Caerau under threat.

Well, here I am again. Mrs Angry from Caerau has raised her ugly head once more. Over the last nine years or so I have bored everyone close to me to distraction about that triangular shaped field in Caerau. It’s important. I used to spend hours wandering around up there trying to figure out what all the lumps and bumps were about. I researched it and learned loads about what it all meant. I kept the whole thing as quiet as possible from the public domain so that the area would remain protected due to it being preserved mostly in public record at that time. Eventually I started to share some of this locally, working with the children and young people of the local schools. This was primarily to keep the crumbling remains of St. Mary’s Church as safe as possible.

Then along came Cardiff University. To be honest they were a little behind me in this research but, eventually and not without some fear I talked with them about it. They caught up and, importantly had lots of money that they were willing to invest in this area and they were able to engage with the public in far greater ways than me. Eventually this triangular shaped field of ‘mine’ was to be given a little bit of status as an Iron Age (at least) hill fort.

If you know about this then you will know that hot on their heels came Time Team. They came, they made a mess and a telly programme then they left. All stuff designed to give this little old rather angry lady in Caerau a little bit of the wobbles. I had massive reservations about all of this. I was accused of ‘selling out’ by allowing myself to become involved in this. Overall my fears were allayed and, although the area has been mucked about with by young ladies and young men digging holes, it has actually been really beneficial to the local communities of Ely and Caerau. Cardiff University formed the CAER Heritage Project and they worked their socks off in order to engage residents in the whole of their work. What Time Team did, on your 55 inch flat screen telly, was to tell the whole of Ely and Caerau what an amazingly valuable historical monument they lived alongside. Thank you for that.

The church of St Mary, long a victim of vandalism was now being looked after. There are people involved in this who have pursued Cardiff Council and persuaded them to help keep the remains of this historic building together. They have given up their time to tidy up the area, to log the graves and to generally give this church the respect it has so sadly been missing out on.

Overall the community has benefitted. The view from the hill fort is amazing when you look out towards Cardiff. The CAER Heritage Project believe this to be an area that would have been important to Cardiff itself. Of course, my endless research means I disagree with this – not entirely but my belief is and always has been that the hill fort would have been more better placed as part of what is now the Vale of Glamorgan and valued as such.

A few years ago changes began to happen. A solar park was to be built quite close to the site. It would be fine, we were reassured. This won’t be visible from the hill fort and will not detract from the beautifully serene surrounds one bit, they said. Unfortunately the building of this solar park caused some major issues for those living on the approach road. Let’s set this in to some kind of context. As you walk toward the track that leads from Caerau all the way to Michaelston le Pit you will need to walk underneath the A4232 Ely Link Road. Sadly, way back at the end of the 1970’s this road was built by cutting around the hill fort site. It’s no longer possible to walk up-and-over as we used to as kids, but hey, way back then we didn’t really know any better, did we?

This bit of Caerau is such an excellent resource for the local people. It’s usual to see dog walkers, horse riders, the footballing kids of the future and joggers all wandering along to make use of the area. Families wander through as well as groups of children and young people off to have fun on their own. I was one of these children once, having lived all my life nearby.

 

This lovely tree lined, although slightly narrow road,  takes you from Caerau down toward the link road. The hill fort area is surrounded by  beautifully managed woods, protected as a special area and inhabited by the most amazing birds and wildlife. Even slow worms like it in there. The homes along Heritage Drive, just off Cwrt yr Ala Road were built on the site of the old Caerau Isolation Hospital. Sadly this was built within the banks and ditches of the Caerau hill fort. But hey, we didn’t know any better then, did we?

As I just mentioned a solar park was planned. Renewable energy they said. Yes, a few solar panels in the field and most certainly not visible from the hill fort. They actually forgot to mention that the construction of this amazing solar park would mean driving lorries, very quickly, in a dust raising, dirty and frankly quite dangerous manner along Cwrt yr Ala Road. That lovely quiet tree lined but slightly narrow road in the image above. Most residents took this on the chin. It was good for the environment wasn’t it, to get away from the smoking chimneys of the coal-fired power stations. Everyone wants renewable sources of energy, don’t they? I’ve since learned from a friend that should you have solar panels on farmland then it’s wise that you keep animals out of the field as you can’t really sell them on later or even, it is my understanding, use the field for agricultural purposes for some years after the panels have been removed. I could be wrong on this or hey, maybe I just don’t know any better.

