We passed the 100 day mark this week. 100 days. 100 days of incarceration (though not according to some involved in this story who insist the locked door isn’t stopping LB leaving the unit). Let’s park that detail for now. And the emotions associated with this experience.
Leaving sounds are being made. Most vocally by LB. The slow wheels of social care are groaning into a ‘lets talk about potential provision at some vague meeting at some unspecified point in the near-ish future’ position’. I suspect (sadly) this may be quite something in social care activity terms in the case of young dudes like LB.
Incarceration came about because there was no care or support available. This (incarceration) has given us – er, I’m making some unsubstantiated assumptions here that Goffman would possibly be proud of – a slightly better position in terms of access to support. I’m less than optimistic about what that support might look like, given anecdotal and other information, but the bar is set so low from where we are, support of any shape that actually supports, is progress.
Reading between the lines (because nothing is transparent here) unnamed people (in health/social care/education?) are aware that LB is ready and in need of support to enable him to be released from the (I’m assuming) costly provision he’s been an inmate of for the last 100 or so days. Not that he’s locked up or anything.
Now there’s the rub. For the first time, we’re insisting on effective and appropriate support. This position makes me feel slightly heady, slightly hysterical, hugely enraged but mainly sad.
But hey. What about LB? How’s he doing?
Three things jump out this week.
1. He attended the ‘feelings’ group which was progress after the first meeting when he turned up, gave everyone the finger and left.
2. He’s asked me repeatedly this week if he’s mainstream now.
3. When I ring and they pass the phone to him, he has a nifty exchange with me – ‘Yeah, right’ ‘Yeah, cool, see you then.’ ‘Right, yes, cool, yeah’.
I’d take these three things as a sign that there is some shaking down in his mind of who he is, and what he wants.
C’mon social care (if you hold the power here). Let’s act on that and create him a space in which to live productively. And, while I’m at it, can I chuck back into the mix the feelings of siblings who are offered no support, and, if under 16, not allowed to visit their brother or sister on site?
It shouldn’t be like this.
I dipped back into Goffman’s ‘Relations in Public‘ this week, as a tasty little treat between Candy Crush lives. He writes in the preface; ‘Throughout the papers in this volume unsubstantiated assertions are made regarding the occurrence of certain social practices in certain times and among peoples of various kinds.’ Hilarious. The man is a legend.
I love his reflections on how we ‘co-mingle’ in public places. Mostly in an orderly fashion with our ‘use space’ commonly respected and reciprocated. He kicks off with some reflections around how we manage to walk around, often in crowds, without colliding into one another. And how what seems like a random activity – hundreds of people walking along Oxford Street, for example – is ordered and social. We constantly ‘scan’, ‘body check’, exchange ‘critical signs’ to signal a manoeuvre and engage in ‘near-simultaneous parallel adjustments’. We ‘step and slide’ through tacit agreement with others present making an often seamless display of togetherness. We could wrong foot people, or not play by these rules. We could engage in collisions and disruption but tend not to. Why?
The Goffmeister says the gain to be achieved doing this isn’t much, so trust is sustained.
The reason I’ve been revisiting this fantabulous book is because orderliness, manoeuvres and lack of collision are always visible in the photos I snap when I’m out. Love him.
LB wants to come home. And we haven’t got support yet to have him home. The care manager is looking into options. The unit have pretty much reached the end of the road in terms of helping him. They’re upping his activity level, encouraging him to empty the dishwasher and creating some social stories.
An email from the care manager last week states; “There is a meeting currently being arranged I understand it’s the 8 July but no time has been set yet to discuss in more detail this option [support].”
Eh? Seriously? July 8th? No time set?
Just in case anyone has forgotten, this is an 18 year old young dude. How long is it going to take to put some sort of appropriate support in place? To enable him to come home? What value is being attached to his life? [Well I’d guess crap all to the last question].
At the weekend, LB succumbed to bear hugs from both Rosie and Owen and, just as uncharacteristically, said ‘I miss you so much’.
