What retailers need to know about providing furniture for people with disabilities and those that require homecare…

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Stuart Barrow, Promoting Independence

As an Occupational Therapist, issues around seating and furniture arise daily.

Whether I’m recommending seating or suggesting the right furniture for a client who needs considerable homecare, there’s no magic wand or quick solution – serious consideration needs to go into it.

And the more that OTs and retailers know about the needs of their customers, the more likely they are to provide the right solution.

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First things first, here are some straightforward questions to ask any prospective customer:

  • What difficulties (if any) are you having with your existing furniture?
  • Is it too high, too low or too hard?
  • Are you finding transfers difficult?
  • Do you suffer from pressure sores?
  • Is your medical condition different or worst, making your current furniture no longer appropriate?

Asking those questions is a great place to start, and following on from that, here are a few troubleshooting tips that might help you provide a solution.

Is it too high?

What sort of legs or castors does it have?

Legs or castors may be able to be removed to lower the furniture to make it easier to transfer on and off.

For beds, bed levers or steps could be considered.

Is it too low?

Raising a chair or bed can make it more comfortable and can also help in preventing falls.

Once you’ve realised you need to raise it, the next thing to consider is how much you need to raise it by:

Step 1. Measure the distance from the floor to the back of the knee when the person is wearing the shoes they would normally wear around the home.

Step 2. For chairs measure the height from the floor to the top of the seat when it is depressed as if someone were sitting in the chair.

For beds measure the height from the floor to the top of the mattress when depressed as though someone were sitting on the edge of the bed.

Step 3. Deduct the leg measurement from the height measurement and the difference will tell you how much you need to raise or lower the item of furniture.

Is it too hard?

Consider a cushion, BUT remember: cushions are for comfort, not to prop a person up on a settee or chair. If a pressure risk is identified, consult a District Nurse or GP for advice before provision.

Are transfers difficult?

Once again, raising or lowering can help to reduce the difficulty of transfers.

Are pressure sores a problem?

If a pressure sore, reddened area or pain is mentioned, take the details and ask them if you can refer them to their GP / District Nurse to assess the pressure area.

Do not sell the customer equipment until a medical professional has seen them.

Has there been a change of medical condition?

Is your customer medically stable? The customer may have recently undergone surgery, which is why they are having transfer problems.

Ask questions and if in doubt, refer to a GP as raising a hip to high after a recent hip operation could result in a hip dislocation.

Helping Hand company do a hip care kit which may be of benefit whilst recovery is still underway.

Need some further training?

If you’d like to enhance your understanding and ability in this area, I can highly recommend training from three different operators:


Langham do a fantastic course. It is COT certified and covers the following:

  • Health and safety issues associated with raising furniture
  • Technical information about raise heights
  • Raisers most suitable for different furniture

To book onto this course, email sally@promoting-independence.co.uk to book onto the 30-minute seminar at your nearest OTAC.

Disabled Living Foundation (DLF) Trusted Assessor Training

DLF’s Trusted Assessor Training is accredited at Level II by the Open College Network and provides training for community staff in the assessment, use and fitting of basic daily living equipment, equipping staff to confidently:

  • Implement the assessment process and understand the importance of safety and risk in the community
  • Prescribe and fit specified equipment such as raised toilet seats
  • Assess for and prescribe specified minor adaptations e.g. place and mark up for rails
  • Know what safety issues to consider when checking equipment
  • Know when to refer to OT services

To book onto this course, visit http://www.dlf.org.uk/content/trusted-assessor-training

Careflex – What A Difference A Chair Makes

Careflex training, delivered at all OTAC events, highlights the vital role seating can play a very important part in alleviating problems.

The training covers:

  • The very real dangers of sitting for long periods in asymmetrical and unsupported positions
  • What causes pressure ulcers, why they need to be avoided, and how seating can reduce and eliminate them
  • How certain seating stances can impair breathing and speaking ability
  • How to conduct a proper assessment and select the right chair to meet a person’s needs.

To book onto this course (at OTAC events) call Julieanne Fewings on (01626) 831 843 or email her at julieanne.fewings@careflex.co.uk

Stuart Barrow of Promoting Independence is a member of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists and a recognised expert in the field of home adaptations. His experience is sought by manufacturers and service providers looking for an expert opinion. Stuart also runs the Occupational Therapy Adaptations Conference (OTAC).

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