Lovely mate, M, came round yesterday. She told me how her son, her funny and engaging son, in his twenties, living in ‘independent supported living’, wasn’t happy. For various reasons largely related to choice. For example, he’d go to the supermarket, choose what to buy, then ring M in the evening to say he’d had no dinner. He hadn’t bought anything he could eat for dinner. She’d ring his support worker who would dig around in the cupboards and find pasta, cheese sauce and frozen vegetables. Again.
‘Choice’ trumping common sense or encouraging/enabling/facilitating a level of mindless engagement on the part of support staff. Either explanation crap. Either explanation completely unacceptable.
Patient choice and shared decision making is an important health policy area in the UK, with an emphasis on fully informed patients making treatment/healthcare decisions. There is recognition that the level of autonomy a patient may want, or be given, is influenced by various factors including the extent/severity of their ailment/illness, their age, social class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality and so. This nuanced consideration doesn’t transfer to learning disabled people, particularly in the social care world. If you’re learning disabled, choice is chucked at you. Prescribed from afar by policymakers both remote and removed from any understanding of what everyday life is like for this group.
Kind of hilariously, although of course it isn’t funny at all, there is no recognition that the experiences of learning disabled people are intersected by the above factors. Learning disabled people are, er, basically learning disabled people. Indistinguishable from each other in the eyes of policymakers, practitioners and probably the bulk of the British public.
So LB, once in hospital (and let’s not call this place a care home, eh?) was presented with choices on a daily basis. To see us, talk to us on the phone, go to the farm, go to Trax, eat burgers, go to meetings, and so on. This emphasis didn’t involve any consideration of whether LB;
- wanted to make choices
- was able to make choices
- was helped in any way to understand the difference between the various choices and the implications of the choices made
There is no apparent concern over whether enough information has been presented in a particular form to enable informed decision making in the ‘choice space’ for dudes like LB. Hell no. Just good old fashioned choice: ‘Do you want to do x or y, or x or nothing?’
But not z which you ain’t allowed to do because we don’t have the resources, staff or inclination to let you.
LB did consistently make a choice. He chose to go home. But that option wasn’t available to him. Because, as I relentlessly keep banging on, choice isn’t really choice for dudes like LB. It’s choice Jim, but not as we know it.
A total fucking charade.