Today when I visited, his room had been painted. All the posters, photos, drawings and detritus built up over the last few months, were removed and piled up on a cupboard. He was kneeling on the floor. Flicking through a truck magazine on his bed. Surrounded by white walls and nothingness. Even his unwanted, unsought after ‘space from home’, was open to destruction. Timetabled to fit with some tendered/purchase ordered, person discounted process. He wasn’t happy.
It’s as if any semblance of family life, of anything and everything we’ve tried to create and achieve (including filling the dishwasher) is at the mercy of some peculiar and arbitrary non-space between health and social care, between learning disability and mental health. A space created through the provision of no effective support/care and mediated through a bizarre emphasis on ‘choice’, thoughtlessness and the vagaries of what’s called “service provision” despite not really offering a ‘service’.
In one of those funny twists of fate? coincidence? general shite? I got an email reminder today about a new university wide autism interest group. The first meeting is on Thursday afternoon. On the distribution list was Dr X (who I’ve now re-named Doc Dire). The one who suggested we did the hunter gatherer diet and holding therapy all those years ago. There is no evidence to support the former (still) and there are, according to Autism Research, “numerous personal accounts of the damage caused to people with autism and other conditions” in relation to holding therapy. So, the advice from the experts* from yesteryear was to starve LB and squash him. And now he’s waiting in limbo, for some faceless people to “set a time” to discuss future support “in detail”.
Marks out of 10 for health and social care provision over the years?
Let’s not go there.
*The other advice from Doc Dire was to avoid support groups because they were just filled with a bunch of moaning women. Hilarious.
A couple of weeks ago, a support group for unit patients was set up. LB received an invitation to attend this group which was to be held on the Friday afternoon in the living room. That evening when I visited, I asked the staff member how the group had gone. Bit of a disaster, it turned out; everyone chose not to attend.
The choice agenda in practice. Kind of hilarious.
The following week, the group ran again, this time with the addition of cake. LB turned up, ate cake and chatted. A lot apparently. Of both.
The group is now called the Cake and Chat group. Well, for LB anyway. I’m not a big jargon person (I hope), but I think this is probably a rocking example of person-centred thinking.
As luck would have it, I’ve been reading Annemarie Mol’s ‘The Logic of Care’. Just in time for the response to my NHS complaint about the events leading up to LB’s admittance to the unit to plink through the letter box.
These events are recounted on this blog in some detail but can be summarised as, er, a complete lack of care. Mol argues that the current emphasis in health (and social care) on choice is inadequate. This, too, is timely. Choice schmoice if you ask me. She’s concerned that an emphasis on choice leads to things becoming fixed and constrained; the circumstances in which we make our choices, the alternatives we choose from and so on. And choice is tied to individual responsibility. Instead we should pay attention to the actions of care. We should be doing things. Collective practices and attempts to make life more liveable.
Well I’m liking Mol’s interpretation largely. So, what about the response to our complaint? It has been investigated. Key people have been interviewed. The initial findings were further challenged and we have a detailed and considered letter. I don’t want to go into the details of this here as there are some outstanding issues, but I do want to draw attention to a phrase that is explicit and implicit throughout the letter; ‘the clinical care and support was satisfactory and of the standard of care that would be expected from the service’.
Now in Mol’s research, when people complained about their healthcare, they were not stories relating to a lack of choice, but experiences of neglect, of feeling abandoned. That nobody cared. Our experience of the period leading up to LB’s admittance to the unit was that health and social care didn’t care. The two professionals I howled down the phone to that Friday afternoon, after LB had punched his teacher in the face, didn’t care. But they weren’t the only non-carers. There was a structural and systemic lack of care across the health and social care board.
But we apparently experienced the ‘standard of care expected from the service’. Whose expected standard of care is the glaring question here? Based on what criteria? What we experienced was nothing that could be remotely daubed as “care”. And, as always, I’m left with my litmus test of wanting to ask the people involved during that period; ‘Can you just, for a moment, imagine if this was your child? Experiencing this level of “care”? What do you think you would feel?’
