London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Hornsey 1956

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Hornsey, Borough of]

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WELFARE OF OLD PEOPLE
The number of cases reported to the Department of old people in need
of care and attention has again increased, the figure for 1956 being 38.
It has been said that a study of national statistics reveals not that we are
an elderly nation, but that Victorian society was youthful. The fact
remains that the proportion of aged persons in the population is increasing
yearly, and the increase in numbers referred to the Department
for investigation would seem to be a natural consequence of this increase.
It is important to remember that those referred to the Department constitute
only a very small proportion of the old people.
There are, in Hornsey approximately 12,500 people over the age of
65 years and the majority of them are well able to care for themselves
or are cared for by relations without any need for assistance from official
or voluntary sources. Most of the remainder receive help of various
kinds such as attendance by home helps, and home nursing care as
required; the Old People's Welfare Committee ensures as far as is possible
that these old people receive the services they need. It appears that the
position has not worsened and may well be a little better owing to the
increased use of available services.
The main difficulty in the winter months is that old people feel the
cold so much more than others and the cost of heating is a great worry.
Unfortunately too many old people occupy top floor or attic rooms and
must carry coal from the ground floor or cellar which presents a real
problem; in fact some home help assistance is given mainly with this
difficulty in mind. Living at the top of many stairs also causes some old
people to be more or less confined to their rooms.
The service of home helps under the National Health Service Act is
provided in over 360 instances to old people and, as in many cases more
than one person is involved, this represents direct help to probably over
500 persons. In addition there are a number who receive regular visits
from a home nurse. The health visitors visit old people known to them
to be in need of help or on request from hospital or general practitioners
but owing to shortage of staff it is not possible to extend these visits
as much as is desirable.
Malnutrition due to poverty, ignorance or apathy is a major factor in
the cases investigated. Trained visitors can do much to overcome ignorance,
once they have become aware of the existance of a case, but poverty
is a problem outside their scope. It has been suggested that regular
medical examinations would be useful in detecting malnutrition and other
untreated disease. It might be possible to arrange this through the
general practitioner service, as each general practitioner has records
available from which he can select those over 65 years of age.
Any old person who appears to be living in especially bad conditions
is reported to the Medical Officer of Health and the case investigated.
In addition all reports received in the Health Department are quickly
and carefully investigated and the necessary assistance arranged so as
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