The pain of isolation

Arriving in Birmingham when he was 19, Tom stopped working in his 30's due to issues with alcohol, and lost touch with his family.

"Birmingham Irish have been a great help, allowing me to manage living on my own."

Tom is 70 years old and comes from Dublin. He came to Birmingham aged 19. He worked in various factory jobs and lived in rooms until he was in his mid 30s when he stopped working due to issues with alcohol and had no fixed abode.

He lost contact with his family at that point as he was too embarrassed to let them see how he was living, and could not afford to travel over to visit them. The last time he saw any family members was in his late 20s when he attended his mother’s funeral.

As he got older he developed various health issues and found it harder to cope without a proper home and medical attention. A friend brought him into our office and we started supporting him.

Tom was housed in sheltered accommodation, supported to set up a home (he had never had his own tenancy before) apply for benefits and register him with a GP. He had complex health needs: COPD, visual impairment and severe hearing loss. With our support he was able to access medical and specialist services, was given a hearing aid and equipment to enable him to live safely within his own home. He developed mental health issues and was diagnosed with late onset psychosis – initially sectioned twice under the Mental Health Act but is now stable and has not needed hospitalisation for 18 months. We have a good rapport with Tom and, if we feel his behaviour is concerning, we contact his Community Psychiatric Nurse to arrange a home visit. He has also recently been diagnosed with TIA’s (mini strokes), we have supported him at initial GP appointments and clinic appointments to enable him to get the treatment he needs.

Tom is extremely isolated, and consistently refused to attend any of our social/lunch groups. However, last Christmas with encouragement he went to lunch at a local church – the first time he had sat down to dinner with other people since he lived in Ireland. Since then he has attended coffee mornings at the scheme where he lives and we are encouraging him to go to a lunch club.

Tom is a very private person, who is determined to remain in his own home for as long as possible, now that he has services in place and an advocate to support him to make informed choices he can do this.

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