106-year-old woman evicted from her care home

Louisa Watts, 106, has been evicted from her care home despite warnings from her family that the move would kill her.

Mrs Watts was settling in “okay” to her new home, her son said, adding: “We’ve just got to keep our fingers crossed.”

However, relatives of other residents who spoke to her said she would rather have “thrown herself in the canal” than move out.

Mrs Watts, a great-great grandmother and believed to be Britain’s fifth oldest woman, has been forced to leave Underhill House in Bushbury, Wolverhampton, because the council is closing it down.

Despite legal efforts by her family – which heard from experts that moving elderly people in such a manner could lead to premature death – the intervention of Gordon Brown and a 1,700-name petition urging the council to keep the home open, yesterday she and the other residents said goodbye to staff and the home they love.

Mrs Watts was wheeled out into a blizzard and freezing temperatures and taken on a minibus to a new care home in Dudley.

Her son, Derek, 77, said: “She feels ok. She was upset about it on Sunday and was in tears and didn’t want to move but there is nothing we can do about it.

“She’s seen her new room, had dinner and she’s in the main room with everybody else.

“We have tried to re-assure her and told her we will be there every day and we just have to hope she settles in ok.”

He added: “It isn’t the right time to move people but we have got to go along with it. All we wanted was for her to live out the rest of her life in peace.

“The council could have waited a week or so and it would have not have cost them a penny so none of us can see why they are doing this today.

“It is only a small place and a small home and she just wanted to live there in peace.

“I’ve tried my best to keep it open but it wasn’t enough. Today has been upsetting for all of us.”

Mrs Watts, who spent four years at Underhill, said she still disagreed with what the council had decided.

Speaking from her new home, she said: “I was very upset to leave Underhill – it was really lovely there and it was my home.

“I didn’t even realise I was going today until they told me just before 11am.

“I really wanted to stay and I wish I could have stayed there for many more years.

“This whole ordeal has been extremely upsetting.

“I was dreading leaving, we fought so hard to keep the place open.

“All my friends were there, I am going to miss it so much.

“I think it’s unfair that we have had to move from the home and the council acted disgracefully.

“I think the elderly are badly mistreated and let down in this country.”

“We’re often forgotten – there’s no justice for us.”

Wolverhampton Council is closing the 40-year-old home because it believes it is no longer fit for purpose.

Mrs Watts, a former hospital cleaner, moved there after her daughter Jean Bolas died at the age of 78. She lived with her and could not move in with Mr Watts because she could not manage the stairs.

Mrs Watts is not the only resident whose health has suffered because of the stress of the move.

Mick Beswick, 68, whose 93-year-old mother Minnie was also among those being moved, said: “Louisa’s health has gone down hill remarkably and she said the other day that she would rather throw herself in the canal than move. It seems to have had a bigger effect on Louisa than anybody else in the home.

“My mother’s health has gone down quite a lot in the past few weeks so I cannot believe this is still happening – she is very upset and a lot of them have been in tears in there today.”

Councillor Les Pugh, Wolverhampton City Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults, said: “Throughout this process, our first concern was always to the residents of Underhill House and we strived to ensure that we were able to arrange the best possible care for them by giving them all the information they needed to make their choice.

“At the end of the day we left it to each resident to decide which option they chose.

“The places they have moved into reflect their changing needs.”

Sarah Norman, Wolverhampton City Council’s Director for Adults and Community, added: “Underhill House was built 40 years ago and no longer meets the modern space standards for a residential care home relating to room size and the need for en-suite facilities.”

The council previously claimed it would cost £2 million to bring the home up to modern standards, although critics pointed to the latest asessment of Underhill House by the Commission for Social Care Inspection in 2007. Its report graded it as ‘good’ – the second highest – and noted that residents spoke ‘very positively’ about staff and their care