When life changes, it does so suddenly. There is no lead-in. One day life is powering along. You get up, go to work, come home, have something to eat, watch the telly, and perhaps go out together to a restaurant or plan your next holiday. And then. Bang! Something happens to disrupt that daily routine. Whoopee! You’ve won the lottery. For most of us, life isn’t like that. More likely, it is something you don’t want, like an accident in the family. It happened to us a week before Christmas, when Farida, my partner, tumbled in the hallway as she was trying to get to the front door. It was a soft fall in which she landed on carpet but was the latest in a series of falls both in and outside the house, which had meant that she was already unsteady on her feet. But this time, she couldn’t get up and has since been unable to walk. Farida is currently awaiting an operation at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, which we will hope will put matters right. But in the meantime, I have become a full-time carer. Because there is no one else to do it. Just the two of us. So it’s about learning quickly how to cope with this new situation and deal with issues relating to personal care and transport. How do you get to and from hospital appointments, if you can’t get into a car? How can I even go to the shops, unless there is someone, whom we can trust, to provide care whilst I am out of the house? I have also had to cancel my own dental appointments because there was no one to cover whilst I am away. Let’s start with transport.
Getting about now means finding a motor vehicle capable of accommodating someone sitting in a wheelchair. Fortunately, there are specialist wheelchair taxis and minicabs. These are sophisticated pieces of equipment, with either a ramp or an electric lift to get Farida and her wheelchair inside the vehicle. At around £24 one-way for the short journey between our home and West Middlesex Hospital, wheelchair transport is surprisingly affordable. The problem is one of availability, as there are so few wheelchair cabs around, so it is first come, first served. They are particularly busy during the school run. It is easy enough to book in advance for a wheelchair cab to take you to the hospital. But what do you do, when you want to come home? You can’t pre-book because you don’t know when the hospital appointment and any associated tests, will finish. On one occasion we were kept waiting 3 hours because there was nothing available to take us home from West Middlesex Hospital.
The next issue is finding some paid help in the house to free up some of my time and help me cope. If I can’t do my job, I can’t earn any money to pay for the care. Like many of us, I am lucky that I am now able to work from home. So thank you Microsoft Teams. No more traipsing up to London for meetings. So how do you go about finding paid help?
It would seem to me that there are three ways of finding paid help: through the local authority; through a private agency; or by finding someone yourself. I prefer the last. It is about finding a female carer with whom we are both comfortable in placing our trust. That person will also have to come with us to hospital appointments to help with personal care. It is about trusting our own personal judgment and feelings about a particular person. It means that the money I pay goes straight to the carer instead of to an agency. It means that we get the person we choose and not someone who is sent to us by someone else. It also offers flexibility, because we can call the person whenever we need them. Just hoping that life changes for the better once Farida has had her operation. Just a final word.
Although the NHS has recently had a very bad press, I have never complained about the care and support we have received from medical staff over the years. They have always been there to look after me.