Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Seeing the Need By Julia Rizzi

Mum wouldn’t make it through another winter like 2010 in that house, as it was; Janine knew. She’d made the move south because her help was desperately needed. Mum and Sis didn’t know how to ask. It’d meant moving in, staying in every night, constantly monitoring her mother’s hands and feet, blankets, replenishing hot water bottles, keeping the gas wall heater on the landing constantly on full and all the doors closed around the only electric fire downstairs, in a vain attempt to retain some warmth in one room in the house. Mum’s confused state, thankfully changed after a couple of courses of antibiotics.

Janine’s makeshift bedroom was minus a pane of glass in the frame and the taped cardboard did not keep out the north wind, but she did not give up. More work was needed, applying for a decent homes grant, de-cluttering, functional assessment, carer assessment, estimates for double glazing, re-wiring and central heating; countless overdue hospital appointments.

By February, the house was ‘smart’, by July the desperately needed work had been completed: new double glazed windows and doors.

Neighbours who had complained about the obstruction caused by a skip outside, now gave approving nods… “You’ve done a good job there, Janine!”

She’d been a catalyst before. When her brother Mark needed her help to leave home and live independently, she convinced her mother that one the advice of the NAS, the best way to achieve this was to secure a diagnosis for his condition, only then could his needs be properly assessed. Once diagnosed, an assessment was needed then respite care might be possible. Preceded by ‘tea visits’, there were many unsuitable respite places, and rejections. Mark’s disappointment, frustration and fear were making him increasingly reclusive and volatile. His ‘transition’ (moving out) would not be straightforward.

Taking dictation from him, she put into writing his request, needs and reasons. They posted the letter to his social worker. She wrote her own letter too, in greater detail. Neither letter would carry any weight. The dictated letter could not be accepted because it was not clear that the words reflected Mark’s wishes. Janine’s letter was of little value because she was not his primary caregiver.

Mark dictated another letter and Janine wrote it so that he could copy it. This letter bore no fruit. What was needed was a proper, trained, impartial ‘advocate’ and there was a waiting list. Janine had to apply for an advocate. It was only after much heartache and attempted sectioning, that Mark found his place in supported living and home.

Ten years later, happy, proud of his flat and achievements, he still asks what his late grandmother would say if she could see his flat, she’d passed away during the ‘transition’… Relatives who criticized Janine for not relieving her tired elderly parents of the responsibility of caring for their son have been silenced and the house Janine had bought to live in with her brother has been sold.

Fresh choices could be made.


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