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Archive for the ‘Housing’ Category

The Bathroom Saga – Part 1

Before the real work can begin………

The old flooring

I moved into my lovely wheelchair adapted flat at the beginning of last year. It is a great flat to live in and I’m happy and settled here. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered very quickly that my bathroom needed new flooring and a proper shower seat. As a temporary measure I bought I stand-alone shower seat. But due to the dip where the shower drains away it was very unstable. I needed a fixed shower seat. The flooring problem should have been equally easy to fix. I knew that would need authorisation from a Occupational Therapist (OT) from my local council. I had already been very unimpressed by the way my transfer of care hours had been handled. When the OT finally visited I was not surprised to discover that she was very unhelpful.

Having been responsible for the re-fitting of bathrooms in several nursing homes, it was obvious to me that the flooring was one that had been discontinued over 10 years ago. The reason being that it didn’t wear well, was difficult to clean and was very slippery when worn. The OT would have known this. Her tactic was to imply that I was making a lot of fuss about needing new flooring. I had ‘managed’ for 2 months so it clearly wasn’t unsafe. This was despite telling her I had slipped and fallen. I also explained I now needed someone with whilst I showered. Another loss of independence. 

Eventually, she reluctantly agreed new flooring and a fixed shower seat were needed. It look another 3 months for her report to get emailed to the housing manager where I live. 

About two months later, a firm of contractors turned up to fit the new seat. The fitter was a qualified OT. Instantly he knew that the seat she had ordered was the wrong one for me! More delay. Another month went by before the new seat was delivered. The day it was due to be fitted I was too ill to get out of bed. So the fitters did measurements from my wheelchair. Somehow, these were wrong. When I first used the seat I quickly discovered my feet did not touch the ground. So it was still too unsafe for me to use! It was also not fully against the wall, meaning my bathroom storage unit no longer fitted under the shower curtains. 

By this point I was too emotionally exhausted to try and get it fixed. But, in the back of my mind, I had a plan. After another 4 months my housing officer finally got round to getting estimates for replacing the flooring. When the chosen contractor spoke to me he agreed to move the shower seat whilst the floor was being done. He is also fitting a new bathroom radiator for me. The current one is too small and the bathroom always feels cold. Two new cupboards will also be fitted to the wall. All for cash in hand! 

I’m so looking forward to getting this work done. 

Part 2 – to follow on completion.







The Gate

There has been scaffolding on the balcony at the back of my flat for over 7 months. The first lot was erected to enable the heating engineers to fit a new boiler with outlet unit into my upstairs neighbour’s flat. When the job was completed the scaffolding was not removed and the builders who arrived to do the external decorations and repair work in March just built on to it to cover the whole of the back of both mine and my neighbours property.

All of this has meant that it was virtually impossible for me to get out on to my balcony, so I didn’t realise that the gate which I had put up some years ago to stop my crazy alcoholic downstairs neighbour coming up onto my balcony, had been moved and the padlock and heavy duty bike chain had disappeared. My tenancy document states quite clearly that the balcony is for my sole use, but that the garden below is shared. Because I cannot get down the very steep steps to the garden, I greatly value having the balcony all to myself.

I have no idea who cut off the bike chain, it was possibly the second lot of scaffolders, but they denied this, saying they had not seen any padlock or chain. When the first scaffolding was erected the poles were brought through my flat, so those scaffolders were unlikely to be the guilty party.

I decided it wasn’t worth aggravating my downstairs neighbour by trying to find out if he was the culprit, but strongly suspected he was, as when the gate was first put up he was livid that he could no longer get on to my balcony and smoke near me or spend ages trying to have a drunken conversations with me that I really don’t want!

Once all the external works were done and the back scaffolding removed I hoped it would be a simple matter to get the gate fixed back up, but things then started to get complicated. My downstairs neighbour decided to dump a load of his junk on my balcony! Thus included a rotten garden table, two rat cages, a couple of rubbish bins and some mouldy doormats.

I got my son-in-law Trevor to take everything back down into his garden. At the same time I also got him to retrieve my two rather expensive garden chairs, which were now downstairs, one in the supposedly shared garden and the other, according to Trevor clearly visible inside my downstairs neighbour’s patio windows. Trevor is a very well built, solid, fit guy, he goes to the gym daily and has worked in security, I knew my crazy neighbour would not pick an argument with him!

So having re-claimed my chairs, I purchased another sturdy bike chain and padlock and chained my chairs to the balcony railings to make sure they didn’t find their way back into my neighbour’s clutches again.

I spent some time trying to fix a date to get my gate reinstated, 3 promised dates came and went, mainly due to the weather. Finally I got a definitely agreed date of last Monday.

As I didn’t want to get into any direct confrontation with my downstairs neighbour, because of his drunken aggressiveness, and thus get into an argument about the trash he had dumped back on my balcony. I enlisted my volunteer Jill to be with me to deal with any unpleasantness that might happen.

Sure enough as soon as the workman arrived to reaffix my gate, my downstairs neighbour came out of his flat, clearly not sober, and shouting loudly!

