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The government should provide specific funding for making changes to the homes of elderly people or those with additional needs to ease pressure on the NHS.
This is the conclusion of a new report from the Centre for Ageing Better and the University of the West of England, Bristol.
It found that older people whose physical health is declining can have their ability to perform daily activities - like washing, dressing and going to the toilet by themselves - reduced by 75 per cent.
However, the research found that the installation of home aids or work to adapt people's homes to make them more accessible to meet their evolving needs can increase their ability to perform tasks for themselves once again, by as much as 49 per cent.
What's more, such measures were also found to reduce the likelihood of individuals with additional needs reporting symptoms associated with depression by more than half (53 per cent).
Rachael Docking, senior evidence manager at the Centre for Ageing Better, commented: "Our report shows that by identifying those who could benefit from the home improvements and the installation of relatively low-cost equipment like ramps and handrails in their home early on, [this] could help hundreds of thousands of older people to live happier, safer and more independent lives where they are able to carry out basic daily tasks, like going to the toilet, for themselves."
She added that a greater onus on this should also help to ease a significant amount of pressure on the NHS, freeing up time and money for other priorities as a result.
The report drew on analysis carried out by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) which shows that for every £1 spent on home adaptations, £1.62 could be saved for the NHS over the long term, with a payback period of just eight months.
Even just minor adaptations could save the health service as much as £500 million in a single year, the BRE estimates.
Occupational therapists would play a key role in advising on the installation of home improvement measures, so a funding boost for this sector of social care may create numerous new job opportunities.
Written by Alex Franklin Stortford
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