Liam lives in a very busy residential road in South London and his room is located is three terraced houses which have been combined into one. The property accommodates 42 residents who all require some level of assisted living and have some level of mental health or learning difficulties. Liam has lived there since he suffered a stroke thirteen years ago. When I arrived I was shown to Liam’s room by a member of staff.
As the original three houses were built on a sloping street there are steps between each former house. To reach Liam’s room we had to climb two very steep steps which did not have a hand rail. This led us to a communal room where a number of the residents were watching TV, we had then to pass through a door which the staff member unlocked to take us into the next hallway. Liam’s room is located to the back of this hallway on the ground floor. The whole area appeared quite dark with little natural light, the decor very outdated.
Liam was watching a rugby match when I arrived, Ireland were playing against France. His room was small with a single bed, a sink, a bedside locker, bookshelves, chest of drawers upon which sits a television. There was just about enough room to move with a Zimmer frame between the bed and the chest of drawers. Liam told me that he shares a bathroom with the other residents on the same floor.
Liam is a slightly built man who appears older than his 61 years. He told me that he was the oldest of four children, both his parents are deceased and his only surviving brother lives in Kerry. Liam’s other brother died in a farming accident when he was young and his sister also passed away a couple of years ago. He said that the last time he was home was for his brother’s funeral in early 1970’s. Liam worked on building sites for years, his last job before becoming ill was as a roofer. One of the first things he said to me when I arrived was that he wanted to return to Cork and try to get work as a roofer. He went on to say that although he needs to use a Zimmer frame that once someone is working on a roof there isn’t much walking so he thinks he could manage. We went on to talk about the employment situation in Ireland.
Liam told me that until he became sick he had lived around Kilburn and was not familiar with south east London at all. His friends were based in Kilburn but he is not sure if many of them are left now. I asked him if he had a choice to return to Kilburn or to return to Ireland which would he choose, he thought about this for a while and answered “there used to be a nursing home in Quex Road which was run by nuns, I wonder if it is still there?”.
I asked Liam if he felt he could manage in independent accommodation, he said that he needed someone to cook and shop for him and to help him with some personal care needs and cleaning. I asked him how he would manage financially on his income if he moved home. He told me that he did not know how much he gets as he does not manage his own money saying it is managed by the staff but he was quick to point out that they get him anything that he asks for. He said he was happy where he is living and had made some friends there but that he wanted to go home at the same time.
I spoke to him about the difficulty of securing accommodation in Cork that would provide the level of day to day supports that he needs. .
I asked him if he went out at all and he mentioned how busy the streets outside the house were. He said that he doesn’t go out except to the garden at the back sometimes to smoke.
I enquired if he found it difficult to get around the building, due to the steps, he said that he was used to them. He told me that he can use another route to the dining room and offices which had only had one step.
When I was leaving Liam accompanied me out on the route he normally used. I noticed that he walked quite slowly. On the way there is a fire door and one step leading to the dining area. I held the door for him and observed how he managed, he lifted the Zimmer frame down first then leaned on it with one hand while holding the door jamb with the other and then stepping down.
On leaving, while signing out, I spoke briefly to one of the support workers who said that he finds Liam to be a pleasant man but remarked that he can sometimes become agitated if one of the other residents annoys him.
Liam was referred to us by an Irish Centre in South London.
Outreach & Advocacy Officer