There are two kinds of time…

 

heart clock

 

It strikes me that there are two kinds of time when you travel. There is emotional time and actual time. When you plan an awfully big adventure like a Churchill Fellowship you think in emotional time. You think that a month away from your children, the love of your life, your mum and all your friends seems like far too long. You appreciate that those you love have encouraged you and promised you that it will fly by and you will soon be home. My family told me to rest, to use this adventure as a time to just go where I wanted to go, to totally please myself, to find out all the things I really wanted to know and not worry about the caring responsibilities which I worked so hard to make sure were covered before I left.

Then there is real time. The actual hours you have whilst you are away to gather all the knowledge, experience and wisdom that a Churchill Fellowship awards you. I listened to the advice not to over book myself, but felt guilty that I had gaps in my week.  On arrival, those gaps were quickly filled and now, not even half way through this amazing trip, I already don’t have enough time to do all the things, to meet all the people, to read all the words, to hear all the stories.  This trip has opened my eyes to the world.  It has made me realise that I am much less interested in space as I am in people. The sights have been nice, but it’s the people who have enriched and changed my world view.  I can only see and do so much whilst I am here, but this experience has caused a curiosity about the world and a need to know and go further and further which I hope never ends 🙂 (sorry kids, I will come home soon xxx)

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Week one… Churchill Fellowship

My first week in Adelaide has been mostly about combatting jet lag, settling into a whole new world and meeting the loving Australian arm of my family.  I also managed to squeeze in meetings with the Aged Care Complaints Commission, ECH, a recently Rainbow Tick accredited organisation and SHINE, a sexual health organisation.

My interest lies in how we develop, cultivate and maintain inclusive relational care.  I am mostly working with the LGBTI community whilst I am here, but I would say that aged care and relational wellbeing are not served well in care facilities at home (UK).  When people ask me about my work, I generally tell them that I collect love stories, because mostly that’s what happens.  I tend to rock up with very little prep because what I’m interested in is what people have to say and if I have too many preconceived ideas from the stuff I’ve read that gets in the way of their narrative and experience.  It’s flying by the seat of your pants and it makes me anxious and question what I’m doing constantly.  But then there are the love stories and the opportunity to voice and hear them and I think I’m on to something….

There are two very different things happening on my trip, the professional and the personal.  I’m still figuring out how to differentiate and disseminate the two but I feel I must blog about both in order to capture the wonderfulness of this trip in its entirety.  This little blog will be erring on the side of the professional but the personal that underlies it is just hysterical so look out for that blog too.

The Aged Care Complaints Commission (ACCC) were very welcoming when I visited.  I wanted to understand a little more about the various levels of federal and state regulation in terms of aged care.  I also wanted to know if there was any evidence which would suggest that older aged residents were not supported in their relational wellbeing.  It was explained that the majority of complaints to this particular department were of a clinical nature, issues with medication, surgical procedures and interventions.  Complaints about the quality of food being served to older people were also high on the agenda.  Not dissimilar to the UK, I thought.

There was some anecdotal evidence about not being able to be intimate with a loved one or friend, but these comments were usually made in the course of a complaint about something else and were not in significant number.  It was felt that this was not a true reflection of actual experience but more likely to be due to fear of speaking out, stigma and not wanting to upset those who were caring for you.  Again, not dissimilar to home.

The Department of Health for the Australian Government has issued a Charter of Care Recipients’ Rights and Responsibilities – Residential Care.  This Charter is legislated under the Aged Care Act 1997 and details both the rights and responsibilities of those receiving care.  Broadly speaking it is very similar to the Human Rights Act and has elements of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.  One interesting and quite significant difference is held within the Accreditation Standards set down by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency. This agency offers accreditation to Government-subsidised aged care homes in Australia.

There are four standards which cover management systems, staffing and organisational development (1), health and personal care (2), resident lifestyle (3) and physical environment and safe systems.  The clause which is of particular interest to me is 3.10 Resident security of tenure and responsibilities.  This clause states that residents have secure tenure within the residential care service, and understand their rights and responsibilities.  Having heard of several cases of older people (generally men) who are moved from a care home due to ‘problematic behaviour’ (usually sexual) I think guaranteed tenure is an interesting idea.  It would certainly call for care homes to reassess the way they care for older people knowing that a move to an alternative provision might not be so easy.

