John initially came into our front office after a recommendation from another Irishman in his multioccupancy house: He had turned 65 several months before and, due to literacy issues, did not know how to apply for Pension. His landlord was threatening eviction as Housing Benefit had stopped. He was extremely anxious as he had already experienced periods of homelessness, and was now much older and did not know how he would cope.
John had come to England in his late teens and, due to literacy and alcohol issues, had lost touch with his family; he had no support here. For the last few months he had spent the days walking to various Catholic parishes and a convent for handouts of food and change. He was very thin and frail and had neglected his personal hygiene. He was also very hard of hearing, which made it hard for him to communicate, and had very poor vision.
I supported him to get his Birth certificate from Ireland and then apply for his State Pension and Pension Credit. I liaised with his Landlord to explain that his Housing Benefit would be sorted once his pension was in payment and he agreed not to serve notice which gave John some stability. Through several office visits to sort out the paperwork he began to trust me and agreed to address some of the other issues.
He agreed to let me visit him at home and I saw the conditions he lived in: The house was in a poor state; damp, cold, in disrepair with no proper washing or cooking facilities. The other occupants were much younger than John and he appeared to spend most of the time sat in his room. The dampness was affecting his chest and he appeared breathless and was constantly coughing.
John had not seen a GP since arriving in Birmingham, so with encouragement and support, he registered with the local surgery. After a few appointments and tests he was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was prescribed inhalers. He was also referred to the Hearing Centre and Eye Hospital. For every appointment he needed much encouragement and support. He was given 2 hearing aids, which increased his quality of life greatly. He said he felt much safer when he was out, in the past he had had issues with crossing roads because he couldn’t hear or see properly. This meant he could now go out more. Due to his frailty and learning difficulty I asked the district Nurses via the GP if they would come out to do his drops and they go out twice a day to do this.
I eventually encouraged John to move to a sheltered housing scheme. Through other local charities we furnished his flat and moved him in. He had never had a tenancy of his own and now had to pay bills (there were meters in his shared house). John also struggled with using a PIN number to get his pension due to poor vision and memory issues. I supported him to open his first bank account and set up Direct Debits for utilities. With ID and bank card he was able to get cash over the counter to buy food etc. Prior to this his Post Office card was consistently blocked due to him putting the wrong number in, had no access to money and became very anxious.
John settled in quite well but, unfortunately after 12 months, he began to exhibit mental health issues; he appeared quite paranoid about his neighbours and started breaking items in his flat. Eventually this cumulated in John breaking windows and trying to barricade himself in his flat. I encouraged him to go into hospital, and he was sectioned and admitted to a ward at the Juniper Centre.
John was diagnosed with late onset psychosis and responded well to medication. I visited him regularly as he was very frightened in hospital. I attended all the case reviews, was part of the discharge planning and sorted the practical support needed for this. Following his discharge I liaised with the CERT team and the District Nurses to ensure he took his anti-psychotic medication when they administered his eye drops.
Following his discharge from the CERT team I liaised with his new CPN and contact them if I have any concerns about his behaviour to request a home visit. I also sit in on 3 monthly home visits by his psychiatrist, at John’s request.
I take him for 6 monthly Eye Hospital and Hearing aid appointments and reviews at GP re COPD and weight management. I also take him for 6 monthly podiatry appointments. None of this he would do without support.
He was still very isolated, but had started attending the local Catholic church – so through this I encouraged him to attend the Christmas dinner put on by the parish. This was the first time he had sat down to a Christmas dinner for many years- and because he enjoyed it, has now started attending a lunch club- and occasionally coffee mornings put on by fellow residents. This is a huge step for him and as a “knock on” he has taken more care of his personal hygiene and requested support to buy new clothes.
He is physically much more robust, and does not need home care, but needs support to “join up” the services to keep him out of residential care.