Posted by Sarah White, Solicitor
The issues with accommodation which cerebral palsy can raise
In the lead up to World Cerebral Palsy Day on 6 October 2019 we have taken some time to focus on the quality of life of people with the condition, as the campaign hopes to raise awareness through their ‘We Are Here’ initiative.
When you have a disability, simple tasks that most of us take for granted, such as going into your house, moving around it, bathing, going to the toilet, getting a drink, or preparing a snack in the kitchen can be impossible or at least a real struggle if you are living in a property not suitable for your needs.
What it’s like to live in unsuitable accommodation
Quality of life is severely affected if you have a disability and are living in inappropriate accommodation. This is the case for many adults and children with cerebral palsy as well as their families.
One of our clients has recently shared the difficulties he faced when caring for his severely disabled son during the night. Unfortunately this is a common theme that we encounter when dealing with cerebral palsy claims:
“I carried our son up and down the stairs and had to sit with him on my knee in his cramped bedroom until he was settled sufficiently to put into bed. If he was disturbed in the night I would again have to sit him on my knee until he was settled because his chairs were downstairs.
On occasions when we had to change his bedding after he was sick in bed during the night, I would have to put his duvet on the floor in the doorway to his small bedroom then clean him up as much as possible, lift our son up out of bed and lay him down on the floor while the bedding was changed, finally lifting him up off the floor and, once settled, put him back into bed. This process sometimes happened twice during the same night”
Living in suitable and safe accommodation is something that can be life-changing for a person with cerebral palsy and their family. But finding or creating the right property for their needs can help them to live as full and as independent a life as possible.
How the right accommodation can be delivered
We aim to secure enough compensation to cover the costs of accommodation that is required, whether this is by way of adaptations to the existing home or by locating and purchasing a new property. Where possible, we will instruct expert architects to advise upon the individual’s property requirements and help locate an appropriate property.
The type of accommodation needed is very much dependent on individual needs, but there are typically a number of factors that we will consider when looking at appropriate accommodation, some of which are listed below:
- The specialist care requirements needed and space and facilities for the recommended number of carers
Depending on the recommended care regime, this can include a separate room, kitchenette and toilet for carers, a bedroom for night carers, a separate means of access and appropriate parking for the carers.
We will take into account proximity to existing support networks such as friends and family, proximity to current schools and colleges, and places attended for therapeutic and medical care.
We will also consider a person’s plans for the future when looking at location. For example, we have recently acted for a young man who is currently a student. Due to his fatigue, we needed to make sure that he had provision to be able to live very close to his intended place of work so as to minimise commuting time and maximise his chance of having a rewarding career.
It is important that someone can get into their property easily and we will consider the need for key card access if fine motor control is an issue. If mobility is an issue we will consider ramp/ level access. We will also consider appropriate lighting and car parking. For example, it may be appropriate to have undercover car parking to ensure that the person does not get wet when transferring to and from the car.
- Number of floors
Single story accommodation may be necessary. However, double story accommodation could be appropriate if there are appropriate modifications such as handrails or a lift.
If someone is reliant on a wheelchair or likely to require use of a wheelchair in the future, there needs to be sufficient space to manoeuver a wheelchair, with widened doors to ensure that the wheelchair can be used throughout the property.
Storage space is also something to consider – there must be room to store all of the required equipment including wheelchairs walking aids and therapeutic aids. Sometimes outside storage space is required for equipment such as electric mobility scooters.
There may be a need for a separate physiotherapy/ therapy/ sensory room so that more treatment can be carried out at home. There may also be the need for a separate utility room if, for example, there are continence issues.
In a case we recently settled it was necessary to ensure that there was provision for a home office so that the young adult with cerebral palsy could work from home, as he found commuting very tiring due to severe fatigue.
- Bathroom facilities
Bathrooms will generally need to be larger than normal to ensure space to manoeuver and for the carers to be able to assist. There may need to be provision for a level access walk in shower, a hoist, a large bath, a body drier, a specialist toilet or a wet room. It may be necessary to have en-suite bathroom facilities as well as a family bathroom, particularly if there are bladder and bowel management issues.
- Kitchen facilities
Low level units, sinks and appliances are sometimes needed so that someone wheelchair bound can use a kitchen independently.
- Outside space
If a person is disabled it is often useful to have some outside space so that they are able to get some fresh air without having to travel. Also, a garden can be important from a social point of view. One of our clients used his garden to socialise and entertain his friends, as going out to socialize was not very easy.
How this helps the families of people with cerebral palsy
As well as the quality of life of the disabled person, it is also important to consider the quality of life of the whole family.
We have recently been successful in obtaining a settlement for the family of a child with cerebral palsy. The main reason for moving was to enable a full care regime to be implemented, so that their child could get the level of care recommended by the experts.
Previously they had been doing the best they could with the relatively limited space their property had available, and with no separate room or facilities for the carers. The level of care required in this case meant that carers were constantly coming in and out of the house with no designated space of their own. This had a big impact on their feelings of privacy and the quality of life of the other children.
The father stated that:
“the amount of care that we provide for our son takes up a significant proportion our time including, but not limited to, making separate meals, giving our son his meals, administering medication, changing, getting up in the night and dealing with our son’s seizures. The care takes up so much time that there is little time or opportunity from a physical or mental point of view to focus on much else.
I can see the opportunity that moving to an environment where a full care regime can be implemented would free up my time in respect of the care I provide so that I can spend more quality time with our son and our other children. At the moment there are just a few stolen moments with our other children. I would like more time with them to fully engage with them and this will not happen until we move and the care regime is in place”.
If you have any questions for our specialist cerebral palsy solicitors, please contact us today.
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Medical negligence solicitors who understand what you’re going through