Help elderly people to live independently

Thousands of older people in London could be spared traumatic hospital stays and costly long term care if they were given more help to live independently in their own homes, according to a new report by the Housing Federation. The Federation s In your li

Thousands of older people in London could be spared traumatic hospital stays and costly long term care if they were given more help to live independently in their own homes, according to a new report by the Housing Federation.

The Federation's 'In your lifetime' report warned that older people often struggled to access the support they needed to continue to live at home - increasing the risk that they will end up in hospital or a care home in the long run.

In London, around 300,000 people aged over 65 need help with at least one routine task and this number is continuing to rise rapidly.

Investing in preventative measures - rather than caring for older people only when they become ill or immobile - has saved the taxpayer �1.8bn a year in England. But specified funding on preventative services for older people has fallen over the last three years rather than increased - despite the savings to the public purse.

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In London, the number of people aged 65 and over is expected to increase from 880,000 to 1.2 million over the next 20 years, with the number of over 85s doubling during the same period.

But despite the rapidly ageing demographic and the huge need for specialised housing and support for older people, the options available remain limited, the report found.

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Housing associations provide homes for almost one million older people, and are ideally placed to deliver tailored care and support services for older people in their local community.

But the Federation, which represents England's housing associations, said its members faced a number of barriers which limited the number and range of services and housing they could offer to older people.

Investment should be focused on preventing hospital admissions and reducing the number of older people who need to be cared for in nursing homes, the report argues.

Services such as adapting older people's homes to make them easier to use, regular visits from a support worker and personal alarm systems which allow users to alert a support worker when they need help, are just some of the simple measures which can help people to remain in their own homes.

But currently the system fails to balance preventative measures with acute services meaning that too frequently older people only receive support when they end up in hospital. People who need to be cared for in a nursing home are likely to remain there once admitted.

The average annual fee for a single room in a nursing home is �35,100. In London, the number of people in residential care is expected to rise from 21,500 to nearly 32,000 by 2025.

And the number of emergency re-admissions for people aged 75 in English hospital rose by 69% between 1999 and 2007, with an estimated 19,000 older people admitted to hospital year in London every year. Preventative measures could cut these figures significantly, the Federation says. This kind of support also helps boost the health, quality of life and well being of older people.

But the level and range of support currently available for older people varies wildly across the country, and needs to become more uniformly available, the reports says.

All older people should be able to access support in their local area, it says. And local housing strategies which set out how councils plan to meet housing needs in their areas should specifically address how the housing needs of older people will be met, it concludes.

Belinda Porich, head of London region at the Federation, said: "All too often older people can only access care and support services once they reach crisis point when they end up in hospital or in a care home.

"By investing more widely in simple preventative measures which help older people live safely at home for as long as possible, the number of hospital admissions and care home places could be cut significantly as a result.

"This would ease the burden on the NHS, save billions of pounds to the public purse, and most importantly allow people to live where they want to be in their home.

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