Housebound or Homebound Fact Sheet

On our online disability community we have many people who are housebound or homebound for short and long periods of time. This fact sheet discusses some of the issues that a person with a housebound causing disability will face. You can also use our disability forum where you can share stories experiences and find support in our Housebound Forum.

A big thank you to Claire for this excellent article

Definition of housebound

The dictionary describes being housebound as…

“Unable to leave one’s house, typically due to illness or old age.”

Who is affected?

Anybody can be housebound; it may be due to illness, disability or advancing age. It can be just for a short period, a matter of weeks or months, or for some conditions it can go on for years.

What does housebound mean?

There are different levels of being housebound; the most severe is that you can’t go out at all, not even into your garden. Some people can potter around their house and garden; but are unable to go any further, for example to the shops or to visit a friend. Some people can go out occasionally for short periods; but spend the majority of time at home and rely on other people to take them places.

What is it like to be housebound?

Being housebound is extremely difficult; it impacts every area of a person’s life, from relationships, friendships, work, social life and interaction with the world. It can be very lonely and isolating being at home all day, often not seeing anybody at all or only seeing the same people.

It can be very boring, there’s only so much daytime television a person can watch. Most of the “normal” activities require you to be able to go out and it can be hard to find things to do to fill the long days.

It’s easy to feel like the walls are closing in and that you’re trapped. People find it hard to understand why you can’t “just” go outside and it can be extremely difficult to explain why going out is difficult or impossible. Comments like “it must be nice to be at home” or “it sounds like an easy life” are frustrating and show how little people understand about the reality of the situation.

What can I do if I’m housebound?

Thanks to the internet there is a huge range of things available online now, from making friends through social networking on sites like Facebook and Twitter, to learning new skills like crafts or cooking and online shopping, with everything from your groceries, to your clothes and your DVDs delivered to your door.

There are e-courses or distance learning courses on topics from as diverse as accountancy to zoology, photography to crystal healing. If you’ve got an interest, chances are there’s a course out there related to it. There are also tutorial videos on sites like YouTube (http://youtube.com/) and Vimeo (http://vimeo.com/). You can also play games online for example Monopoly, Scrabble, Chess and more in depth games like World of War Craft.

You can watch free videos on YouTube with crazy cats, to funny pranks. There are also membership sites for television and film downloads, these include LoveFilm (http://www.lovefilm.com), Netflix (http://netflix.com) and iTunes (http://www.apple.com/itunes/)

Non-computer based activities for the housebound

If you’re not into computers or can’t go online for long, then go old-school with books, audio books and DVDs from the library – these can often be rented free if you are housebound. Most libraries now have websites where you can search for and order books, or you can call the library to make your requests. Some libraries deliver to housebound members or you can appoint someone to go in and rent things for you, you won’t get charged late fees if you register as housebound.

Crafts are a fun, easy activity to do at home and are suitable for all skill levels and interests. They can be done in stages, with quick short projects or longer ongoing pieces. Many companies produce beginner kits which will help you to master the basics. These can be bought online or ask someone to check out your local craft store. You can also find “How To” books at your local library.

Relying on others

One of the hardest parts of being housebound is relying on other people for help, often just to do the most basic things. It can be really difficult and painful to admit when you can’t do something and there is no easy solution to this. It’s a gradual process of acceptance; but one that is never easy. Start by asking for help with small things, that you’re not embarrassed about and then gradually build up. Often people want to help, you just have to have the courage to ask. If somebody asks can they do anything for you, tell them. You might have to educate them on your needs; but it’s worth persevering with.

Seeing people

If you feel isolated and want to see more people, you can often organise for volunteers to come in and visit you as part of a Befriender scheme – these are run by local voluntary organisations as well as some churches.

There are phone lines set up to support people going through difficult times, for example The Samaritans http://www.samaritans.org/ or in the USA http://www.samaritansusa.org/

They provide a listening ear or someone you can email, so that you don’t feel isolated.

With social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, it’s much easier to find online support groups and forums, not just related to health issues; but to general interests and hobbies. These are a great way to make friends without going out. You can meet some lovely people, from all over the world; but it’s best to be careful how much information you give away online. Never give out your address, telephone number or bank details.

Visits from health professionals

If you are unable to go out, you can arrange for doctors, OTs, physiotherapists, opticians and other healthcare professionals to visit you in your home. This also includes home visits for benefits checks. If you are uncomfortable seeing strangers on your own, ask a carer, friend or neighbour to be with you.

Personal Emergency Alarms

You can get alarm buttons that you wear around your neck or on your wrist in case of an emergency. If you get into difficulties, for example from a fall, you can press the button and it will send a signal to a 24 hour main office, who will then despatch somebody to come out and help you.

Adapting to being housebound

Being housebound is not easy, it presents challenges that you never imagined having to face; but with time you can adapt and find ways to live and enjoy life, despite not being able to go out.

Claire Wade has had ME for over 20 years. She was bedbound for six years and housebound for over eight. As a result of her experiences of being stuck at home and bored she has set up Live in Love in Laugh in http://clairewade.com and Holidays From Home http://holidaysfromhome.co.uk to support people who are housebound and help them find fun things to do to break the monotony of every day.