Demands to help isolated pensioners after 85-year-old lies dead at home ‘for six weeks’
Neighbour left traumatised after finding Patricia Simoni's body
05 October, 2017 — By Tom Foot
Donald Hill outside Patricia Simoni’s home
THERE are new calls to tackle isolation and loneliness among the elderly after an 85-year-old woman was discovered dead in her home, six weeks after the authorities had last heard from her.
Patricia Simoni’s body was found by her neighbour who knocked on her door in Agincourt Road, South End Green, on Monday, after concerns about her welfare had been raised by a council rent officer. Ms Simoni is said to have spoken with an “American twang” but little is known about her life or whether she has family. Neighbours told how a package had sat outside her front door for more than a month and she had placed thick bedspreads up against her windows in the weeks before her death.
Donald Hill, who lives a few doors up from Ms Simoni, discovered her body. He said he had been asked to carry out the check by an officer at Camden Council and it has left him feeling emotionally “scarred”.
“I am the sort of person who stops and helps elderly people when I see them in the street,” said Mr Hill. “But I had never seen this woman before, I didn’t know who she was or who it looked like – and I’ve lived here for more than 25 years.” Mr Hill added: “When I got there, the smell, it was overpowering. I knew I had to do something, so I broke the window pane. As soon as I realised what had happened I called the police. I can’t get it out of my head. I feel like, emotionally, I have been scarred by this.”
The council has denied that it had asked Mr Hill to visit Ms Simoni.
Mr Hill said only that morning he had been to a doctor to discuss a referral for post-traumatic stress disorder following the death of his twin brother, Ronald. That afternoon he had been liaising with Camden’s coroner about an inquest into the death of a friend who was under the care of the mental health service.
“There is a common theme here – and that is mental health,” said Mr Hill, who believes the council or police should conduct all welfare checks on residents who have not been seen.
Earlier this year the New Journal reported a heartbreaking portrait of life for elderly residents who are stuck in unsuitable council flats, after a doctor warned the Town Hall that some are living like prisoners locked up in solitary confinement.
Dr Benjamin Bromilow, a GP in West Hampstead, had told a council inquiry how patients sometimes only left their homes in medical emergencies because they lived on upper floors, while others appeared to be hoarding items just because they had no physical means to declutter.
Gary Jones, chief executive of Camden Age UK, said questions remained about “the state pulling back because of cuts, or people baulking at the costs of care”. He added: “Occasionally also communication between agencies and people breaks down, and someone is left without. These are issues for our community generally. We at Age UK Camden help with befriending, activities and volunteering opportunities. Keeping active and planning ahead are important, for example, dealing with loss and change like bereavement, hospital stays are challenges. Some people need a bit of encouragement to join in and do stuff, whether from family, neighbours or formal services. If you haven’t seen an older neighbour for a while, there’s nothing wrong with knocking.”
A Camden Council spokesman said its officers always worked with the police “in these sad circumstances to gain access as quickly and safely as possible”. He added: “We do not ask residents to go and check on tenants and would never ask residents to enter a tenant’s flat. This was a distressing incident and we have offered support to the resident who made the discovery.”