I was up at the hill fort only recently. It’s still so lovely up there but obviously, since the trees are now without their leaves, it is possible to see the Ely Link Road. And, surprise surprise, you can see the solar farm.

Now, and this is the bit that is really making me rather very angry, I have learned – via social media – that we are now going to have – guess what ? OK, that’s unfair, how could you know – I didn’t – a LANDFILL SITE. Yes, that’s correct. Now, this is not your black bag rubbish type tip, this is an ‘inert waste’ tip. What exactly does ‘inert waste’ mean? So, for the next 5 to 6 years up to 20 lorries, very quickly, in a dust raising, dirty and frankly quite dangerous manner will be driving along Cwrt yr Ala Road. That lovely quiet tree lined but slightly narrow road.

I’m really pleased to be able to say that the local Labour Councillor for the area is doing his level best to stop this happening. Indeed the Welsh Lib Dem AM for South Wales Central and spokesperson on Enterprise, Transport, Europe and Business has assured me that she will ‘look into it’ but in the meantime the Vale of Glamorgan has, in their recent report on this completely outrageous planning application – available online and therefore well within the public domain – given me the opportunity to give you some quotes.  In fairness I suggest you check this out for yourselves but, in the meantime here are a couple of my favourites:

The site is located in open countryside and within the Cwrt yr Ala basin Special Landscape Area as defined within the Unitary Development Plan. The site also lies within the boundaries of the derelict mineral site, the former Ely Brickworks. In addition it is noted that the Caerau Wood hill fort, which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, is located to the north of the site within the neighbouring Cardiff Council Local authority area.

 and;

In terms of impact upon Vale residents this would be very limited as there is no residential development, within the Vale, close to the proposed site. With regard to impact upon Cardiff residents, and any significant effect on the environment by virtue of the nature, size and location of the development this is a decision for the Local Planning Authority (LPA)

 

So, there you are then. To me that translates as – yes, we know it’s an important area and we acknowledge this but let’s quickly move on and gloss over this. The second quote means that there are of course housing developments nearby but, come on, they are in Cardiff, not the Vale of Glamorgan so that doesn’t matter to us. In fact, just so you know and I may of course be pointing out the obvious here, there are many property websites used by estate agents and prospective buyers who will pick up on things like transport links, schools and, obviously, landfill sites. I’m not sure as I’m simply Mrs Angry, not an expert on the property market, but I worry that the residents of the very beautiful vale village of Michaelston le Pit may find out that this may also affect them – just by being in quite close proximity to this ‘inert waste’ tip site. In fact I spoke with an established and respected estate agent only this morning who advised me that although this may not actually bring down the price of any property nearby immediately it will certainly not improve it. The advice was to consult further with a surveyor. That’s not really what I wanted to hear and I am sure that nearby residents won’t be happy to hear the financial implications upon their hard earned mortgaged properties should they decide to sell.

I would suggest that there will be major concerns from Cardiff Council and their residents once this very well kept secret becomes public knowledge. I really hope so. The enjoyment of all to access the area from Cwrt yr Ala Road towards Michaelston le Pit will be impacted on, most certainly. The right of the Cwrt yr Ala residents to enjoy their homes will most certainly be negatively affected, I know this as I lived through the delight of the solar park development. The access to the hill fort and the 12th century church for community groups will be restricted and, perhaps the work to preserve the tower of the old church could be seriously undermined by these vehicles shaking the living daylights out of it. That would be such a shame for all those who clearly care so much about it. What about Caerau (Ely) AFC  – their ethos of ‘ Working With the Ely Community, For the Ely Community ‘ could be seriously affected by safety issues. I’m sure it won’t be safe to be toddling along there trying to dodge these vehicles for the next, what was it – 5 to 6 years?

So what can be done? I’m not too sure really. Perhaps we can suggest that the Vale of Glamorgan Council may want to consider other options for this ‘inert waste’ landfill site. Perhaps, let’s just think a minute – the residents of Dinas Powys would be happy for it to be placed just a bit further over. That other hill fort area known as Cwm George has plenty of room. I bet not many people use this – just a couple of walkers, now and then – and the Woodland Trust won’t mind, surely? Or, perhaps, what about that stretch of beach adjacent to Sully Island? Hardly anyone goes there. The residents of Sully wouldn’t even notice. Yes, I agree that these are areas of special interest and so very important to the residents but isn’t Caerau of equal value?