I have been invited to speak at a Community of Practice meeting which the ACCC host/organise.  I think I even caught word that I was to be live streamed back to Adelaide as the event will be held in Melbourne.  I’ve never been live streamed so must remember to add that to my CV 🙂

ACCC

Next stop was ECH.  ECH’s mission statement is “To be an enterprise that promotes self-determination and enables people to have the best life possible as they age” and was an organisation which was founded by Garnet E Rundle in 1964.  His aim was to provide suitable aged care for war widows and is an organisation which thrives today.  It seems that ECH has slightly changed its organisational structure over recent years, having recently sold off their aged care facilities, their focus is now on caring for people at home and supporting people to stay at home in the community for longer.

I was interested to visit with ECH because they have recently been awarded a Rainbow Tick Accreditation.  The Rainbow Tick is given to organisations who can meet the standards of LGBTI-inclusive practice.  The Tick was developed by GLHV@ARCSHS, La Trobe University.  GLHV are a government funded organisation formerly known as Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria.  GLHV sits within the Australian Research Centre Sex, Health and Society.

I had a wonderfully long chat with ECH’s diversity project manager who gave me so much information about the Rainbow Tick that it’s going to take me a while to digest it so that will have to come in a later blog I think.  The overwhelming feeling I have since arriving in Australia is one of welcome, friendliness and a willingness to share information.  One contact who I was due to meet at ECH, has left her post to go onto pastures new, but before she left she left me a lovely Churchill Trust scarf with instructions to make sure I received it 🙂

JY modelling scarf

Next stop SHINE, a sexual health organisation which is dedicated to promoting good sexual health advice and educating healthcare professionals.  SHINE were responsible for the film below : –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbMdZkxEP1U&app=desktop

I had a great conversation with the Director of Workforce Education and Development.  At the end of this conversation, she said I had made her think about how she could consider the sexual health of older people as this was largely overlooked in their work.  I did a good thing 🙂

I have now left my lovely family and travelled to Melbourne.  I have a day tomorrow to get my bearings and then it’s back to back appointments and visits.  Can’t wait 🙂

 

 

 

Death Cafe Funding Successful!

UoN

My name is Dr. Jane Youell, I graduated with my first degree from University of Northampton in 2009 and was awarded a PhD at the ceremony on Valentine’s Day 2016, which was wholly appropriate because my work is all about love and relationships.

My research interest is around sexuality, intimacy and dementia but increasingly I have become much more interested in end of life.  I am essentially interested in subjects which are largely seen as taboo – sex and death – not together, that would be illegal.

The one thing we all have in common is that we are going to experience death.  We are all going to die and people we know and love are going to die in our lifetime.  But despite the fact that we are all going to affected by it and we will all have to do it, we are very bad at talking about it.

This is my Dad.  He died a year ago.

 

We knew he was going to die.  He had been in hospital for a few weeks beforehand and we had received really good care, the nursing staff interacted with us every day but the closer Dad got to death the more they backed away.  We had an ‘end of life care’ nurse, one designated death person, but she wasn’t always available and there was a sense that professionals weren’t really that comfortable being around us.  They were sympathetic afterwards but a little distanced in the run up.

Dad died like he lived.  It was on his terms, it was sad, dramatic, funny, poignant, caring, ridiculous.  My Mum, brother and I were with him every step of the way, but afterwards we all confided in each other that we had doubted we would be able to stay with him, to watch his demise.

I think I found it easier in some ways, but I still had my doubts, I had worked on the ward that my father died on, I know lots of experienced nurses who all told me the physical changes to look for.  I am an experienced dementia professional so I am passionate about advanced care planning.  I was the Attorney for my father and had had long discussions with him about how he would like to die when the time came.

If only I’d had a social space to talk openly about death before I was having to support someone through it……

death cafe

 

The death café movement was initiated by a Swiss sociologist and anthropologist Bernard Cretazz who wanted to break what he termed the ‘tyrannical secrecy about death’.

