Obtaining aids, appliances and home improvements
Medical and surgical aids can be extremely expensive. This is usually due to a combination of the intricacy of their manufacture and design and 'medical inflation', which increases the price for medical products at a greater rate than the economy grows. For many people, vital items that they need to improve their quality of life are prohibitively expensive. For this reason, the health boards run an aids and appliances scheme.
Medical aids are usually free to medical card holders and people who do not have a medical card will often get their medical or surgical aids for free if those aids are needed as part of hospital treatment or to help recuperate after hospital treatment. Other items, such as crutches, can be lent by the health board to a patient if they are only needed for a short period of time.
If an item must be purchased by a non-medical card holder, they can apply to their local health board for a contribution towards the costs. Insurers, such as VHI and Bupa Ireland also often refund part of the cost of medical and surgical aids.
There is a disability resource centre in Dublin where aids and equipment suitable for people with a disability can be examined and tried out. The centre can be contacted at (01) 8747503.
Depending on the nature of a person's disability, certain voluntary organisations may also be able to advise and assist people in obtaining the aids they need. The Irish Wheelchair Association, the National Association for the Deaf, the National Council for the Blind and the Central Remedial Clinic all offer advice and help to people who are seeking to obtain medical and surgical aids.
Special local authority grants are available to people who have disabilities to help them adapt their homes. People receive grants to make structural changes to their houses in order to accommodate a person's disability. Decisions are made on an individual case basis. Work which might qualify includes the building of an extra room, creating a downstairs bathroom or toilet, installing ramps, widening door openings, providing stair rails.
Grants are available up to €17,780 for rented local authority housing, or 90% of the cost (up to €17,780) for private accommodation. It is necessary to apply to your local authority to receive a structural grant. More information is available from the National Disability Authority, which publishes a book entitled 'Buildings for everyone'. To obtain a copy, or for further information, contact the authority at (01) 6080400.
Health boards operate a home improvement scheme for older people which is aimed at improving the living conditions of those who live in unfit or unsanitary conditions. The kind of work carried out includes essential repairs, painting and decorating, installation of heating or water facilities, fitting locks or other security devices.
Generally this work is carried out by FAS trainees and there is no charge for their services. Occasionally, local contractors may be used in which case a grant will be paid to the applicant. Again, apply to the Customer Services Department of your local health board for more information.
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