Widowed and caring for his disabled son, Charlie Farrall Snr was heading for a breakdown – or worse – until he heard about sheltered housing. Robert Mair reports.

In this article:

  1. Struggling alone
  2. D’Oliveira Court
  3. The warden
  4. Pat Breeze
  5. A better quality of life

Struggling alone

Life was unbearable for Charlie Farrall after the death of his wife Margaret in 2006. Left to care for their son – Charlie Jnr, who has cerebral palsy – the family home was suddenly too big to handle and his son’s condition too difficult to deal with alone. Charlie was starting to lose his grip.

“I was deteriorating and I just couldn’t cope where I was living,” he says. “Charlie Jnr was my mainstay after Margaret had passed away and I’d never have been able to keep going if it wasn’t for him."

“But my worry was if anything was to happen to me – and at my age that could be at any time – I wanted something in place where he would be looked after.”

Spurred on by his desire to care his son, Charlie started to look at alternative accommodation away from the family home, which held too many memories.

Initially reluctant to consider residential care or sheltered housing (“I expected to see people crawling around on their hands or knees, or being pushed around in a chair all the time”), it was only when he visited D’Oliveira Court, a care home in Greater Manchester, that his view softened.

D’Oliveira Court

D’Oliveira Court is a sheltered housing scheme and where residents live in self-contained units. The major benefit for Charlie Snr was that Contour Homes – which runs D’Oliveira Court – could provide flats for him and his son, ensuring they could live together, remain independent but receive help if needed.

“He’s got the kind of temperament that he wants to do everything himself. There are times when he needs help – and he won’t refuse it – but if he can do it by himself, he will."

“If he falls he can’t get up, though. He needs to be somewhere or near somebody who can lift him up. The set up at D’Oliveira Court is ideal and if anything were to happen to me he’ll be fine.”

To support independent living, several resources are available on site, including a hairdressers, laundrette and post office. Local shops are within walking distance, including a pub and chip shop, and bus stops link the scheme to Rochdale and Bury.

But for people like Charlie Jnr, specially-adapted disabled flats are available and an on-site warden provides help and support 5 days a week.

The warden

Liz Dean has been the warden at D’Oliveira Court for 18 years. Her day starts at 8:30am, when she checks on the residents, provides wake-up calls if needed and occasionally stops by for a coffee or a chat. She arranges for doctors to visit and helps residents fill out benefits claims. She even helps them sort out financial problems and bills if they ask. For her, the benefits of sheltered housing are obvious.

“We’re promoting independent living,” she says. “A lot of relatives of our residents initially think a nursing home is the answer. It’s not – they might sit there and vegetate. Sheltered housing gives them self-contained flats so they can carry on living as they did in their own homes."

“Of course, it’s a big change but you find they have a better lease of life; they are secure and there are lots more people they can see and talk to.”

Liz does, however, have to keep an eye on the residents and be quick to act if she feels sheltered housing no longer fulfils their needs:

“I know my residents and I know when something is wrong with them. If I can tell something is wrong, I’ll bring it to their attention and we’ll see if we can improve the situation – but sometimes that’s not always possible.”

Pat Breeze

One resident to benefit from Liz’s knowledge is Pat Breeze. Like the Farralls, she was adamant she wasn’t going into social care, but after badly breaking her hip she was left with little choice. Some years ago her right leg was amputated and the subsequent fracture left her immobile and seriously ill.

After returning home to her small flat, local youths terrorised her and she began to feel cut off from the local community.

“I was really isolated,” Pat recalls. “There was nothing going on and the kiddies would torment me. They were only 4 or 5 years old, but they cut the aerial connection to my [television]. My granddaughter used to say she could never settle because she was worried about me.”

The family rallied round and looked for alternative accommodation in a bid to save Pat from her isolated existence. And although Pat already knew Liz, she was still unsure about moving to sheltered housing – until she saw the place:

“The moment she pushed me through the front door of the flat – no word of a lie – I said I’ll take it. And it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I go out more now than I did in the years since I lost my leg.”

A better quality of life

For the Farralls, sheltered housing has also given them a new lease of life. “It’s been a godsend,” Charlie says. “We’ve not been here long, but I know it’s something I should’ve done a long time ago.

“I put my name on the waiting list for another scheme but never followed it through. If I had I’d have been living comfortably now. I think if I’d stayed in my old house I’d only have had a few months left in me."

“But being here in his own flat has given Charlie Jnr independence that he didn’t have before – and it’s brought us closer together.”