There is just one little quote that I will share with you. I visited Cosmeston Lakes Country Park today and went in to the little shop to buy a book on the history of this area. On the wall, right in front of me was this final quote from the Vale of Glamorgan Council. It read – and I quote ‘ A sad chapter in Cosmeston’s history saw the quarry used for several years as a landfill site for household waste. The little book I purchased for £4 completed this with ‘Permission to tip household rubbish on the west side of Mile End Road was granted to Penarth Urban District Council in 1964 (with some waster tipping already underway several years before that).’

So, please tell me – does this mean that the Vale of Glamorgan Council recognise that they really DO know better?

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Barry at War Museum

Very recently I looked in to the Barry at War Museum which is situated inside the Heritage Railway Centre on Barry Island itself. This little museum is tucked away inside a very small space but staffed by very enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteers dressed in relevant costumes of the time.  These volunteers make you most welcome and clearly enjoy talking visitors through the exhibits. This is an excellent experience and, being hands on, means very little is behind glass. It’s possible to actually hold things, feel their weight, smell their past and get their story told. My own parents experienced life during the years of World War 2 – my dad, John Heatley serving throughout in the 53rd Welsh Division – so it was really nice to combine my own memories of what my parents told us as children with the exhibits on show.

I really loved my visit so looked the group up on good old Facebook. I found the Barry at War Museum Group and clicked ‘join’ – it was as easy as that.  My interest in history is more usually centred on lumps and bumps in forgotten fields on Welsh hilltops – as I’m completely certain you will know by now – but this little museum really captured my imagination.

I now receive regular updates and was rather chuffed to receive an invite to an event. A talk given by Eileen Younghusband regarding her previously top secret work undertaken in the ‘Filter Room’ of the RAF and its importance during the Battle of Britain. This being beautifully timed to coincide with the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain itself.

On arrival the lady herself was sat, really relaxed and more than happy to chat with my small group before her presentation began.  I have of course seen the film version of this type of work but really had no idea of the complexity or the importance of the work that was undertaken by Eileen and her colleagues in the most difficult of circumstances. We were able to see a film that had been taken during actual operations and this really opened my eyes. I had never heard of the ‘Filter Room’ but Eileen talked us through the events and carefully explained the extremely technical details of the work being done prior to the development of radar as we would know it. Since Eileen is no longer required to adhere to the Official Secrets Act she has been able to share the work that she and others were involved in. It is a truly amazing story and I came away feeling I really had learned something.  Eileen has published books recounting her experiences as well as her extraordinary life so may I suggest you take the time to look these out and have a good read!

I spend a lot of my spare time piecing together the jigsaw of early history. I think I may have mentioned in previous blogs how I hate the idea of literally ‘digging up the past’ in order to tell the story of people and place.  The Barry at War Museum is preserving the past intact with their beautifully accurate displays and is telling the story of the people of Barry and their involvement during both World Wars – you don’t have to get wet and muddy to learn their story so please go and visit. I know you will get a very warm welcome.

My final words go to Eileen Younghusband – thank you for telling us your unique piece of history, I truly take my hat off to you.

(Photo’s are my own)

Over Penarth

Spitfires over Penarth during the recent Penarth holiday week

dad

John Heatley – my own childhood hero

plane 1

Vulcan – over Penarth

So, what is it we actually do?

So what do we do? OK well, it depends on the person. I am sure, if you are an avid health and social care fan you will have heard of the term ‘person centred care’. This is often talked about in academic arenas. There is great discussion about how we carers need to be putting our clients first. The job we do should always be done from the perspective of the person in front of us. Well of course it should. How else do you think we could actually work?

Each cared for person – of any age – will have a Care Plan. This document carefully outlines the details of the Care Package that has been agreed. The plan also contains risk assessments to which we work closely. Some people like having carers assisting. Others can really kick against it and need some very careful planning to assist with them accepting that they now need a little bit more assistance than they did before.
Some people have four calls a day. Usually these last half an hour and are planned to occur first thing in the morning to assist with getting up, again for lunch and tea for food preparation and then assistance at bedtime. This is generally how it goes for most people. The morning runs involve a level of personal care, which means assistance with washing, bathing or showering. I call this the ‘talcum powder run’ as I usually end up covered in it. Generally you find that male carers work exclusively with male clients but female carers work with both males and females.

