My elderly mother is currently being assessed in a nursing home to see if she can look after herself or needs more hands-on help.
She is in one of the areas of Scotland hardest-hit by Covid-19 and has spent the last few months literally locked in her flat in an assisted living facility.
In the minimum-care units, with no overnight supervision, she pretty much has her own flat in a block of about 30.
She is locked in day and night by the wardens and carers because she’s suffering from dementia and tends to wander: that’s not allowed during a Covid-19 lockdown (not that it’s a great idea, in any case).
She’s had her cooking facilities unplugged because she’s set fire to things.
In the past year or so, she has flooded her own flat and the flat downstairs several times because she tends to leave bathroom taps running then forget about them.
All of which brings us back to Australia and a few posts that have dropped this week, asking what neighbours and strata committees can do about aged residents who are becoming a danger to themselves and those around them.
And the alarming feedback we are getting is that you can’t do much until something awful happens and can then only hope that the consequences aren’t too awful.
This is not the first time we have had this question but the most recent post outlined a potentially tragic set of circumstances.
“In the last twelve months [an elderly owner] has had a fire in the kitchen due to falling asleep and not hearing the smoke alarm,” writes Flatchatter Luke.
“The Strata Committee has been in contact with the only other living relative concerning this person. What legal recourse do we have to prevent an accident or even a death or large fire at our block?”
“Sadly there is very little you can do,” writes Strataguru ScotlandX. “A lady in the building next door set fire to the kitchen. Fortunately there were tradesmen working outside at the time and they put a hose through the window. This precipitated her move to a nursing home.”
Flatchchatter Kaindub found the problem exacerbated by a “none of your business” attitude from authorities.
“I tried to help an elderly owner who clearly had difficulties coping day to day’” he writes. “I approached ACAT (the government Aged Care Assessment Team), the local social worker, police. They said that unless I was her doctor, carer or relative they could not intervene, nor even look into her situation.”
Eventually the problem resolved itself when the old lady contracted pneumonia, went to hospital and the social worker there would not release her to anywhere but a nursing home.
As the population ages more and more downsizers and solo residents are being left alone to deal with issues like dementia and other debilitating conditions.
I know I wouldn’t want to be living below someone (like my mother) who frequently flooded their flat or was constantly calling emergency services because of imagined intrusions.
Most people who write to Flat Chat want a) to help and b) not be harmed.
So do we have to wait for a potentially fatal incident before we can call in the experts? Don’t strata committees and managers have a duty of care that overrides concerns about privacy?
That’s the question we will be asking the powers that be over the next few days. Check in next week for more.