Livewire - January 4, 2012

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By Mrs Rose Carterleay of Norbreck

I turn 76 next week. Each birthday is a milestone. My mobility is restricted by heart failure, arthritis, diabetes, vascular disease and renal failure. If my heart doesn’t get me, my kidneys will!

I’m by nature optimistic, but I face another exploratory hospital procedure this week. I also face a grilling every time I try to use patient transport to get to and from the hospital.

This makes me feel like a burden on the state. None of us ask for help lightly. If I can get a lift, I will. I wish I could afford to take taxis.

I get one to and from podiatry (a necessity for diabetic screening) and that costs me £20, a big chunk of my pension.

Those who get patient transport usually have the support of GPs, who give them a number to quote when booking the facility.

We have conditions which make using public transport difficult or impossible. For many, it’s hard to walk unsupported to a waiting car or taxi, depending on the weather and how we feel.

I’ve had to cancel appointments this week because I can’t go out in high winds. I’ve already fallen and broken my hand and ribs. Last winter, I was virtually trapped within my home by snow and ice.

An Age UK survey has just revealed hundreds of thousands of pensioners spent Christmas and New Year alone. I didn’t. I’m one of the lucky ones.

But I would be virtually housebound if it wasn’t for my carer. But my carer can’t be there for me every minute of every day or for every appointment or out patient screening or clinic. Let alone for fun trips out.

I’m also old enough to believe public transport should be a service. I’ve worked as a civil servant and raised three children as a widow after quitting work to nurse my dying husband.

I’ve paid my way, yet some would grudge me a free bus pass. Others grudge me a seat on a busy bus. Some probably grudge me the bus.

There is no direct bus to the Vic from my home. I catch two to get there, two back. Just walking to the stop is an ordeal of stopping every few steps to rest. I’m never assisted on board, allowed to sit before it moves away, and often left standing if all the seats are taken. Coming back is a nightmare. By then I’m even more weary.

New trams with their 10 minute frequency and easy access won’t help. They don’t go to the hospital. I can’t get up the hill to reach them.

My new year wish is this: a direct hospital bus for every part of town, and more compassion for the elderly. Old age comes to us all – but quality of life only for the very lucky.