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Are pensioners living in hazardous housing?

27th March 2017

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

There are concerns that the elderly residents in Camden may be living in unsuitable council properties that are not adapted to their mobility needs. Dr Bromilow, a GP in the area, has spoken out at a Town Hall inquiry about his first-hand experience with patients who are frail or bed-bound and are unable to leave their homes except in the greatest of emergencies.

This admission exposes greater concerns for both the physical and mental welfare of those people who are thus confined. Dr Bromilow is so anxious for such residents that he recently contacted West Hempstead Fire Station in order to raise awareness of his fears. This is for a multitude of reasons, but as Dr Bromilow bluntly said: “We do have patients that by virtue of being frail or even bed-bound, and on top-floor flats, who would simply not survive were a significant fire to break out in their accommodation. Hoarding – sometimes just as a consequence of a practical inability to de-clutter due to mobility and access issues – exacerbates this risk.”

Some residents who live on top-floor flats are unable to climb the stairs, however narrow or curved staircases mean councils are unable to fit stair lifts for the elderly. This increases the risk of the resident being unable to dispose of their rubbish, and therefore of fire, but also their inability to escape from such an event.

It is not only the physical concerns that weigh heavily on Dr Bromilow, but also what  continued confinement will do to the mental state of some of his patients. In a previous statement, Bromilow declares: “Even a prisoner being kept in solitary confinement gets intermittent visits from a prison guard, and it is somewhat ironic that solitary confinement is used as a very rare form of punishment for prisoners, yet it is unfortu­na­tely standard for many pen­sioners.”

While there are many initiatives in the area that are provided to keep elderly residents social and active, if the residents are unable to access them due to an inability to leave their homes, then day centres are incapable of meeting their brief. Though there are new housing developments in West Hempstead, only 10% of these will be designed to be accessible for residents with limited mobility and many feel not enough is being done towards inclusive and accessible housing.