The death café is not a physical location, but is an event hosted at someone’s house, place of work or community centre. The official objective of a death café is to increase understanding of death while also creating a chance for health/care professionals to talk about death. The death café has about 15-25 people gathered in small groups discussing death related topics and usually lasts 2 hours. Tea and cake are one of the most important features to the event as they make it appear friendly and appealing. The concept has spread due to media attention and because of the topic evoking so many different people’s thoughts of what death means.

So, I found myself getting interested in death café’s because I had personal experience of death and felt that professionals could do a bit better.  But also, because I have professional experience of working with clinical staff and people with dementia.  People with dementia need to plan in advance before they lack capacity to make decisions.  As professionals, we need to broach this subject early but we need to pitch it right if we mention it at point of diagnosis it’s too much to take on board so what I all too often see in practice, is end of life care either not being mentioned at all or being mentioned when it’s too late for the person to express their wishes.  Frankly, that’s not good enough.

I am delighted to report that I have been successfully awarded funding from the University of Nothampton’s Give-It-A-Go fund which will enable us to host a death café at the University of Northampton to facilitate discussions around death.  I would like to invite nursing students, social work students, paramedics, police recruits, counselling students, psychologists, CAMHS students any student who is likely to encounter death as part of their career to help host and facilitate a death café.  The initial death café will be held on campus, hopefully in conjunction with the Student Union.  I anticipate that this will be up and running early in the next academic year.  The funding will also enable us to host pop up death cafes in two locations in the community.

death at a cafe

This project is underpinned by enhancing student experience and creating good professional practice, but it is also about being ok to talk about death because usually that leads to talk about life which is a really good thing 🙂

poster_1296

(Special thanks to Alison Ward, University of Northampton, Sarah Hunt, Arts for Health, Annette Ward, University of Northampton & Willen Hospice and Stacey Ackerman, Milton Keynes University Hospital for all their support and encouragement with this project)

Dear MP….