The first altercation was over the dumped trash. I wanted it taken back into my neighbours garden, he didn’t want it moved at all! Jill was able to persuade the workman to take all the trash away with him, as it had already been agreed that he would remove some netting from the railings that the painters had left behind. So, one problem solved!

Having lost that battle, my downstairs neighbour decided to tell the workman how to re-affix the gate. The workman wasn’t pleased. First my downstairs neighbour tried to give the workman some rotting leather belt to attach the gate to the railings. When I protested that it was nothing to do with him, he returned with some very thin metal chain! Very easy for him to cut though!

Once the gate was fully fixed to the wall, I then took the heavy bike chain I had used to fasten my garden chairs to the railings, and gave it to the workman, who wrapped it through the gate and round the railings securing it with the padlock. Once my downstairs neighbour realised he was thwarted he retreated to his flat cursing both me and the workman.

At last, my balcony was secure! Peace, security and safety at last, I thought! I was very grateful to the workman who did more than his job description entailed and to Jill who was a super, tactful advocate.

I went to bed that night feeling very pleased. Until I was woken at about 11.30pm. My downstairs neighbour was having a drunken altercation with another man, whose voice I didn’t recognise. The cause of his anger was very evident, he was furious that he could no longer get onto my balcony! He was loudly cursing both myself, the workman and the world in general! Then I heard a bang, something had hit my window, I’ve no idea what it was, but decided to put the chain on the front door, open it and tell both my neighbour and his companion that if they didn’t move I would be calling the police.

They dispersed, with me wondering once more how my drunken neighbour was able to get down the steep steps to his flat without falling and breaking a limb or two.

In case you are wondering why I’ve done nothing about the aggravation I’ve had from my downstairs neighbour ever since I moved here. Well, I have tried, but the Housing Association have not been at all pro-active. The most they have done is to get my neighbour to sign an agreement not to harass or speak to me. Which sort of works when he is sober, but as that seems to be a rare occurrence, in reality it’s not very affective.

Involving the police has been equally futile, they are only willing to take action if there are independent witnesses. Which due to my decreased care hours is a rare event.

So whilst I have some security again, I don’t feel as safe as I’d like to be and I’m still very keen to move as soon as possible.

So near and yet so far………..


This is the view of the garden for my flat, I just wish I could go and sit outside and enjoy the sunshine, but there are a number of very steep steps from my balcony down to the garden which are impossible for me to negotiate safely.

Yet another reason for needing to move.

Using the balcony is an option, but gives me no privacy as my very nosey downstairs neighbour insists in either pushing his way through the gate at the end and coming up and smoking right next to me, or interrupting any conversation I may be trying to have with visitors.

I find his smoking not only objectionable but also totally inconsiderate as I have greatly reduced lung function and being near people who are smoking makes my breathing so much worse. I have told him this, as has the housing officer who looks after both our flats, but to no avail.

So, during these lovely sunny days I remain in doors, instead of being outside soaking up some Vitamin D. I guess that’s why a couple of years ago I was diagnosed with severe Vitamin D deficiency and now have to take daily supplements.

It would probably be cheaper for the NHS to help get me moved to a new flat!

Trying to Move

I have been trying to move from my current flat for almost four years. It is unsuitable for me because I cannot get my electric wheelchair through the front door to charge it without folding it, which means taking the batteries out and lifting the chair and the batteries over two steps, something I have to rely on somebody else to do.

A few weeks ago I went to see a flat that should have been ideal for me, and with some adaptations it would be, but without them it is impossible for me. Ideally I need a walk/wheel in shower in the bathroom. I can just, but not very safely, manage to use a bath, manoeuvring myself onto a bath board but need
shower controls and the shower head to be within reach as my balance is too poor to allow me to stand.

The housing association who own the flat are willing to do the adaptations, but then a great big snag occurred. The flat I want to move to so I am nearer my family is in a different London borough from the one I’m now in.

Before the adaptations are undertaken I have to be assessed by an OT (Occupational Therapist) who will ensure that the controls are in the right place, the seat is safe and suitable and the grab rails are at the correct height. The OT from the borough in which I live is not allowed to assess me for a property outside the boundaries of the borough. When the OTs from the borough
I am moving to were contacted, the housing association was told that it is not possible for an OT assessment to be done on me unless I am already living in the borough!

Hence I am now in a catch 22 situation, wherever and whenever I move.

If I move before the adaptations are carried out I would have to wait to be assessed, then wait for funding to be agreed and then wait again for the work to be carried out. Before I moved into this flat, bathroom adaptations were needed and the whole process took about six months. This therefore makes moving and waiting a non-starter.

My wonderful new Motability car has a specially fitted electric hoist, so my wheelchair, complete with batteries, is hoisted in and out with minimal assistance from me. All of which is really great, and gives me a greater degree of independence that I have had for some years. But I still need to move to a
flat with level access so I can easily get my chair in through the front door and charge the batteries every few days.

I have no idea how long it will take me to move, all I know is that the housing association is; “trying to find a solution”.

All I can say is, ‘Please keep trying’, because the longer I stay where I am, the more trying it is for me!

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