So, we’re left with a misplaced (or mis-used) choice agenda and a system in which the expected standard of care equals no care. Luckily for us, there was a supporting cast of dazzling carers; family, friends, Charlie’s Angels, head teacher, school nurse, cake-makers, neighbours, twitter buds, colleagues, and random strangers. That’s what care looks like. Collective attempts to make lives more liveable.
At the moment I feel a bit beaten with knowledge of awful practice/terrible processes in the broader ‘learning disability’ world and the implications of these for people (in social, economic and health terms). Aside from research evidence, I know a lot of young (and older people) whose lives are, at best, less than adequately supported or enabled. A Facebook transition parents forum (I largely lurk on, sorry) consistently details examples of poor support, battles and misery. For example, from three days ago;
Nothing gets easier. R is suposed to be leaving school officially end of June but we have no agreed care in place (not my fault). One of the day care places (2 days a week) is having major alterations and have said they cant take him until 15 august and the other day care choice (2 days a week) doesn’t start until 31 July, so I am going to be left looking after R once he has left school on 18 July. Whilst trying to work and also caring for my mum. Jolly hockey sticks!!! They all know R is leaving school,have known for years so why people cant get their bloomin acts together and sort it for him I don’t know. Plus I have to find some part time employees to help with the other day a week and transport to and from respite etc and the bloomin paperwork. I am positively frazzled. And if I hear the words you are no longer responsible for him any more I am going to spit!!!!!
I know I keep saying this, but support is shite or non-existent. Aspiration is a dirty word. Jargon laden processes work to effectively crush young people and parents’ hopes and expectations over time until the most basic/cheap and soul destroying ‘life outcome’ – unproblematic weekly burgers and extensive television viewing [by unproblematic I mean without upheaval or disruption in care provision/budgets] – become the default (or even sought after) position. The independently supported no-life. I’m calling it a life outcome rather than lifestyle because the latter implies some choice. And really, this isn’t about choice. An outcome of the burger/tv existence is, of course (these things ain’t rocket science), the health inequalities detailed in Emerson’s depressing read (and countless other reports).
We took LB for an Indian buffet again today. He was cheerful, very chatty (well largely to himself and, unfortunately, with the waiter*) and ate numerous plates of nosh. He bounced down the Cowley Road after to Honest Stationery and Tesco for some shopping. His good mood disappeared the split second he realised it was time to go back at the unit. (Though he managed not to punch himself in the face today).
He wants to come home. We want him to come home. But now we’ve had a break from the pre-unit experience of cobbling together after school cover – through daily shuffling of commitments and working late into the evening (and trying to ineffectually defuse anxiety) – we want effective support in place first. Not a big ask? Nope, you’d think not.
But what has also emerged loud and clear through the knowledge we’ve gleaned from various sources (most importantly experiential sources) is that not only is there a paucity of support options
forget aspirations, silly, but once any form of ‘support’ is in place, possible alternatives disappear. One friend spent six years trying to move her daughter from an inappropriate supported living space, nearer to home.
I’m beginning to feel more human today after several disturbed nights this week. The Care Plan Approach meeting left me with a fear that LB would be dispatched to any available ‘room’ in any craphole provision by the social care/health machine. That he would “choose” to move to [fill in the location here] to live with his peers, eat burgers and watch tv. For the rest of his
shortened through an unhealthily lived life. This fear, in some ways, works to make a ‘local’ version of this no-life infinitely more appealing.
I’m beginning to think that our experiences of learning to live with a vibrantly different child (in good and sometimes not so good ways), that originally sparked the writing of this blog, have been transformed by the sledgehammer experience of “transition”. The equivalent of some kind of crap horror/slasher low budget film that you can’t wait to switch off. If you have the choice.
*Unfortunately given his
new 1970’s type sit’com’ type Indian accent in asking for his coke.