This is a copy of an email which I have sent to my MP today.  It details some quite personal information but I wanted to post it as a blog as well so that readers can appreciate the many ways in which services improve and/or devastate caring families.  This blog might be a useful teaching tool for student social workers/healthcare professionals.  I have blocked out the names of services and other personal info, but the rest is all true and sadly accurate.
Dear MP,
I am one of your constituents living in [my street].  Out of desperation, I am writing to voice my concerns regarding the services of Adult Social Care and carer support in [my town].  I fear this email may be long, I will try and stick to the facts but feel that we as a family have been failed by several services.  I would very much like these concerns to be raised more formally as I also work with carers professionally, am active in the parent carer community and know that we are not the only family facing similar failings.
I am the primary carer for my son Wonder Boy (WB) who has been disabled since birth.  He also has Autism and a mild learning disability.  Until December 2015 we were supported by the Children with Disabilities social care team, WB was in school five days a week and I was a student completing a PhD.  Whilst living off a bursary meant that financially things were tight, being able to fit work around WB’s care needs really helped.  On completion of my PhD and being a single parent, for the first time in WB’s life, I needed to go back to work full time.
For some reason you lose the support of the children with disabilities team in the December before your child turns 20.  The transition process begins when the child is 14 and I had been told that WB had been identified as a young person who would continue to need adult social care.  This makes sense, Autism is a life long condition.  The transition process should, in theory, run fairly smoothly.  The children with disabilities team work with adult social care to organise a transition meeting where effectively the young person and his family meet the new social worker and are formerly ‘handed over’.  This was my understanding from the children with disabilities team anyway.  WB had been assessed by Dr X, clinical psychologist, who had recommended that WB needed the support of the Autism team to enable his future planning and provide for his care needs.  Unfortunately, this transition never happened and in December 2015 we lost our social work support.
At around this time I took a job as the [fab job] at [local hospital] and for the first time I was not home when WB returned from school.  Initially, I thought we would be able to manage this as I only worked three days a week but it quickly became apparent that WB could not cope being left alone.  We tried as a family to support him as best we could. WB has two younger siblings M and F.  M was 16 at the time and did her best to take care of WB but found it increasingly difficult to manage her GCSE studies and look after WB.  This meant that WB was often being cared for by his youngest sister, F who was 13 at the time.  This was an untenable situation.
I contacted Adult Social Care and explained the situation.  They sent a lovely emergency social worker who put in place a direct payment to provide carer support through [lovely care agency] in the mornings and evenings until I returned from work.  This emergency package resolved the problem short term, but I knew that WB was leaving school in June 2016 and we would need support in planning for WB’s future.  I am not familiar with the options, WB being the eldest, and I felt overwhelmed trying to work and Google what was available.  I was assured by the emergency social worker that we would have another social worker allocated who would help WB look into college placements, employment options (if appropriate) and find other suitable placements for WB to attend so that we had a five day week schedule.  This would enable me to seek full time employment safe in the knowledge that WB was cared for and supported.
After some chasing up, we were allocated a social worker from the Adult Social Care team.  This seemed incongruous as someone from the Autism team had been recommended, but we were assured that it didn’t really matter as social workers often liaised with specialist teams.  The social worker we were allocated was very nice but had no experience of autism at all.  I believe she was also fairly new to the area and knew nothing of the options for young adults.  I found it quite frustrating that I still had to research all the options for WB as I was hoping for more support from adult social care team.  At around this time, I stopped working for the Hospital as this had only been a temporary contract covering maternity leave.  I explained to our social worker the pressing need to get WB a care plan as from December 2016 I would be in breach of a court order.  The court order had been made at the time of my divorce and stated that I must remove my ex husband from the mortgage or sell the property by December 2016.  I had naively assumed that WB would be supported by adult social care and that finding full time employment and therefore being able to secure a mortgage in my own right would not be too difficult.  I voiced my concerns with my social worker at every meeting we had, she was under no doubt how serious the situation was becoming for us.
After much deliberation, WB settled on a College where he studies Rural Skills three days a week.  This still left two days where WB would be unattended.  We were working towards appropriate provision for WB when our social worker suddenly left the team.  This was a real blow but I contacted the manager of the Adult Social Care team again and explained – again – our predicament.  He assured me he understood the situation, that we would need further support to cover college holidays and to clarify what exactly the options were for the other two days a week, and he would allocate another social worker.  Again, I made him aware of the situation with the mortgage and he assured me the matter would be expidited as soon as possible.
We were allocated a social worker from the mental health team, for reasons I do not understand, as we again requested someone from the Autism team.  We were told that we would have to start the assessment process all over again as the previous social worker had not done this with any great competence.  This was exasperating for us, but we have been in the system long enough to know that nothing happens without an assessment.  I explained that we were currently using the original emergency package to fund carers to support WB on Wednesdays and Thursdays but that I really needed to get a full time job and this was not possible until I was assured that there would be sufficient support during the 19 weeks WB is on holiday from college. I made it very clear that this was now an urgent matter not only because of the mortgage issue but because WB’s wellbeing was declining.  We saw an increase in self injurious behaviours, prolonged periods of low mood and great anxiety when I was working.  But we were confident that, as the manager of Adult Social Care had assured us, this was the means necessary to ensure the additional support we needed.
