More suitable housing support needed for people with dementia in the Hastings area


From: Bea Rogers, Wellington Square, Hastings

Warning: if you live in Hastings, and need to move somewhere with support because you are developing dementia, you are in serious trouble.

The reason: Hastings has fewer sheltered housing places than elsewhere in East Sussex. You cannot bid for most of those in Bexhill and Rother on the Homemove system, and those that you can bid for seem to be discriminating against people with memory problems.

There is an “Extra Care” facility at Marlborough House, but this is difficult to get into.

Could I suggest that Hastings Council, together with the Homemove team, review the allocations being made. I have a friend who has been bidding for several months, and is Category A in priority: she is getting no offers in Hastings and is consistently shown as priority 6-10, which is perhaps their dumping ground for people they do not intend to select. Sheltered housing managers are often required to offer vacancies to social tenants through Homemove, but they are not required to take people in the greatest need. They should.

Longer term, we need to rethink housing for people with memory loss. It needs to be flexible, since people’s needs change over time, but also affordable –full-service residential care is very expensive and unless you can afford to pay for yourself you are unlikely to be assessed for local authority funding. In my ideal scheme for people with mild to moderate dementia there would be small flats or studios for people, in small blocks around a central green.

A café would cater for the residents, and also people from the area, with professional management but residents would be encouraged to help out if they want to. For the residents it would have two or three small lounges (not the corporate ones you see in many sheltered schemes) plus laundry, and lots of outside seating on the green or in the private gardens round the back. It would be near shops and bus routes to encourage people to go out. If people need personal care or meals on wheels they would get these on the same basis as in their previous homes, and having service users living near each other would help care workers use their time more effectively.

What there would definitely be is a warden on site all the time – not necessarily full-time care workers, this could be subsidised housing for people working elsewhere in the health or care systems in return for a certain number of hours on site. They would keep an eye on people to see if they are managing, liaise with social workers if someone needs more support, and also organise informal activities. I would suggest regular walks, a bit of gardening, flower arranging, a knitting and sewing group, music evenings and karaoke nights, the occasional social like a quiz evening or Christmas do, and bingo if people want it.

People with memory problems need something going on, people around, and some kind of purposeful activity. The worst thing is isolation and uncertainty and I know there are a lot of people with early dementia who have little or no support and are very distressed because they feel abandoned just as they start to need some help. In my ideal community friends and family, and volunteers from the community, would be welcome and the open design would mean people coming in from outside, if only for a cup of coffee. Too many sheltered schemes are closed and feel unwelcoming, with nobody even answering the door.

Building such a scheme could be a condition of planning permission for a large housing development, or this could be done in association with Anchor Hanover, Sussex Housing and Care or other non-profit organisation with expertise in care provision. It would free up quite a lot of affordable housing (which Hastings Council wants) as people move out of houses and flats which no longer meet their own needs but would be very suitable for others. Running costs can be met from people’s pensions, benefits and Attendance Allowance, just as with existing sheltered housing.

Come on Hastings Council, you can do it if you want to. Meanwhile, please check those Homemove allocations.