Tuesday, February 17, 2009

'Why should I go into a home?'

Hanover at Home helps elderly people retain their independence as their health care needs change. The following article appeared on the Guardian Housing Horizons website.

When widower George Keegan had a near-fatal heart attack he thought he would never return to live in his house in Dagenham, Essex. Keegan, 84, registered disabled because of arthritis, was sure he would be referred to a nursing or residential home when he left hospital. But today, five years on, he lives independently in his own home because of support from Hanover at Home.

Around 5,000 people every year are helped by the home improvement agency, which has an annual budget of £2m and operates in 13 districts across England. Run by the housing association Hanover Homes, it has helped people access around £20m of funds since 2000 to pay for adaptations and repairs in their own homes so they can carry on living there as their social and healthcare needs change.

The service helped Keegan access £16,000 of local authority disabled facilities grants to install a stairlift, a walk-in shower and a step lift at his front door to allow him access with his mobility scooter. Keegan says: "I know this house, I've got good neighbours and good friends, and family just around the corner. Why should I go into a home when I have all my marbles?"

Keegan is one of up to 100 clients a year helped by the service in Barking and Dagenham. District manager Elaine Dennison, who has worked for Hanover Homes for 18 years, says: "The greatest job satisfaction for me is that we work as part of a team - we discuss a problem and resolve it for our clients. When a client comes and says: 'what I really need is a chairlift to go upstairs without relying on help from my family' you can help them achieve that, and then you know that it's a job well done."

Dennison manages two case workers, who help clients apply for funding and support them while work is going on, as well as referring them to other support services if necessary. Two technical staff are responsible for a health and safety assessment of the property. Most of Dennison's clients are older disabled people who are owner-occupiers and referred by the council's adult social services.

Sometimes, says Dennison, it is challenging to adapt the property. "An occupational therapist might say a person needs a vertical through-the-floor stair lift, but that might cause a lot of disruption to their upstairs rooms. Sometimes there are some difficult decisions to make, but the work we do is all about giving people support and time. For some, moving is the right choice - this is all about options."

Keegan's daughter, 53-year-old Lynne Conway, is convinced her father would not be alive today if had been unable to stay in his own home. She says: "He wouldn't have been able to stay living here without Hanover's help because the family was unable to pay for the adaptations he needed. I'm sure if he had had to go into a home he would have lost the will to live. He's always said the only way they would ever get him out of his home would be in a box."

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