mug is suspended flexibly through its centre point, the forces on the mug and its contents can only go straight along the mug axis and so can’t spill. The cup carrier can be moved around quite rapidly without any liquid spilling, even if the mug (or wine glass!) is full to the brim.

REMAP has created several versions of this simple device for a variety of clients, giving many people additional confidence in their independence at home.

If you’ve seen something on this list that might help you – or if you’d like to enquire about a special gadget to aid your independence at home – you can get in touch with REMAP here.

Woman with prosthetic arm opening a cooker oven


Door handling it

Empty heading

Small and slippery door handles and locks can be difficult to grip, so it’s no wonder REMAP engineers have come up with a few different options to make these easier for people with mobility issues.

One example was an adapted door lock that is easier to grip – almost like a key in a toy. The challenge was to make a part that would fix securely to an existing lock and allow the client to turn it more easily. This was done by an engineer 3D modelling the knob and then creating a design that uses two small mouldings to fix to the existing fittings. The result was a very happy client who could once again lock their door with ease!

Another simple but valuable adaptation was the extended door handle. Initially made for a young girl who lacked the strength to open the door on her own, this slight adjustment to the length of the handle meant that she was able to exit her house with ease and maintain her independence.


Boiling point

One of REMAP’s clients, Lakhbir, had lost the use of one of his arms but still wanted to be able to cook and prepare his favourite meals in the kitchen. A challenge Lakhbir faced was being able to hold a pan while simultaneously stirring – something he was unable to do without help.

REMAP’s solution was to create a device that fitted onto the cooker’s hob, which held the saucepan in place for the client. This freed up Lakhbir’s hand so that he could attend to more important kitchen tasks – like sampling his culinary delights!

Woman in wheelchair making tea in the kitchen with her cat on her lap


Push to flush

One client struggled with her toilet’s flush button due to severe rheumatism in her hands. Thankfully, an engineer came up with a simple yet innovative solution – replacing the flush with a large button that stands out on top of the toilet cistern.

Now, the lady can easily use the palm of her hand to flush, proving that the simplest tools can make all the difference.



Four-pronged approach

After a stroke left him with limited use of his left hand, one of REMAP’s clients needed bespoke cutlery to be made so he could eat without assistance.

Using some cutlery he already owned, the engineer attached a steel tube to a fork to hold the client’s forefinger, which enabled him to stabilise food for cutting with his unaffected right hand. Another fork was adapted in the same way so that the client had a spare. The simplicity of the design means REMAP can easily replicate this solution for other people with similar difficulties.

The final product now allows the client to eat without help – and he gets to show off his very own set of bespoke cutlery when guests come to visit!


Rising to the challenge

Getting into the shower is difficult for those living with mobility issues. One man living with progressive muscle disorder had no extension power in his knees, so needed elevation in his household furnishings to safely transfer between places. This was fine when for moving between his elevated wheelchair, bed or armchair, but became a problem when it came to shower time. Though there were many fixed shower seat solutions on the market, none met this man’s particular needs.

REMAP’s solution was the rising shower seat. A small motorcycle lift platform was installed in the under-seat space of a wheeled shower commode chair. The foot-operated lift enables the client or his carer to raise and lower the seat and the client can once again use his shower room with ease.

Walk in bathtub showing a door for easy access


Cooking without gas

REMAP is just one company dedicated to creating gadgets to simplify home lives. Gas company, Cadent, has also created a gadget of its own to assist more people stay safe in their homes.

This solution is the locking cooker valve – a simple gadget for people in vulnerable situations to retain their independence while staying safe when using gas at home. When the valve is locked, the gas supply is isolated, meaning that the gas cooker can’t be turned on or left on unintentionally. However, the valve can be easily turned on or off so that the gas cooker can be used safely with supervision.

Cadent can fit a lockable safety device to existing gas cooker pipeworks completely free of charge. For more information, or to enquire about getting a locking cooker valve fitted, head to Cadent’s website.

Further reading

Additional support at home

The Priority Services Register (PSR) is a free service, designed to support those who need a little extra help in the event of interruptions to their gas, water or electricity supply.

If you or someone you know has extra communication, access or safety needs, signing up to the PSR will help you to access the best possible services at all times and to feel safe and independent at home.

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