Wednesday, 24 December 2014

That's teamwork

When Seth was born Craig and I became a team. We didn't consciously do it but we grew more dependent on each other and became tied by even stronger bonds than as a couple we had had before. We got married a few years later and had the mightiest of celebrations of that partnership.

When the three of us are out we have a choreographed dance; for navigating doors/ pavements/ people, responding to Seth's needs and sharing a meal with Seth. I especially like how when eating out we will take it in turns to eat so that Seth's food is chopped up, cooled and then given to him without one of us getting too hungry. Obviously, we have enough times when the dance turns into more of a battle but more times than not we are in sync.

But the team falls down when we are all ill! In fact these past few days I've been trapped under a duvet with my head full of feverish thoughts realising that we've been going about things wrong. We were so happy to strip away the level of equipment support as Seth needed it less but we've missed a vital point. That we should plan for the worst contingency, not the best. Because this week I haven't had the strength to carry Seth around but, being poorly too, he's refused to walk and in fact been pretty much a dead weight. We don't have a chair that we can move Seth around in the house anymore so there is no alternative. And carrying Seth upstairs for a bath at the end of the day?! Ha!

It has made me acutely aware of how dependent Seth is on us. If Craig or I don't get up out of bed in the morning then Seth doesn't move. It doesn't matter how tired, ill or worn out we are - Seth can't climb out of bed, he can't reach for a drink, he can't do anything but lie in a nappy that he's worn all night, trapped in a room alone.

Well we are getting a wet room hopefully February and we are getting a replacement chair. Our lack of suitable chair for Seth has been holding up our respite and so a replacement has been rushed through but with no consultation from us. I've been so busy I was almost tempted to let that happen given our need for respite but this week has reminded me how important the equipment we have is and there is no way we should allow a new chair - something that Seth and us could be very reliant on at times - to be chosen without any input from us. Even a month's delay to our respite will be worth us not being saddled with another rubbish chair for the next two years!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Seth turns 7 and has his Christmas Concert - but it's a frightening time for young people with learning disabilities

I read an article on the Mencap website, on Friday. It was how a 23 year old man with a learning disability died because his care plan wasn't followed by the supported living service he was, unhappily, living in. Nico was born with cerebral palsey and later diagnosed with profound and multiple learning difficulties. Nico was moved because his local authority stopped funding his school placement because they "deemed his care package to be too expensive", even though his family and experts in the field warned that the alternative placement could not meet his complex needs.

According to Mencap in research they conducted in 2013, over 1200 children and adults die across England every year because they are not getting the right healthcare.

Seth turned 7 two weeks ago. We had a lovely party and I'm so proud of how he is growing up. He stands much straighter now, showing off how tall he is. He's starting to move his arms and hands in a new way and is able to hold onto items now. We have frustrations with some services and equipment but on the whole the system has worked for us and for Seth. Hi school in particular - Friday was the school Christmas Concert and he was a star on stage bopping to the music in 70's garb (yes that is a dancing reindeer behind him!)

But what happens when he turns 16 and leaves children's services? Most of the time I don't think about it - it's a long way off and why worry about something that's not relevant right now when there is enough to worry about that is? But everything I do now is with one eye on the future - I'm terrified that Seth will be reliant on others for his basic needs. I'm trying to teach him to feed himself and I'm trying to potty train him so that he will have some control over the very basics of his life. When his older I want him to be able to experience leaving home and live in a community where he is with his peers, continuing to learn, having fun and stimulated. I know at least one place in England like this but I imagine its places are hotly contested and expensive.

The description of Nico in the Mencap article reminded me of Seth and exemplifies all the fears I have for Seth's future. Entirely vulnerable to the whims of the Local Authority budget and a system that continually fails the most vulnerable.