A time might come when your MS means you need help doing everyday tasks. You might need to make some changes to your home. That's when equipment and adaptations can make a big difference.
What are adaptations?
Adaptations are changes to the structure of your home that make living with MS easier. They can be major, like converting a bathroom into a wet room, or fitting a lift. Or much smaller, like a temporary or permanent ramp for a wheelchair, or fitting a grab handle to a wall.
Adaptations can mean the difference between staying in the home you love and needing to move. You might not always need your home adapting. Sometimes a gadget or piece of equipment is all the help you need.
How do I get adaptations or equipment?
Your local council can advise you on adaptations and equipment. In Northern Ireland, speak to your Health and Social Care Trust instead.
Their social services department can send an occupational therapist (OT) or a social worker to see what you need. This can take place as part of a social care assessment to decide what help you need from social services.
Your GP, social worker or someone who treats your MS can also refer you to an OT. You can often refer yourself to the OT service. Just contact the social services department of your council or Trust.
An occupational therapist can give you advice on what to get. But you might also find useful reviews from people who've used the equipment. Read reviews on the website of the Research Institute for Disabled People
Find out more
Gadgets and equipment
Many types of gadgets, equipment and other technology make it easier to do everyday things. On the website Living Made Easy you’ll find information about the many types of equipment and technology. The factsheets there will help you decide what to choose.
In some parts of the country there are Independent Living Centres where you can find out about equipment or try it out.
There are also many private suppliers of gadgets and equipment. Sometimes a product that’s easily available in a household store can do the job just as well as a specialist product.
The Disabled Living Foundation (DLF) can provide information about many types of disability equipment and mobility products.
If what you need isn’t available to buy, Remap.org.uk can design and make free, tailor-made equipment to meet your individual needs and help you stay independent.
Adaptations and equipment room by room
Some adaptations are used for more than one room. You might:
- make doors wider so that a wheelchair can pass through
- move electrical sockets and switches so they’re easier to reach
- fit a second bannister to give you support on both sides as you go up and down stairs
- install a stair lift
- have a ‘through-floor lift’, a lift that goes through the floor, taking you from upstairs to downstairs. Check out the Living Made Easy website's information about different types of lifts.
Some equipment you can use all over your home, and maybe outside it:
- mobility aids to help you move around. Read more about sticks, walking frames or wheelchairs
- things to help you lift or move yourself (or to help others move you). These include leg lifters, slings, hoists, transfer boards, sliding sheets, or bed hand blocks
- specially adapted plugs that are easier to plug in and take out
- special brushes
- gadgets that help you reach for things and pick up them up
- alarms and alerts
We’ve separated other adaptations and equipment into the rooms where you’re likely to need them.
- move cupboards, sinks and ovens to a height that’s easier to reach
- lower worktops for easier use if you use a wheelchair
- make floors slip-resistant
You might find these helpful:
- large handles to fit over taps. Or knob turners that fit over cooker controls
- easy-grip handles on things you cook with
- a ‘perching stool’ for washing up, ironing or cooking sitting down
- non-slip mats. They keep things from sliding around worktops when you prepare food
- specially adapted easy-grip cutlery, plates, bowls and things to drink from
- adapted items that make cooking or preparing food easier. These include scissors, knives, tin and ring pull openers, and weighing scales that speak
Read more about adapting your kitchen in the Living Made Easy factsheet ‘Adapting your home: the kitchen’
- move your bathroom downstairs by converting a ground floor room
- turn an existing bathroom into a wet room
Wet rooms are open plan, so are easier and safer to move around in, especially for wheelchair users. They’re tiled, sealed, and can have non-slip floors. This makes washing and showering easier. The door can be made wider to allow a wheelchair in.
You can take out the bath tub or make it into a walk-in tub. Or have a walk-in (or wheel-in) shower. The shower can have two settings at different heights to suit different users. A removable shower head with a long hose makes rinsing easier. Benches offer a place to rest and regain your balance.
You can fix grab rails near the toilet or on the wall near the bath. This is safer than holding on to wash basins, the side of the bath or radiators for support. You can fit a frame around the toilet with arm rests. You can also change how high wash basins are.
If you need it, you can fit a hoist or sling to help you on and off the toilet, or into and out of the bath.
You might find these helpful:
- a shower chair
- a commode. This is a chair, often on wheels, with a built-in chamber pot for you to go to toilet in. With the bucket removed, it fits over your existing toilet
- a raised toilet seat that fits over the existing seat
- lever taps or ones that use a sensor can be fitted for easier use
- a ‘toileting sling’ is less than a full sling, and helps get someone on and off the toilet
Read more about adapting your bathroom in the Living Made Easy factsheet ‘Adapting your home: the bathroom’.
