Things have got better

The occupational therapy department in the
London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has two aims of great
interest to me: to enable a person to maintain, or regain,
independence and quality of life in normal day-to-day activities;
and to minimise the effect of long-term disability.

Our OTs make a good job of both. I am 79 and
have been disabled since 1985. I live alone in a second-floor flat,
up 35 stairs and no lift. Without the help of an OT department, I
could not live here and continue to lead a happy and busy life.

I came under the mantle of the OT service in
1985. I had retired the year before and had not expected my
retirement to involve three major operations.

My mobility problems were related to inherited
arthritis, and in 1989 I had my first knee replacement, followed by
the second in 1991. By then, my long-serving cleaner had died and I
badly needed help with shopping and housework. I rang our social
services department, expecting them to recommend me to a reliable
agency. To my surprise I learned that I might qualify for a home
help and, following an assessment, I was provided with one twice a

So, in the next 10 years, I continued to enjoy
a busy retirement, including service on 22 committees, five as
chairperson and five as minutes secretary, covering subjects from
social housing to disabled swimming.

The home helps have been excellent. The only
real crisis came when my home help returned with my shopping, and
then collapsed in my flat. When I returned with a glass of water, I
found her unconscious and looking awful. I rang the social services
department and two stalwart members of staff came, literally at the
double, followed by two powerful lady medics and an ambulance. The
invalid was whisked to hospital, where it was discovered that she
was pregnant.

In March 2000, I was assessed for a care plan
– followed by other assessments. By then I was more disabled. My
home care continues now through a private care agency, Care UK, and
I have been very fortunate to have the service of an excellent and
most efficient carer – she can open anything and mend almost

With regard to transport, I must rely on cars
and taxis, as I cannot use public transport. The OT introduced me
to the community car service and provided an application form, and
the service has been most helpful. I also have a taxi card, a
service enhanced by a grant of £5m extra per year provided by
the mayor of London.

I recently had a visit from a community nurse,
arranged through my GP as part of the Keep Well at Home scheme for
over-75s, to provide health checks at home and to help us stay
independent. She gave me a home assessment and several health

And now I read of a new national service
framework and the single assessment process for people like me.
Things never stop changing.

Rosemary Rowles MBE is a service user.

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