All of us have been trained in moving and positioning. It is necessary to have this training prior to being allowed to assist in any activities of this kind. Did you actually think we would really be let loose without training? Therefore we are able to aid mobility for a very wide range of needs. This can mean assisting someone to rise from a dining chair through to using ceiling hoists to move a person using mechanical means. This training must be updated regularly to ensure we are always proficient and, importantly, safe. We work with a wide variety of other professionals including Occupational Therapists, Social Workers, Mental Health Team staff and unfortunately sometimes paramedics or ambulance trust staff. I say ‘unfortunately’ due to the individual situation in which we tend to meet. I have to also add here though that from first dialling 999 (whilst trying to control that horrible shake in your voice) you get amazing support from the Welsh Ambulance Service. The controller who answers your call keeps you calm and talking until the arrival of that vision in high-vis uniform bangs his or her way through the door with their bag of magic tricks. It is always, truly, such a relief to see these people.

I do confess though that I love assisting the paramedics in preparing for transferring a client to the ambulance. Sometimes we carers have just a tad more experience in moving and handling, using very imaginative but carefully considered procedures in often very cluttered and confined spaces. So, as they say, we come in handy. Paramedics and ambulance staff always treat you as part of their team. Each of us has specific a role to play, which they recognise too and it’s so nice to play such a useful part in such a good way, when the client needs help.

Too often we get treated as, well, a person who can’t get a better job.

All of us have been trained in providing very personal care, which we do by treating our clients with privacy, dignity and the utmost respect. We are all trained to provide a specific level of medication support and usually assist with prompting medication or assisting with things like eye-drops. We care for bed bound clients who may be doubly incontinent. We empty catheter bags, attach night bags and take care with skin integrity to prevent pressure sore in the less mobile.

Most of us can change a hearing-aid battery, or will quickly learn how and usually know which clinic provides the replacements and on what day. We are trained in appropriate food hygiene practice. We can all cook – well mostly that involves using a microwave to heat up a brown-tray meal, the one thing I personally fear, since I have now seen so many. We can all wash up, tidy up and, if requested, put the hoover around. We can even, if the risk assessment states so, take clients out, to the shops, for social activities or appointments. We are also trained in the protection of the people we support. That is, in child protection procedures or, in the protection of vulnerable adults. We all, by the end of year one, have to have completed a specific basic vocational qualification. Oh, did I mention first aid?

We work in line with National Minimum Standards, National Occupational Standards, a Care Council for Wales Code of Conduct for Social Care Workers and, of course to relevant Act’s and bits of legislation. Oh, and of course, we apply all this to our own organisational policies and procedures.

This applies to most of the clients we work with. Then, into this equation you will need to add certain specifics, such as working with people with dual sensory loss, those with dementia or stroke, those who have been born with specific conditions or who are developing them and then those requiring help and support due to an accident or because they are coming to the end of their life. Then add to this that some are tall, or short, or have blue eyes or brown and you start to get the idea that each client is completely different to any other. In fact, rather like me and you they are all very different people with likes and dislikes, who like things done this way or that. Getting the idea?

Mostly we make a connection. We get to know all about the client – which school they went to and their very first job. We hear all about their family members and who is the current favourite niece or nephew. We spend time chatting and its really good. Whatever our clients talk to us about is confidential. Unless there is a real risk to them we keep whatever they tell us to ourselves. There is a trusting relationship that develops, given time. It is so important.

Having different client groups means that we can work with small children, right through to people of 100 years of age. The approach to each client is, clearly, different.

That is exactly what makes this job so interesting and so damn rewarding.

So, what is it that you do?

I know you still probably have not got the first idea about what we community care workers do. ‘Oh you’re a carer’ is a comment often heard before the person talking quickly moves on, seemingly embarrassed for me as I haven’t been able to get a better job. I hear this myself at home too. I have grown up sons – they can get all protective at times. Particularly following an incident you may have found yourself inadvertently drawn into. Sometimes this happens.