- fit grab rails on the wall at the sides of your bed
- fit a ‘through-floor’ lift to take you downstairs from your bedroom
- install a mechanised hoist to help you in and out of bed. It can fit on to the wall or on tracks in the ceiling
- use a free-standing hoist
- think about whether any bed you buy has a big enough gap (20 cm or eight inches) under it so that the legs of a hoist can fit underneath. You might need this in the future
An occupational therapist can show you the most effective ways to get in and out of bed.
You might find these helpful:
- slide sheets. They make it easier to move across the bed and move your legs over the side of it
- a ‘bed lever’ or ‘bed rail’. You attach it to the side of your bed. It helps you to sit up, lie down, stand up and get steady on your feet before you move away
- bed raisers. Fit them to the bed’s legs to raise it off the floor. Use correctly fitted ones designed for this. Don’t improvise with bricks or blocks
- electronic, adjustable and raising beds. They increase comfort for you and for your carer by making the whole bed higher
- a mattress elevator. Electrically powered, it will help you move from lying flat to sitting up. Or find the perfect angle for sitting up in bed. Use one instead of bricks or wooden blocks
- leg raisers. Shaped pieces of foam that support your legs in bed and ease pain.
- fit a ramp to French or patio windows to let you into your garden in a wheelchair easier
- widen the door to allow a wheelchair to come through
- install a through-floor lift to take you from the bedroom into the living room
You might find these helpful:
- a chair that’s the right height and with filled-in arms. It‘s easier to get up from, and filled-in arms stop magazines and TV remotes falling through
- special support cushions and seating aids. Piles of cushions are bad for your back and can make getting out of the chair more difficult
- ‘reachers’. If your grip is weak, use these to pick things off the floor or down from a shelf. Some have magnetic ends to pick up metal objects
Read more about chairs in the Living Made Easy factsheet ‘Choosing a bed and bed accessories’.
Technology can help in many ways, from appliances in the kitchen to apps for mobile phones.
- Alarms and alerts can be a life saver if you’re at risk from falling and need to call for help. You wear a device around your neck. Press it if you need help any time of day or night. For about £5 a week you can loan one from your council or Trust, or rent one from a private company
- If you’re not very mobile, an Environmental Control Unit lets you control the temperature, lighting and your entertainment systems in several rooms. In some areas they’re free on the NHS. Or buy or rent one. Your local social services might help with this
- A smart phone or voice-activated hubs made by Google or Apple. You can control lights, heating and entertainment using these
- Alternative Augmentative Communication technology will help you if you have a serious speech problem. It helps you communicate and be understood more easily
Ask an occupational therapist or social worker for details of these systems.
Paying for equipment and adaptations
Paying for equipment
Before you buy equipment, check if you can get it for free. An occupational therapist in your local council (or Trust in Northern Ireland) can tell you if it’s available from them or the NHS. If you have an assessment for social care services, ask about equipment then.
If you have an assessment for social care, your council or Trust might give you equipment. Or they might give you a personal budget to buy it with, using what’s called a ‘direct payment’.
But you can only do this if the need for that equipment is mentioned in the care and support plan they write for you after your assessment. They’ll take your financial situation into account before they decide how much of the cost they’re willing to pay.
Make sure you're getting any benefits you’re entitled to. They’re designed to help with the extra costs of having a disability, like buying equipment.
You can get some basic items on loan from the NHS. Or an occupational therapist or GP can prescribe them for you.
The NHS must provide certain things like wheelchairs, environmental control units, technology needed to communicate, and orthotics. Orthotics are things to help you walk, like a Functional Electrical Stimulation device for drop foot.
If you get equipment for free, you might only get the cheapest, most basic option. If you want something more expensive, you may need to pay the difference.
If you need other ways of paying for equipment, ask your occupational therapist, local MS Society group or Citizens Advice. They’ll know if there are any trusts, charities, benevolent societies or local welfare schemes you could apply to for help.
Grants for equipment
Charities and benevolent societies might help you get or pay for equipment. An occupational therapist (OT) can help with this. To get one of their grants, some societies will ask that an OT recommends you for it.
If the equipment will help you stay in work, you might get an Access to Work grant.
Get help to find grants at:
- your local MS Society or carers group. Ask if they know of places that offer grants
- our grants page
Paying for adaptations
If you have an assessment for social care, it may decide you need adaptations to your home. You might get help with paying for this. This is true whether you own your home, or rent from a private landlord, the council, a housing association or other type of social housing.
By law landlords must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for their disabled tenants. Landlords can get financial help to pay for adaptations. If you rent from the council or a housing association, they should pay for them.
