A double-amputee who became trapped in her home after waiting months for it to be adapted has died.
Arun District Council apologised to the family of Barbara Samuels, who died last Saturday, for not starting work on her bungalow in Jays Close, Littlehampton sooner after she had her legs amputated in 2016.
Barbara, 76, tried to get a permanent disabled ramp so she could leave her house – and told the Gazette the delays made her feel she was ‘waiting to die’.
Her son Robert Samuels, 46, said she was ‘a prisoner in her own home’ and it affected her health ‘without a doubt’.
To the council, he said: “You couldn’t print what I would like to say to them.
“The works should have been done before she came out of hospital. They had prior warning – she spent 10 months in there. It makes me so angry to think they can get away with this.
“She had no hope; they didn’t give her any hope. All she wanted was that ramp.”
The diabetes sufferer left hospital in February 2017, and spent the next five months waiting for a temporary ramp, using a door as a stand-in and falling off it several times, injuring herself.
In August, West Sussex County Council installed a temporary ramp – but it was still too narrow and Barbara continued to suffer falls.
In October, the retired silver service caterer told the Gazette she was reduced to washing in a basin because she could not use the bath, struggled to cook because the kitchen surfaces were too high, and scratched her limbs on the narrow doorframes.
She was approved for a disabled facilities grant to fund the adaptations, but had not heard from Arun about when work would begin.
Louisa Light, 65, noticed her friend ‘going downhill’ in her final weeks, and kept calling her ‘wanting to die’ before she passed away from heart failure in hospital last Saturday.
Louisa, from Nelson Road, Worthing, said: “I have never seen a woman change so much in two months. She would still be here if they gave her that ramp.”
An Arun spokesman said it would improve the complex process of applying for disabled facilities grants and getting home adaptations in light of Barbara’s death.
They said: ““We were saddened to hear of the death of Mrs Samuels and we send our sincere condolences to her family.
“Arun District Council has been working closely with partner agencies including West Sussex County Council (WSCC), Places for People Housing Association, Occupational Therapists and Amber Living to ensure that Mrs Samuels’ home received the adaptations required, and this process was underway.
“We are aware that the process for disabled facilities grants is a lengthy one and there lots of stages that must be adhered to before works can begin. In view of this, the council are currently working with WSCC and other district and borough councils, to improve the delivery of adaptations.
“We are sorry that this case took some time to progress as it was a complex situation and it was vital to ensure the final adaptions to the home met Mrs Samuels’s needs.”
West Sussex County Council, which installed the temporary ramp, said: “We would like to offer our condolences to the family of Mrs Samuels at this sad time.
“We installed a temporary ramp to help Mrs Samuels access her home, with assistance, until a permanent solution could be arranged.
“As this clearly was not a long-term solution we recommended a number of adaptations to her home and have been working with Arun District Council as the authority responsible for making the changes.
“We are aware that adapting a home to meet complex needs can take some time and we are working with our district and borough partners to find ways to improve this service.”
A spokesman for Places for People housing association, Mrs Samuels’ landlord, said: “We were very sorry to hear about the recent death of Mrs Samuels.
“Any adaptations to our properties need to be funded, managed and conducted by the local authority – in this case Arun District Council. Our role as landlord is to approve any works when we are satisfied with the proposals.
“We were first approached by Arun District Council’s contractor, Amber Living, in October 2017. We agreed the works in principle, but needed a detailed specification to formally approve the adaptations. We received this in January 2018 and immediately provided consent.
“We had been working with Mrs Samuels to approve the necessary adaptations that Arun District Council were to carry out, and Mrs Samuels had confirmed to us that respite care was in place to ensure her wellbeing whilst the works were underway.”