Having endured another assessment process we now find ourselves being offered less hours that we had previously with a care plan that is as useful as a chocolate teapot frankly.  The support being offered is more of the type you would expect to offer someone who was frail and elderly, not someone who was almost 21 with hopes and ambitions.  We are now contesting this plan.  I am working with my former husband who is an experienced social worker and parent carer support worker and whilst I am hopeful that we will be able to come to a satisfactory conclusion for WB I am utterly dismayed that this is the experience of families in [my home town].
WB has recently reported that he feels quite depressed.  I believe this to be mostly grief related – his Grandad, my Dad – died last May.  We have sought some support via our GP to help WB through this period of ill being.  We saw a very nice GP in our local practice who felt unsure about whether medication would be appropriate for WB and as WB is unlikely to be able to engage with CBT (the most common form of therapy offered) what other therapeutic interventions might be available.  To this end, he referred us to ASTI which is an assessment service for mental health.  I discussed with the GP the possibility of receiving a prescription for Melatonin for WB.  Melatonin is a hormone which aids sleep, many people on the spectrum struggle to get enough sleep and, for some, melatonin can help.  It is not a long term solution but promotes a good sleep habit at best and at worst enables the person and their carer a couple of nights uninterrupted sleep.  I appreciate that the research evidence does not overwhelmingly support the notion that melatonin is an effective long term treatment, but we have used it in the past and it did help.  I cannot afford to buy this without prescription and I discussed this with my GP who discovered that Melatonin is available on prescription but has to be authorised by a psychiatrist.  I was assured this would also be possible through the assessment with ASTI.  We attended the appointment, WB disclosed that he felt very depressed sometimes, that he often hurt himself and wished he wasn’t here.  These are hard disclosures to hear as a parent.
Despite attending this appointment with ASTI on 26th January, I have only recently been copied into a letter sent to our GP explaining that melatonin is not an effective treatment for depression and that no further action is required.  My son is still depressed and still does not sleep, how can no further action not be required?  I am a psychologist and am ashamed that I am part of a profession that can disregard the needs of its clients so quickly.  I have sought alternative services, ones which happily charge £80 per hour and are not part of the NHS.  I cannot afford this.  I have taken WB to mainstream services such as bereavement counselling and despite him articulating beautifully how he felt, I was told that he needed a specialist service in one breath and then to be told in the next there aren’t any.
One good thing which apparently came from the metal health social worker was that I was entitled to a care review as a primary carer.  I met with a carer support worker in December 2016.  She was very nice and we discussed openly and frankly my concerns about how I was going to keep a roof over our heads, earn enough to provide for my family, ensure that WB was cared for and supported and all the other things that carers worry about.  I disclosed that I was really struggling and had some real concerns about my mental wellbeing.  This disclosure was not easy to make and it is a credit to this carer support worker’s skill that I felt safe enough to let my real feelings be known.  She assured me that she would make a referral to [a local service provider] counselling service and urged me to seek medical help.
I was assessed as being eligible for carer support.  Effectively this means that there is a small budget for me to undertake an activity/service which will support my carer needs.  I do not know what the budget is or what activities might help or are available – so not particularly helpful when you are in a situation which seems so impossible that it is affecting your mental health.  It would be much more helpful to have a list of possible activities which other carers have found helpful so I can choose.  I simply am not in a place where I can effectively understand my own needs and what would help within the framework of an unknown budget.  It makes me so sad that anyone can think this is helpful and suggests a complete lack of empathy of the carers experience.
I feel that talking therapies might help and was looking forward to hearing from [a local service provider].  The situation reported to the carer support worker in December was urgent and distressing so I was hopeful that I wouldn’t have to wait too long for support.  I was wrong.  I heard nothing from [a local service provider] until 28th March whereupon I received a letter explaining that they were writing as I had ‘recently registered with [our service]’ – I have not.  I have been registered with them for many years.  The letter further explained that they had tried to contact me but were unable to speak to me and so could I contact them.  I duly did on the same day as I received the letter and was told I needed to speak with someone else who would phone me back the next day.  I have yet to hear from anyone.
I am sorry for the very long email but I wanted to make you aware of the many services who are failing those with disabilities and their carers on many fronts.  That what I reported in December 2015 was a difficult situation which due to lack of support has now become a crisis situation.  Crises are much more expensive to resolve than prevention.  [My local authority] need to be really aware of those in their communities who need help and support and to be honest about the gaps and failings.  I would very much like you to do whatever you can to challenge health and social care agencies to do better in [my home town] and not let families like mine slip through the net.  I am happy to use my experience and expertise both professional and personal to improve services in [my home town].
I look forward to hearing from you.

