There are many ways in which decent, warm, suitable housing can reduce the costs of health and care for older people.
Whilst most of the focus in this field has tended to be on specialist and supported homes there are pioneers working at the interface of health, care and mainstream housing who are starting to demonstrate significant impacts.
This wider impact is particularly important given that just 4% of older households are in specialist and supported housing whilst 96% are in general housing and 78% are owner-occupiers.
One example of this integrated cross-sector approach, that is already making significant difference for older people, is that of the West of England Care & Repair (WE C&R).
Last year WE C&R secured a small amount of funding from a Bristol charity, the Dolphin Society, to enable older patients to return home from hospital more rapidly and safely.
The pilot scheme was awarded a grant to meet the capital cost of a range of small (average value £263) but critical repairs to patients' homes without which patients could not return home. These works included:
- clutter clearance/deep cleaning to make home sanitary
- urgent home repairs to make home safe & secure
- repair sanitation facilities e.g. broken toilet, washing facility
- hazards removal e.g. falls risks, electrical wiring dangers
- heating systems repaired / emergency heating installed
- small, essential adaptations carried out e.g. stair rail
Mrs Trent’s story
Mrs Trent, 78, was one of the beneficiaries of this scheme. Admitted to the Bristol Royal Infirmary for inflammation of the gall bladder, she could not be discharged home when medically ready because of the state of her home.
She had lived in her house for over 50 years, but recently had spent most of her time in a single armchair in a restricted space in her front room, which may have contributed to her ill-health. Each room was so full of possessions that she was unable to prepare food, keep clean or move around. She hadn’t invited anyone into her home for more than three years and her dog was in ‘foster care’.
With the intervention of the WE C&R pilot her kitchen and front room were made safe by clearing designated possessions, and a WE C&R contractor fixed a leaking waste pipe and removed a trip hazard in the entrance to enable access at the rear of the property. A handrail was also mounted alongside the stairs. Mrs Trent, now back at home, has declared herself overjoyed with the result and says her life has been ‘transformed’.
Saving lives, time and money
An independent evaluation of the Dolphin funded hospital discharge scheme reported £13,526 in hospital bed day savings and a further £897 in hospital staff time in stark contrast to the £948 in housing intervention expenditure.
As a result of this initiative, patients have be discharged rapidly from hospital back to their own homes, freeing up hospital beds, saving time and money for health and care services and, all importantly, improving patients’ lives.
If housing, care and health can work together in partnership to prevent and reduce hospital admissions, length of stay, delayed discharges, readmission rates and delay or avoid admission to residential care, they will also radically improve outcomes for people.
Edited by Christian FitzHugh