People over 65 years of age spend more than 80% of their time at home, and by age 85, this rises to 90%. A suitable home environment with the right amount of support or care and opportunities to meet and connect regularly with others are key to living well and keeping healthy in later life.
Planning ahead for a suitable home an older person can manage
GPs frequently have elderly patients who are struggling, living in poor quality or unsuitable homes. While it might be clear to you that they need to move to a more manageable home … or that they need help to make some changes to their existing home… they may not know where to start.
Making informed choices – whether to stay or whether to move
The Elderly Accommodation Council helps older people, their families and carers to make informed choices about meeting their housing, support and care needs as well as related financial matters to help them to live as independently and comfortably as possible. They provide the following services:
- FirstStop Advice: including a National Advice Line that is free to call on 0800 377 7070
- Local FirstStop Advice in some parts of the country, provided by local partners
- HOOP (Housing Options for Older People) which takes people through a set of questions, and suggests information and resources, to help them to explore solutions to aspects of their home lives that are beginning to trouble them.
All councils have a Housing Options Service that provide advice to people living in their area and help them to find out about and access accommodation options. These are not usually geared specifically for older people. Some housing associations also offer tailored advice and support
Making their home fit, safe and warm
Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs) can help elderly people living in their own homes or in privately rented homes with things like repairs, adaptations, maintenance and if their home is not insulated or heated properly. Many HIAs also have Handyperson services, people who can put small things right very quickly and make changes to layout and carpets to make trips and falls less likely. You can see if there is a HIA in your local area by logging onto Foundations’ website and doing a postcode search.
FILT, a charitable arm of Foundations, has developed a partnership with several of the ‘Big Six’ energy companies to provide money for insulation, draft-proofing and similar warmth in poorly heated homes occupied by vulnerable people.
Falls prevention is something that most landlords take action on, often through their own (in-house) Occupational Therapists.
Housing options after a stay in hospital
For information see ‘Reducing hospital use’
Wellbeing, social connection, sense of community
Loneliness and social isolation are harmful to health and put individuals at greater risk of cognitive decline. Research shows that lacking social connections is as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. People who are lonely visit their GP more often, undergo early entry into residential or nursing care and are more likely to use A&E services inappropriately. Click here for evidence of the health impacts of loneliness. Conversely, social networks and friendships reduce the risk of ill health and help individuals to recover when they fall ill.
Housing organisations work in a variety of ways to help their older residents and others living in the community to stay connected, recognising that some people are more sociable than others.
- community hubs open to all, based within and around sheltered housing schemes
- connecting older residents to local community clubs and activities eg. fishing, knitting, cooking
- encouraging volunteering where appropriate
- befriending schemes
- inter-generational programmes to encourage mutual support between generations
- social activities programmes
- programmes attractive to particular groups eg. ‘Men in Sheds’
Case Study: Sheltered Outreach Service
Case Study: Healthy Living, Over 75s – Hyde
Dementia awareness and planning
If you are taking forward work relating to dementia, you should be aware that many of your local housing and support providers are already doing relevant work. As a CCG or GP, you may want to consider drawing on the skills of a housing organisation to provide dementia advice and to help patients create a home environment where they can live happily and be well supported.
Here are three ways in which they are addressing the dementia challenge.
1) Design of housing and community premises
Many housing and support providers are embracing dementia-friendly designs within new housing schemes – both those that are specially built for people with dementia and also in new general needs homes. This includes the use of technology – telecare, door alerts, wondering devices – as well as simple measures such as avoiding shiny surfaces and making sure there is plenty of natural light. The aim is to enable people diagnosed with dementia to stay living independently in the community for as long as possible, and to delay going into residential care.
Extra-care and sheltered housing schemes are often at the heart of the community. Housing and support providers are providing a range of services based in these locations such as dementia cafés, restaurants, memory clubs – and these services are available for people living within the wider community, not just for those living within the schemes themselves.
2) Raising awareness of dementia within the community
Some housing and support providers are supporters of the National Dementia Friends Campaign. They run training for staff and also sometimes for tenants in order to raise awareness and to increase dementia-friendliness within the community. Some appoint Dementia Champions from among staff and tenants.
As a CCG, you could look at working with one or more housing partners to develop a housing-based dementia care service.
3) Early diagnosis and support roles
In some housing organisations, staff involved in working with older people have a higher level of dementia training. This includes spotting the early signs of dementia and helping people to get an assessment or treatment as early as possible.
They also provide advocacy and support for families and carers, helping them to plan ahead – for example, working through literature in order to prepare a living will and decide on powers of attorney.