Apparently, three percent of UK adults get support from Adult Social Care. This interests me for two reasons: one, because I am one of those adults and two, because for as long as I can remember the Social Care budget has been cut, again and again and again.
I’ve been receiving Social Care since September when my girlfriend and I made the scary but ultimately most sensible decision to live in different cities from each other after almost three years of living in the same room(!). I realised that my girlfriend had been increasingly acting as my carer whilst we’d been living together and that, while I wished it were otherwise, I was actually too unwell to look after myself. I need carers.
It was hard to admit because I am fiercely independent and live in a world that that associates “needing help from others” with “dependency”, “weakness” and “giving in”. Accepting help from non-family-members is often seen as a failure and a last resort. My actual experience of arranging and receiving care, however, has been a brilliant expression of my Independence, Strength and Resourcefulness – it has been the exact opposite of “giving in”.
I referred myself to my local council’s Adult Social Care Team via email. I was assessed for free loans of equipment (a bath board, two perching stools, a grabbing tool and a bed rail) that were delivered to my new home the same week I moved in. I met and talked with social workers who agreed a care plan to ensure I was guaranteed to get one cooked meal every week day and three showers a week. That also started the same week I moved in.
So, what’s it like?
After organising to change to a different agency when I was approved for long term care, it’s actually going really well. I know all the agency’s carers and they follow instructions. I’m completely in control of what happens – they just provide a pair of hands and some company. I was originally told that I’d only be able to have ready meals and I argued that wasn’t good enough – not least because I’m likely to need some help from others for the *rest of my life*. I planned various meals that could be made in 20 minutes or less and now I do as much or as little of the preparation as I feel up to and then a carer follows my instructions to make the food, makes me a cup of tea and does the washing up while I’m eating – and even makes the bed or puts my laundry to dry as well if there’s time. My carers enjoy spending the time with me and their free cooking lesson – I’ve got quite the reputation for interesting food and carers really do go home and try things they’ve made for me.
Without social care, I wouldn’t die but I’d become much more ill very quickly. At first it was very, very hard to accept that. Some days I can function almost “normally” but I can’t do it every day. Having help with cooking and washing myself means those activities are less tiring and I’ve energy left over to do things that I want to do.
Why do I get social care?
I’ve left this to the end but I can’t not include it. I know so, so many people who sound like they’re having a really hard time and could potentially do with help but don’t ask for it because they don’t think they’d qualify or don’t feel worth it or are scared like I was of giving in and becoming dependent. I get social care mainly because I am at risk of neglecting myself – I have little motivation to look after myself and left completely to my own devices would stop eating completely. That combines with me sometimes being physically unable to cook or wash myself. Both of these are recognised by my social worker as serious problems best solved by providing me with another person to help me cook and wash myself regularly – making it near impossible for me to self-sabotage by refusing self-care and a very, very clear record that it’s happening if I do. If I stop eating, someone *will* notice and my social worker will contact my GP. I have set up a system that actively prevents my depression from starving me.
I’ve come to view my care plan very differently from how society told me to view needing care. How can it be a sign of dependency that I arranged and co-authored a detailed plan of how to prevent myself becoming seriously ill? It’s not. Where is the weakness and failure in learning to understand, anticipate and work with my health needs? In pooling all available resources to ensure I can live the kind of life I want to lead? There isn’t any.
I’m not giving in. I’m working out exactly what I need and using all tools at my disposal to ensure my health needs are met.
I’m likely going to write more posts on this and I’d also like to open this blog to submissions of guest posts on the theme of recieving adult social care – both positive and negative.