In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland adaptations are either ‘minor’ or ‘major’. In Wales they are ‘small’, ‘medium’ or ‘large’.
Minor changes would be things like:
- fitting special taps
- fixing hand or grab rails on walls
- moving power sockets
- changing locks or light switches
- making ramps for a wheelchair
Major changes include things like:
- widening doors to let a wheelchair through
- installing a wet room or replace a bath with a wheelchair-friendly shower
- putting in a stairlift or lift between floors
- installing an easier to use heating or lighting system
- lowering kitchen work surfaces
- building a downstairs bedroom or bathroom
Minor changes like ramps or rails should be provided for free by your council, or Trust. This is true no matter what your finances are or whether you own or rent your home. Housing associations might pay for minor changes themselves. Or you apply to your council or Trust and the Housing Association acts like a landlord.
Major adaptations, ones that cost over £1,000 (£1,500 in Scotland), won’t be free. But it’s possible to get help towards the cost.
In Scotland, if you’re a homeowner or live in private housing, major adaptations are usually paid for with a grant from your council that comes from the Scheme of Assistance. Find more on this at gov.scot
Private tenants need permission to make any changes from the landlord. But a landlord can’t say no to this unless there’s a good reason.
Council or housing association tenants in Scotland should let their landlord know if they need adaptations. Usually the council or housing association will pay for these.
Grants for adaptations
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) is the main way people pay for larger adaptations.
In Scotland, if you’re a homeowner or live in private housing, major adaptations are usually paid for with a grant from your council that comes from the Scheme of Assistance.
Home improvement agencies can also help people adapt their homes. Here are examples.
- The charity Independence at Home
- The Home Improvement Agency (HIA). Find out if the HIA is in your area.
- Local agencies like Care & Repair and Staying Put. These offer support with home adaptations in partnership with local authorities. They can help you get financial support and coordinate building works and payment. Some will help with things like gardening and preventing falls.
Each nation in the UK has a coordinating body for these agencies:
- Foundations in England
- Care and Repair in Scotland
- Care and Repair Cymru in Wales
- In Northern Ireland Radius Housing and G.A.B.L.E help people apply for grants
Read more about applying for help with adaptations if you live in Wales Read more about applying for help with adaptations in Northern Ireland Read more about applying for help with adaptations from the Scheme of Assistance in Scotland
Other ways of funding adaptations
If you don't qualify for a Disabled Facilities Grant, and can't get help from a home improvement agency, there are other options. You could consider:
- taking out a loan
- selling your home to buy something smaller, so freeing up extra money
- raising money through 'equity release'. This is borrowing money against the value of your home without needing to sell it. Get independent financial advice before choosing equity release.
Can you save on VAT?
MS is classed as a disability from the day you’re diagnosed. You shouldn’t pay VAT if you need to pay for, repair or service disability equipment. And you should pay no VAT if your disability means you need to adapt your home.
Check whether you can be exempt from paying VAT. This will cut the cost by 20%. If you get a quote, make sure that VAT isn’t added. Do all this before you order or pay for equipment or building work. Claiming it back after you’ve paid it is more complicated.
Disabled Facilities Grants
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) is the main way people pay for larger adaptations. This is true whether you own your home, rent from a private landlord, or you’re a council or housing association tenant. But you must intend to live in the property for at least five years.
Scotland doesn’t have DFGs. If you live in private housing, you can get grants from your local council through the Scheme of Assistance instead.
To get a Disabled Facilities Grant
You or your landlord need to apply to your local council (or Trust in Northern Ireland). An occupational therapist from your council or Trust visits you to see what you need.
Disabled Facilities Grants are means tested. So if you have over a certain amount in savings and so on, you have to pay some or all of the costs yourself. When a landlord applies, they don’t have a means test.
Waiting lists for these grants can be long in some places. But by law you should get a decision within six months. If you’re successful, you should get the money within 12 months of applying.
The most this grant can be is £30,000 in England, £25,000 in Northern Ireland, and £36,000 in Wales (these were the amounts in 2024). More than half of the grants awarded are for £5,000 or less.
You can appeal if you’re turned down for one of these grants, or if you’re not happy with the amount they offer you.
Things to do before starting adaptations
Here are things to think about:
- Before you start, check out the Living Made Easy information on planning and paying for adaptations
- Make sure grants or other financial support are agreed, including signing any contracts or scheduling work. You risk losing grants if builders start work before this is agreed
- Check that you're not paying VAT
- The work could take weeks and involve different people. Write down everything you’ve discussed and agreed with everyone
- Prepare by getting quotes and advice, including checking planning permission and building regulations. Your local Citizens Advice can help, as can the housing and social care departments of your local council (or Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland)
- Tell your mortgage provider and home insurance provider what you are planning
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