I recall one evening when I arrived at a double handed call around 21:30. As usual I was a little bit early so sat in my car trying to fill out my very important mileage claim. A couple of lads passed by – I could see them out of the corner of my eye. No problem really, they were only kids. Something drew my attention to the front of the car just in time for me to see a lad, apparently in mid-air, head up the front of my vehicle. It was a horrible moment and I imagine one that would make anyone jump. Jump I did – out of my car. There he was, about 14 years old and now clinging on for dear life to my aerial.

Now, I’d only had this car a week. It was the newest car I’d ever bought. My car is as important a piece of equipment to me in my job as my rubber gloves or even, dare I say, my black shoes. As I said earlier I have sons. They are damn well older and much bigger than this little cherub grinning at me from the roof of my previously shiny black car. So, in my best and most firm ‘nan’ voice I instructed this little love to desist from this behaviour and remove himself from my car and, for his own sake, from the immediate vicinity of me.

A lady in a car driving past also stopped, she knew this little lovely boy by name. She too joined in, suggesting he may like to stop what he was doing. At that point my colleague turned up. Unfortunately she parked immediately behind me. This was unfortunate in that the young person, ably assisted by his two friends, then turned their attention to her car and proceeded to kick the wing mirror off.

Now, I am sure you understand the term personal safety. I have been trained on the best way to assure my own safety using guidance from the current Health and Safety at Work Act. My manager is very aware of her responsibility for my health, safety and wellbeing, under this Act. But, you see, although being ‘only a carer’ I and my colleagues also, under the same Act, have a responsibility to ensure that nothing we do harms the people we work with. This most certainly applied in this situation but only in that we needed to get away from the clients house as a matter of urgency. Yes, of course we called the police and yes of course they came to our assistance. Pretty damned quickly too, I am delighted to say. But due to the vulnerability of our client we couldn’t attend the call for risk of identifying the address, the location of the key safe and potentially, the client.

So, along came the boy and girl in blue. They popped us in the back of their police car and proceeded to drive us around the local area. So, there we were – two carers in the back of a police car. Due to the adrenaline we were also giggling but embarrassed at the same time. Eventually these rascals were located, rounded up, arrested and taken away. We then returned to the call whilst the police waited outside, keeping an eye out.

The police officers told us we would need to now accompany them to the police station to make statements. There was a bit of a problem with that as each of us two still had at least five calls each to complete which would need to be our priority. Hence we found ourselves phoning home, informing our other halves that we would be a bit late, as we were in the police station, at midnight. I know, for my part, this did not go down very well. I’m not sure about my colleague as although I could hear the shouting coming from her phone I couldn’t quite make out what was being said!

The police were really kind to us and it was particularly nice, as we left, that they shook our hands and said goodbye with the parting comment ‘I couldn’t do your job girls’.

It’s funny how things turn out.

Over the last few weeks or so I started to experience the odd twinge. Then this twinge started moving in a very suspicious manner down my leg. Then it began to hurt. I found myself rubbing my back and creaking a little louder than normal. Then in a rather embarrassing moment in the middle of the supermarket I found I couldn’t move. Rather unfortunate this as I was quite a distance away from anywhere where I could actually sit. The pain was quite excruciating.  OK, here I am, in my lovely purple uniform, grimacing and wondering how I could get out of this rather awkward predicament. Do I ask someone for help and risk the humiliation of being removed by paramedics or do I hobble around and hope it would pass. I took the hobbling choice. I found that, if I pressed my hand in to the offending area, then I could do a very slow, painful walk. After around a half an hour or so I managed to get myself back to my car. Horrendous!

To cut a long story short I eventually saw the GP who said I should hop up onto the bed. Of course, hopping was by now out of the question. The GP was lovely. She assisted me onto the bed.  So here I am, the one who usually provides the care and assistance, being assisted. It’s quite odd what you realise in that kind of situation. One of the first things I noticed was that, although a very lovely lady, she just lifted the back of my top and began to examine various bits of my spine. She didn’t explain what she was doing or ask was it OK for her to lift my top. It was the same when moving my legs around. She just lifted them. No information as to the reason why or any explanation of what she was going to do. Oh dear. This was clearly the medical model I had heard so much about in my training days. But it made me think. Did I actually do that when caring? I realised that, no, I don’t.