Austerity bites and sucks

Just over a year ago my little family were identified as being ‘in crisis’.  The crisis was that with the end of my PhD, so came the end of my bursary and regular income.  It was necessary for me to work full time to keep a roof over our heads.  By working two part time jobs – effectively a full time job and a bit – it became obvious that Wonder Boy had needs which were no longer being met.  Finding your lovely young person sitting alone in the dark when you get in from work because he didn’t understand he needed to turn the light on, finding out he hadn’t had a drink since he got in from school or a snack because no one told him to get one, seeing his sad face that you were not home when he got in was frankly heart breaking.  Like lots of other carers, you put on a brave face tell yourself it’s what needs to happen in everyone’s best interests, but it’s bloody hard just the same.

I phoned ASCAT and said this is not ok for us.  We were given a ‘crisis’ package of care with a view to supporting Wonder Boy to make decisions about his future.  This crisis package paid for a care worker to support WB through activities of daily living and meant that I could go to work knowing that he was cared for, safe and ok.

This package was always going to be temporary and certainly should not still be in place 14 months later.  The idea was that WB would start college in September and an alternative plan would be put in place to cover the other two days.  We have been pushed from pillar to post during the past 12 months with the majority of care still being provided by me with occasional calling in of favours and bribing other friends and family.  It became obvious that full time employed work was untenable so I decided to freelance.  Anyone who has started their own business knows this can be challenging.  The worry of not having enough work, the long hours, the constant follow up, jobs promised but not commissioned, short term contracts, lack of borrowing capacity, stability, holiday/sick pay does not make this an easy choice but it does mean I am around at home more.  As at least one morning a week is taken up managing and co-ordinating WB’s care and meaningful activities and another morning a week is spent chasing up all the professionals who have failed to return my calls from the previous week, freelancing seemed my best if not the easiest option.  I doubted an employer would provide the flexibility I would need – yes I can work full time but some of that time will be in the evenings and at weekends and I definitely can’t do Thursday’s before 10am or Wednesday’s at all….

WB has now been transferred to the Mental Health team – he needs the Autism team, but hey ho.  He had to be reassessed in case it was found that he was no longer autistic or learning disabled since April and his needs and vulnerabilities were clearly written up.  Today we have been working up a new care plan.  Basically this means stripping his crisis package back to its bare bones and offering Telecare.

One of WB’s primary needs is the need to hydrate and eat regularly.  WB does not recognise thirst or hunger or hot or cold so being appropriately dressed is also a challenge.  Hydration is paramount to his wellbeing.  Failure to take onboard sufficient fluids results in aggression, oppositional behaviour, confrontation and general pain in the arseness.  If continued over the day this behaviour becomes increasingly violent and threatening.  In WB’s crisis plan a lovely care worker prompts WB to drink, he observes and notes the amount of fluid being taken.  He will put strategies in place should WB fail to drink enough and generally gets him through the day.  In his new plan an alarm on WB’s phone or if we are very lucky a phone call from someone will remind WB to have a drink.  No one will check that he actually has had a drink and no one will know if he lied about it.

A further need is road safety.  WB does not access risk well in the community.  Recently seeing a pound coin in the road and with no thought of traffic bending down in the road to get it.  Wondering out in the road because the pavement is busy without looking for traffic.  Still not using crossings safely despite the hit and run.  In the crisis plan a care worker prompts WB to navigate the roads safely, to cycle (not anywhere near the canal!) regarding proper road sense, to talk through again and again the appropriate steps to stay safe near roads which we all take for granted.  Under the new plan, WB will have to pay for a tracking device so if we lose him we will know where to look.

In the crisis plan WB is with someone all the time.  The ‘someone’ understands his needs and supports him through the day so I can stop worrying about him and focus on my work.  With the new plan he will be with someone four days a week and left alone for a whole day because four days a week meets his needs.  The risk of being left alone has been pointed out by me and our care provider.  He will be provided with an alarm should he get into difficulty.

WB is pissed off about all of this, he has a routine and carers he has bonded with.  He has stated that he has no wish to engage with the new plan.  He is deemed to have sufficient capacity to make this decision – I am arguing this point – so it is possible we will be left with no care plan.  This is what austerity actually looks and feels like.

I am not sure what my next move will be but it will probably cost the local authority more than the £120 a week it costs now.  If I state that I can no longer look after WB and effectively make him homeless this would cost the LA, what £1500 a week minimum?  Or perhaps I will throw in the towel and accept that a career is not for me and decide I am WB’s full time carer, I can then get carer’s allowance, housing benefit, I won’t pay council tax, and a whole host of benefits I am not aware of yet.  I’m thinking that’s going to cost a bit more than the £120 a week in care costs too.  Prevention is always going to be cheaper than crisis and it is short sighted to think otherwise.

I heard my social worker tell me today that she has another client currently in hospital with a brain injury.  He is ready to come home, but needs an appropriate care package to do so.  She put one together based on his needs and it was signed off by her manager.  Panel rejected the plan, simply asking for more information.  It took the social worker 5 days to find out what further information she needed to provide.  Five days where that chap is sitting in a hospital bed for no medical reason waiting to go home.  The average overnight stay in hospital costs £400 per day, according to Data.gov.uk.  So this chap has cost the NHS £2k because a social worker is trying to source information about a care package.

