Oh yes, we carers are there all right, we all know that – but who really sees us? and does anyone respect us?
Ever come across the concept of ‘not bitch’ ( that is, a scrum of teens all yelling ‘not bitch’ to avoid sitting in the worst seat in the car )? Some years back a bad child introduced it to our household, and for three or four years it was a staple of sibling warfare whenever a car journey loomed. Wearing in the extreme.
These days poor Ms F seems to be the battle ground for an institutional game of ‘not bitch’ – a game generally involving health, social care and educational services. Again I am the irritated referee.
Yesterday health and social services stepped up to the plate. Or rather they didn’t. They were due for an assessment that they – not I, not Ms F – had insisted on. For services that they have said they would provide but haven’t. At a time they had given us some weeks back.
So Ms F (sick as a sick person on very sick day) and I stayed in and waited. I had put off a committee appointment. Ms F had cancelled the care arrangements we had made.
And 27 minutes before the social worker and community nurse were due to arrive, I get a phone-call from someone’s assistant passing on the message that our appointment ‘had been cancelled’. What a shame. Big beams. Let’s make another one shall we?
What was the cause? Seemingly, the social worker wasn’t going to come out just because the health lot wanted her to. The health lot wouldn’t come out if the social worker wasn’t going to bother. Strangely, everyone was totally unprepared for the sheer cold biting rage they got from me in response.
The community health leader and the social worker responsible were left in no doubt that such behaviour was disrespectful and unprofessional, and that your Carer With Attitude was going to make the fur fly.
I was able to reach the social worker by phone quite easily at exactly the time of our cancelled appointment because she was sitting in her office and when she realised who she was speaking to, she suddenly remembered that she had another assessment booked for exactly the same time as Ms F’s ‘that took precedence’ . Presumably in her office – where, as we all know, assessments do not take place. She did not explain why she had forgotten to cancel her long-standing appointment with Ms F.
I put it to her that her actions had shown complete disrespect to Ms F and to me, MsF’s carer and she could not think of a word to say in reply.
The vocabulary of public services is stuffed with ideas of ‘respect’ for ‘service users’. But when will they realise that they get judged by their actions rather than their words? And insisting on making a home appointment and then cancelling it without a concrete explanation half an hour before it was due to take place says loudly and clearly that your client the young woman with epilepsy had obviously nothing better to do with her time, and her mother the carer is doing it all for free so what does she count for anyway? Its not like she was going to be going anywhere, is it?
It is precisely because family carers are not paid and therefore not valued, that a comparatively well-paid social worker is able judge her own relative importance on what she sees as purely financial grounds. I can imagine her saying “That one cut up a bit rough!”
Yes, indeed she did. And will do so until all sectors of society – social workers and merchant bankers alike – recognise by their deeds the immense value of what we family carers do, and remember to treat us accordingly.
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