…for stroke survivor and visually-impaired Steve
Steve Waller, 64 from Rotherham, is the latest stroke survivor to be safer at home after the installation of a Stiltz Trio+ Homelift, partly funded by a Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG).
Steve has lived in Brampton, north of Rotherham, for over 25 years after working in the Heavy Plant Industry and charity sector. Due to his increasing visual impairment and the need to provide care for his son who developed a life limiting condition, Steve gave up his career to focus on life at home. Despite remaining physically fit, at the beginning of 2019 Steve experienced a stroke and paralysis whilst travelling on a bus to Rotherham. Fast forward eighteen months and Steve has made a remarkable recovery but still lives with limited mobility and balance issues. These are exacerbated by his visual impairment which when combined, presents a safety risk while using the stairs. Following several falls and injuries, most recently in January 2020, Steve decided he needed to find a solution.
Before trying to find ways of moving safely between floors, Steve looked at buying a different house. A single storey home would solve his problems however he discovered bungalows were ‘massively expensive’ and there was nothing suitable close by anyway. Being content for so long in Brampton he didn’t want to relocate to an unfamiliar area. When he decided moving was not an option and was still unaware of homelifts, he began researching stairlifts online. He also enquired about equipment funding with the local council who assigned him an Occupational Therapist (OT) to assess his needs.
Steve had received limited adaptations at home during his rehabilitation, such as dual handrails on the stairs, however these were proving ineffective as his mobility and vision became more challenging. He thought that a stairlift could possibly offer a safe solution for moving between floors, however his narrow staircase had two turns, so space was a major issue. Plus he felt transferring into a seat especially at the top of the stairs would be too risky for him. Steve continued to search for a more suitable solution which led him to Stiltz. When comparing homelifts to stairlifts, Steve enthused, “Stiltz Homelifts look so much better practically and visually.”
Steve continued to research possible funding solutions and contacted the Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind who gave him information about DFGs. A DFG is mandatory funding from local authorities which can pay for essential housing adaptations, such as a homelift. These help disabled people remain safely in their home and live independently for longer without the need for residential or domiciliary care. Applicants must own the property or be a tenant with the intention of living there for a minimum of five years. The council must be satisfied that the work is ‘necessary and appropriate’ to meet the needs of a disabled person, the request is ‘reasonable’ and ‘can be done’.
Steve discussed a DFG with his Occupational Therapist: “I explained to her that I’d like to apply for a DFG to fund a homelift however I was told this might not be possible. A stairlift could be funded, yet I didn’t want one, especially as I felt my staircase and my conditions were not suitable. I was a little confused by this advice, however after pushing my case I was instructed to obtain three stairlift and three homelift quotes so the council could make a decision. They took into consideration my Occupational Therapist’s report and I had a very detailed form to complete however to be fair, they were pretty quick in the end and I received grant approval within two months.”
In February 2020, a Stiltz Assessor visited Steve to complete an initial assessment of his needs. The most appropriate homelift and its location within his home were discussed in detail, whilst focusing on daily living requirements and maintaining his existing lifestyle. A wheelchair accessible Trio+ Homelift was recommended both by Stiltz and Steve’s Occupational Therapist so that his independence was future-proofed. If he needed a wheelchair in years to come, he could still use the homelift and remain safe and independent at home.
Steve continues: “The council funded the equivalent cost of a stairlift – which for my curved stairs wasn’t the cheapest option – and I paid the extra to get a homelift. Stiltz were the most competitively priced of all the homelift companies even though their design and quality was much better. On completion of the job, Stiltz invoiced the council directly for the DFG contribution and I paid Stiltz for the shortfall, all very easy.”
With DFG funding and Steve’s contribution all organised, Stiltz sent a Technical Surveyor in May to complete a structural report. The location of the homelift was confirmed along with recommendations that highlighted the building work required to complete the floor aperture. There were no major barriers identified with only a joist and central heating pipework needing to be relocated. As with all Stiltz Homelifts, no complex electrical wiring was required with the product plugging into a newly added standard 240v wall socket.
Steve asked Stiltz to manage the whole process – from submission of building regulations and pre-installation work, to homelift installation and commissioning. The project was completed within four days and with no hassle. “I was so impressed with all the Stiltz team, they were professional and polite,” explains Steve. “It all started with Alistair carrying out my initial assessment, he was really positive… we laughed and joked and he even coped with drinking my coffee! He didn’t sell to me, only offered information so I could make my own mind up. He was quite different to the other lift companies I saw who went for more a salesy approach which I didn’t like. Stiltz never hounded me with follow up calls, not like the others, they just left me to think things through and to contact them when I was ready. I felt in control and reassured all the way through the process. Every stage was completed in a thorough manner and Gino, one of the Directors from Stiltz, was so supportive during the COVID-19 lockdown.”
Independence at home is vital for everyone, none more so than Steve. Classed as vulnerable, Steve has been shielding due to his type 1 diabetes and because he has to take prescribed chemotherapy medication. The advantage of a homelift means he can live alone and not worry about carer support or the risk of injury: “I do not want to be going to A&E currently that’s for sure,” exclaims Steve. “My homelift means I can live safely with my retired guide dog Evie and avoid exposure to coronavirus. I still receive visits from my community stroke nurse though – she has been that impressed with my Stiltz Homelift, she has told all her colleagues about it and re-introduced DFGs into her staff and patient training.”
“I believe a homelift is a far, far better solution for stroke survivors than a stairlift. Even if you just look at the simple things in life like taking your washing up and down the stairs, my Stiltz Homelift has made such a difference. I used to have to throw my clothes down the stairs and then try climb over them. There was no way I could carry a washing basket downstairs. I would regularly trip over my washing which was a big worry. Not anymore. I get into my homelift, sit on the chair with my washing basket by my feet and away I go.”
The ergonomic design of multi-award winning Stiltz Homelifts is highly regarded amongst healthcare professionals and end users. Its simplistic, intuitive controls provide Steve with added support due to his visual impairment and restricted movement. He chooses to operate the homelift by using the remote control whilst sitting on the chair. Steve can open the door without issue and the invisible light curtain above the door ensures the lift stops if a protrusion is detected. The electrically powered motion is smooth which is important for Steve’s stability and the mechanisms are whisper quiet.
Overall the process of obtaining a homelift with a DFG contribution was positive for Steve. He did have some challenges to overcome in terms of funding nevertheless the support from Stiltz was invaluable: “Aspects of day-to-day life were becoming a real pain before owning my homelift. Now I rarely use the stairs and the worry of falls has vanished. I would hope more healthcare professionals and councils gain better knowledge of Stiltz Homelifts and why they can provide a better solution than a stairlift. No one should come up against resistance when seeking mandatory funding of a product that keeps them safe and independent at home. I’m so lucky to live where I live with Evie. I can relax listening to my music and live a normal life getting up and downstairs when I like. It’s magic.”
Supporting the provision of DFGs nationally, Stuart Barrow, Occupational Therapist, is delighted that Steve received a grant and concludes: “A Disabled Facilities Grant in this instance has achieved several aims which is what the DFG funding is for: 1. Safety around the home; 2. Access to a bathroom and bedroom; 3. within the ground floor of the property, giving access to the principal family room and kitchen. It is great that the Stiltz Homelift can facilitate Steve’s independence and demonstrate to others that DFG can be a life changing grant.”
Please visit https://www.stiltz.co.uk/ to find out more.