When WB was under the care of Children with Disabilities services we received a personal budget to meet social care needs.  It was a tiny budget to pay for clubs and I was audited every three months.  Adult social care budgets are usually larger but in my area they do not have enough finance staff to maintain the audits so money gets put into accounts and is never audited.  This begs two questions – How do you know if it’s being spent?  I have unspent funds in my account.  I also have funds which the Children with Disabilities service should have back.  I’ve tried to give it back on several occasions but they don’t return my calls.  But the second, and perhaps more pressing question is, is it being spent in the best interests of the person it is provided for.  If you are not auditing it, how do you know?  I doubt we are the only family in this situation so when I hear my social worker talk of cuts in services, whilst this is no doubt a reality, I would argue that my LA don’t know where the money is either.

Our care needs are nothing next to some, I appreciate I am lucky.  I have a lovely partner who is doing his very best to take on the challenges of the gorgeous WB, I have a Mum who is doing her best to find WB jobs to do to make things easier for me, I have very tolerant friends.  But there is a limited for everyone and we are almost there.  I fear a further crisis package may yet be needed….

 

I should be doing housework…

I should be doing housework.  The place is a tip, piles of paperwork leaning precariously like some homage to Pisa.  Various prospectuses, job applications, CV’s, local authority letters, forms and reports, events which were must go see now already passed, hospital appointments and referrals, DWP letters with constant amended tax credit information, bank statements, audit trails and of course bills, always there are the bills.  Some of it is mine, some Wonder Boy’s, some relating to my Dad.  Most of it is in the dining room so despite my former rule of always eating at the table at mealtimes we’ve been eating off our laps for a fortnight.  Yes, I am familiar with avoidance….

Having finally managed to muster the energy to shower – I’m becoming increasingly aware of my lack of va va voom not being helped by a 14 day cold which will not bugger off – I found myself performing the starring role in a fictional multi-disciplinary team (MDT) meeting about Wonder Boy’s future.  I tore my ex-husband off a strip for not supporting me despite being a qualified social worker who is now a carer support worker helping parents just like me.  I regretted all the times I ever said to someone ‘oh yes, we co-parent’ because it gives him credit where it isn’t due.  I challenged the head of adult social care team – because they are easy to get to a meeting if it’s fictional – and demanded that he acknowledge that WB cannot be left home alone and to work out a realistic daily budget so that I could start negotiating with organisations who previously would have worked with you, but now don’t until they know you have some sort of sanctioned budget.  I told the social worker who is supporting Wonder Boy – you know the one I asked to be part of the autism team, but in reality is part of the adult social care team, new to the area with no specific autism knowledge, no idea of the services available, how funding works or what the deadlines are, she’s nice but not what I need – to talk to WB on his own because I felt that I was hampering progress about decisions he should be making about his own future.  WB knows I will make decisions, he knows I will act in his best interests, he knows I am usually right, he knows that I love him to the moon and back and as much as he thinks I’m a pain in the arse, he trusts my judgement.  So when we go to look at a college or a service provision and he is asked what he thinks, he looks at me and says “Do I like it?”  I need to be removed from this scenario so he can explore his own thoughts, painful as that is to do.

In my fictional MDT meeting I questioned the social worker about talking to WB for an hour on a walk then coming back to tell me that he wanted to do what I did – what train for 9 years to do something you are really passionate about only to find there are no jobs for you?  I was hoping for more for him – no he wants to work from home like you do.  He wants to work in IT as a web designer.  I put it to her that WB has never really shown any interest in IT, he watches endless YouTube clips on his phone but that’s as close to IT as he gets as far as I’m aware, that I presumed web design required some sort of qualification which was beyond entry level 2, so, I put it to you m’Lord, that perhaps the social worker sowed the seed of an IT career because she has a perception that all people on the spectrum love IT, you know, because it’s geeky.

I also express my disappointment about WB’s teacher who has been my wing (wo)man in many a battle but has now gone strangely quiet in her support of future options for my gorgeous boy.  Connexions weren’t present in my fictional meeting because I can’t even get them to return my calls in the far reaches of my imagination.  Having felt empowered by my handling of this imaginary meeting I promptly burst into tears and stood sobbing from frustration, fear and uselessness.