After the poking and prodding was concluded the GP arranged a barrage of tests and issued me with a stern warning that I could not, I repeat, not, work. I was informed that I had been ‘stoic’ in carrying on as I had, but now I was being packed off home to rest, clutching my prescription. I’m actually not very good at not working. What I hadn’t realised was that, over the next few days, I would be not very good at walking either. Getting into bed was a painful challenge. On two mornings I could not actually get out of bed, due to the pain.

In fact, it made me weep.

And that begins to make you think.

Let’s get all this in to perspective. I have some kind of wear and tear injury that is leading to rather painful muscle spasms. I have medication and I am beginning to manage it all and the outcome will be good. Probably.  But still, here I am on the other side of this caring thing.

Due to this temporary condition I have had difficulty in mobilising, so I can’t safely leave the house alone. Being caught out in the supermarket once was quite enough to put me right off doing that again. Just lifting the kettle has been rather painful. I need a little bit more notice from my brain that I need to get to the toilet as it now takes me that little bit longer to make the painful trip up, and of course down, the stairs. I find it difficult to stand in the shower for any length of time as there is nothing in the shower cubicle to assist me in not toppling over.  I have a freezer full of food and a microwave so I won’t starve.  I have had to work out how exactly to manoeuvre myself in and out of bed and am grateful that there is no-one here to hear me swearing under my breath or even, I confess, out loud. Oh yes, I forgot to tell you, I live alone.

So, here I am resting at home, alone. It’s now day five and I think I am not good at this. I have medication to take, after food. I keep forgetting to take it at the right time and it’s such a faff to have to eat before I take the tablets. I don’t have anyone to remind me and there are no triggers for me, such as other people coming in, to let me know it’s actually a meal time. I’m not that hungry as, after all, I’m not doing anything – so I’ve found it easier to just have a few biscuits or maybe some crisps. The problem is that the days are grey and wet,  so I’ve no real sense of what time it is, which is a bit of a surprise when I look out and see it’s dark.

The days have proved to be so utterly boring. I put the TV on and work out which programme I want to watch. Then I realise I’ve nodded off and slept through the greater part of the programme.  It’s the same with a book. I find it hard to drop off to sleep at night, most probably because I’ve slept all day.  I have all but finished my new book as I seem to be awake until the early hours then later find I’ve woken up with the lights all still on, my glasses squashed and the book in the bed with me.

I have friends who phone me in the evening full of excited details about their day. It’s such a welcome distraction. I have found that I have less and less to tell them about my day. Nothing really happens as I’m just sat here, so I have nothing much to offer to our conversation. It has already become so much easier to let them do all the talking. That is really not my normal way.  Of course, I have grown-up children and they text me sometimes. I text them back but often they are too busy to reply straightaway. I have really lovely neighbours but, for some reason no-one appears to have missed me yet. So, if I needed someone to help out, say in an emergency, who could I call?

It all began to make me wonder. On the first occasion I couldn’t get out of bed I thought right, well, I know how this goes, do this, do that and all will be fine. It wasn’t. I struggled and it hurt. The second time I lay there and thought how horrible it was to need assistance. My shower isn’t the best designed for the less able but obviously yes, I could have something put into the other bathroom.  I see various adaptations on my calls. OK, that’s easy enough. Then I thought what if.  What if I needed assistance, on a long term basis? I’m talking real, actual assistance here. I suppose I’m talking about carers.

Yes, of course, they would assist me with my medication, making sure I had food at the right time. Of course, as time moved on I would probably start to rely on the brown-tray microwave meals that I know so well and completely detest. The very smell makes me want to heave. Carers could assist me into bed and out of it. They could get me showered and dressed with ease. They would even probably ignore the swearing under my breath when I move a bit too quickly and it hurts.  So, physically my needs would be met.

But then they would go. I would be left here, day in, day out, nodding off with my book or sat in front of the telly staring at some random DIY or antiques programme. I wouldn’t be able to get out and about alone as obviously I can’t drive at the moment and there is still the problem of not having the confidence to move around unassisted.  I would have no-one to call on and worse, nothing to talk about and no-one to talk to. I’d be just sitting here waiting for a phone call or the odd text message. I can say, hand on heart, that this loneliness, isolation and dependency is not something I would cope with easily if it was long-term. My emotional needs have already begun to suffer and, feeling fed up and bored means I really have become a little bit withdrawn. Thankfully I’m not wallowing in self-pity. Well, not yet.

