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

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Hornsey 1958

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

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Among the preventive services for which a need has been clearly
demonstrated is that of chiropody, and it is encouraging to know that the
Government has now given authority for local health authorities to
establish chiropody services in their areas. In Hornsey provision has
been made through the Old People'sWelfare Council for this for many
years, but the need cannot be met wholly from voluntary sources.
To ensure that old people are enabled to stay in their own homes for
as long as possible, bungalows or flats suitable for old people, who may be
infirm, should be available. The local housing authorities may help considerably
in this respect and in some areas blocks specially designed for
handicapped people have been built. The Hornsey Housing Trust has for
many years met a great need by the provision of small flatlets. Other
interesting experiments which have proved very successful are going on
in other parts of the country, and the boarding out schemes whereby
old people are boarded out with younger families are in some cases
proving greatly to the benefit of the old people concerned.
Further experimentation is needed in housing old people. One which
recently came to my notice consisted of a small self-contained flatlet as
an annexe to a family house. The annexe housed the old parents ideally,
that is, where they could maintain an independent existence while being
near their children and grandchildren.
In spite of every effort occasionally one meets a case where the only
solution is statutory action to compel an aged person to enter an Old
People's Home. Early in the year my attention was drawn by a general
practitioner to an old lady of 77 years who was living alone and had reached
the state where it was felt she could no longer continue on her own.
Other occupants of the house were seriously concerned lest she should
set the place on fire as she was so confused mentally, and on one occasion
was seen by a member of my department to be attempting to light the
gas with a rusty pair of old curling tongs; fortunately there was no money
in the gas meter and no harm resulted. This old lady had several times
been found by the police wandering and was taken home by them. For
a considerable time the landlady had been supplying meals and doing a
certain amount of cleaning for her, but she was now at the end of her
tether and felt she could not continue. On examination the room was
found to be untidy, and unwashed crockery from previous meals was
still on the table. There was no vermin and the conditions were reasonably
clean but there was little sign of food. Arrangements were made for a
home help to visit and the area welfare officer was notified. At the same
time the Old People's Welfare Council were asked to see what help they
could offer. A few days later it was reported that her gas had been cut
off and other services might also be discontinued as she paid no bills.
In spite of the help given she deteriorated rapidly and in the patient's
own interest, it became necessary for me to obtain authority from the
Council to apply to the Court for an Order for her to be detained in a
suitable Home for a period of not more than three months. Notice was
at once given to the County Council that application would be made to
the Court, but no suitable vacancy could be found for this lady for over