I know that in a week or two I shall be able to get back out and about but some may say that what I have experienced, albeit temporarily,  sounds all rather too familiar. I’m beginning to experience what it could be like, if the proverbial shoe was on the other foot. I realise that, sometimes there may be lessons to be learnt from what you yourself experience.

It’s funny how things turn out.

Delilah

I received some sad news today. A lady I had been caring for passed away yesterday morning.

When you work with older people you become accustomed to the subject of death being raised and quite often it becomes an accepted part of living. Sometimes clients tell you that every night they go to bed praying to their God to take them home. Others can be fearful of what their future may bring to them. I personally have developed my own way of coping with this kind of conversation. I call it crossing Rainbow Bridge. It’s just a way of me helping someone else to cope, when the end of their life is surely coming. It helps me deal with my own emotions, of which there are truly no room in my role.

This particular lady has left me with some beautiful memories of my early time caring in the community. She lived alone, was bed bound due to crippling arthritis, with sight loss and some hearing loss. She didn’t always remember recent things clearly but had some great stories to tell. Her favourite tale involved her meeting the Duke of Edinburgh and always ended with her saying ‘He went right up, in my estimation!’

This lady had no family of her own. She had not married and had had no children of her own. I recall a niece, who had taken care of food deliveries, who had arranged everything that it was possible to arrange and who phoned regularly to chat.  But there was no-one regularly visiting there on a day to day, face-to-face basis. There was no-one to get the little special things, like nice lotions and potions.  No-one to hold her hand.  She would be alone  from 20.30 until the morning carers arrived around 6.45.

But of course, there was ’us’. Not many people notice ‘us’. We tend to lurk in petrol stations at 6am, filling up with petrol, or can be found in late night shops looking for chocolate. We can often be found, if you look hard enough, chewing our steering wheels out of frustration and, quite possibly, even in tears. Oh yes, It happens.

We called four times a day on this particular client, without fail. Due to the vulnerability of this lady we kind of fell in to a routine – if we were early we didn’t wait – we went in.  We talked. We took her treats. We listened. We ‘donated’ our time.  It often seemed as if the fairies had called. Special drinking cups appeared. Wet-wipes popped up in the toiletries basket. Soft centred chocolate quite often materialised on the bedside table.  If I had found the culprits I would, of course, have needed to firmly  remind them of their need to always keep a professional distance. Oddly, I never found out who it was.

Then it was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Through the twilight shift that evening ‘us carers’ managed to see snippets of the jubilee concert. All our clients loved it and it became very contagious. I arrived at my lady suitably early. The other carer was already there. The telly was on. We had a cup of tea each and we toasted the Queen. We listened to how the Duke of Edinburgh had gone up in her estimation, that special day. As we began the nuts and bolts of the call, getting the lady into her nightie, we began a running commentary. So and so is wearing a beautiful blue ball gown. This person is doing this and that. It was lovely.

Then Tom Jones came on. OK, you should know we are Welsh. Tom Jones can do no wrong. Our lady loved him. We described how he looked in his lovely smart suit, all bronzed and sexy. We giggled a lot and I am not ashamed to say we all made various comments about this gentleman which could, in some circles, be described as flattering, perhaps not so in others.

And then he sang Delilah. We put the sound up really high on the telly and we all sang along.  Loudly!  I think you could safely say we gave it ‘some welly’.  The perfect song, as all of us knew all the words and EVERYONE knows the chorus!

Once we had completed all we needed to do we had to move on. The lady was happy, comfortable and secure. OK, next client!

The next morning I received a telephone call from my co-ordinator. She needed my opinion on the condition of the lady at my 20.30 call the previous evening. There was concern from the morning carers as she had described to them that she had been at a party last night. They wanted to know how she had seemed when I had called to get her ready for bed. Did she appear well, was there any confusion?

The penny dropped and I explained…..

To my 20.30 call – I really, really wish you a very safe journey over Rainbow Bridge. It was time.

 

 

 

 

If you just press that….

As a carer there are some things we are not allowed to do. After all we aren’t social workers, or nurses. We have professional boundaries. This is right and proper. But there are other things we must remember. Climbing up, for example to change a light bulb is a real no-no. This is actually, in all fairness, not health and safety gone mad but an acknowledgement of the fact that if a carer was to fall the client may not be able to assist them in any way. Can you imagine the potential embarrassment for a carer if a client has had to press their emergency call button to ensure a safe recovery from the floor or worse, a trip to A & E, for the one person they are supposed to rely on? Not only would it not look good on a CV but you would never be allowed to live it down by your mates!

But sometimes you have to rely on your common sense. I called at one house at a very late bedtime call. This client would far rather go to bed at 1am but appreciates that even carers have a home to go to. Even me. However, there is always this certain reluctance to move from the chair and begin the trip up to bed. Often this is just because she has decided that she would much rather just sit and natter. Well, nattering is something I tend to excel at, I confess, so this can actually make the call run well over. However as it is clearly recorded in the care plan as a ‘bed call’ then carers must ensure that clients are actually safely IN bed before they leave.

This one particular evening, after great persuasion I eventually managed to assist the client into the stair-lift. Nearly all of these stair lifts are different. Some are so old they take forever to get moving. Others are so new and complicated they scare the living daylights out of you. Same with washing machines, ovens and microwaves – some of these are so tricky that you end up puzzling away for half an hour then hitting a button by accident which makes it all work as if by magic. Regrettably our training does not cover mechanical or electrical engineering, which sometimes could actually be useful.

Anyway, the client is now safely in the stair-lift. I run through to pop the kettle on whilst the stair-lift begins its very slow, painful journey up the stairs. The kettle goes on and the electric and all the lights go off. The whole place was plunged into total darkness and of course the stair-lift had stopped.

The client is now trying to get out of the chair whilst I am desperately waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. This is not my house so I don’t have that instinctive mental map of what is where. I actually hate being in the dark. Of course, from a good old health and safety point of view I don’t actually know what this client may have moved or whether her Zimmer frame is lying in wait to ‘get me’ at the first innocent move of my feet. Walking sticks can also be buggers for silently sliding to the floor to present the unwitting and innocent walker with a challenge akin to those hurdles we had to jump over in school athletics classes.

Luckily this house had a torch and, this bit is so important, my lady accurately recalls where it is. This in itself was not much short of a miracle. But, to my dismay this torch light simply allows the client to open the electric cupboard and start fiddling about with the various switches. You may have heard of the text phrase OMG!   Well, that is kind of what I was thinking. Person centred care means allowing a client to take risks. Choices must be theirs to make. I reasoned that this doesn’t actually mean allowing a client to blow themselves (and you) up.   It did take a little bit of really calm negotiation and persuasion but eventually my client was returned safely to her chair in the living room.

So, what is a carer to do? These electrics looked a bit antiquated to me. I have absolutely no wish to press any button at all. I am no good to this client if reduced to a very small pile of dust on the carpet. Please bear in mind it is now way past 23:00. No, the client does not have an electrician to call. Her nearest family member is approximately 80 miles away. ‘Policy’ says I should make her comfortable on the sofa, ensuring she is warm and comfortable and wait until the morning for professional electricians to arrive. Right, well yes of course, like that was going to happen. The minute I left she would have had her head in the cupboard, probably lit by a candle, flicking switches until the National Grid itself fused. I then decided that what we needed was a bloke. They like electrics and fiddling about, I’m sure. I do already know that quite tall blokes are really good at changing light bulbs.

I eventually find out from my client that there was just what we needed – a bloke – living next door. So off I go. I knocked the door with my best official knock and when it was answered I boldly introduced myself, I explained the electric has gone off and asked this poor bloke to please come in to assist. And bless his heart, he did. Luckily his own electrics were equally ancient so he knew precisely which switch to turn on. It worked. No-one died and my CV is still looking reasonably good. He also took it upon himself to remove the offending kettle that had caused this whole pantomime in the first place. In the words of my lady ‘I always said he was a good boy.’

I was just so grateful that the electric had failed before the antiquated stair lift had moved off, with my lady being stranded half way up (or down) the stairs. Dialling 999 for the fire brigade really would not have impressed the person on-call at that time of night. Probably would also have given us something else to natter about!