Everything has a knock on effect and navigating your way through causes mind numbing weariness.  I need to get a full time job because if I don’t I will lose my house.  Subject to court order which stated I had two years to get a mortgage in my own right, that deadline is looming.  Despite managing to pay my mortgage at times with NO income over the past four years my mortgage provider changes the goalposts every time I think I’m in a position to move on.

From the moment I stepped into this house I felt connected to it.  It is the only home my daughters have known.  I am not overly sentimental or spiritual but I believe this house looks out for us, it keeps us safe.  WB lived in another house until he was three but what a move would do to his wellbeing is not something I care to dwell on.  Despite living in other flats and houses, when I said ‘home’ I always meant my parents house where I grew up, but when I moved into this house that changed – this was *my home*.  Therefore, keeping this house is vital.  Whilst selling it would release my ex-husband from the mortgage, he does not hold an equity stake in the property and whilst that would leave me with a tidy sum it wouldn’t be enough to buy a house big enough for us to live in locally and I can’t get a mortgage so….. I’m stuck in a stupid loop.  But if I can get a full time job I can get a mortgage – provided I have a contract with more than six months to run and earn a significant amount of money and pass all the other fucking stupid tests that the banks put up as a barrier to me paying for something that I am already clearly paying for.  So I don’t just need a job, I need a good job.

In order to get a job I need to know that WB is well cared for.  I headed out to London yesterday for an interview, half way through the journey I knew I couldn’t commute every day and not just because it would cost over £670 per month for the privilege to travel.  I would be too far from home and would be unable to get back quickly enough when needed.  Being able to get WB from school because he is having a bad day, being able to visit service providers, attend meetings, make calls to professionals, drop off forgotten kit, lunch, money, bus pass, being home when he is sick, being able to call him at school so he can talk through something vitally important like whether we can buy a new petrol mower, I need to be able to do these things on a fairly regular basis.  What employer can understand and accommodate that?  I can’t even quantify this.  It’s not like every Wednesday I need to….  It’s haphazard and unpredictable but without this support WB would struggle to get through his days.  Every day starts optimistically and adapts to whatever happens.  When I drop dead of a heart attack you’ll know why.  It’s a pretty stressful existence.

I have friends who are well intentioned and lovely but just so naïve to the constraints and barriers put up by the systems families like mine have to work within.  Yes, in theory I can choose an out of county college for WB but in reality how will I get him there?  There are NO TRANSPORT options other than ordinary community services which he cannot navigate independently.  So I would have to take him – see earlier comment about needing a full time job.  Hi I’m Jane I’ve come for the role of whatever you need.  I’m hard working, conscientious, articulate, I’ll be a real asset to your organisation, just one thing I need to start at 10am and finish at 2.30pm to pick my son up but I’ll need full time wages.  Yeah, that makes me instantly more employable, not.

Or there are the ‘we can get him a job’ brigade who offer the earth when you first talk to them only to concede on further questioning that they couldn’t possibly get WB a job he actually wants, that we all have to start at the bottom, that really the options are collecting trolleys in a supermarket or packing stuff in boxes in a warehouse, not for actual wages you understand but these guys are paid handsomely in experience.  Yeah, because that pays the bills and puts food on the table doesn’t it.  WB needs a job because he has ambitions to live independently and because if he is doing a job it’s morally right that he gets paid.  These guys are not slave labour to be exploited under the guise of short term apprenticeship.

The professionals I speak to are all so full of ‘let’s get him a place here and then everything will be ok’.  But I have been playing this game for long enough to know that we are a long way from everything being ok.  This is just the start.  Leaving school, going to college, getting a job – which he can hold down, learning how to travel independently, learning how to manage money, learning how to cook, living independently, finding a place in society, creating a supportive social network, that’s many years of work yet.  So I don’t trust the professional optimism.  I listen to others like WB, they paint a more honest account of college placements which have broken down, placements that were almost impossible to get out from, long periods of waiting whilst something else was found, funded, offered, jobs from which guys were laid off, parents who gave up work or doing things they liked so they could ferry kids from one placement to the next, guys spending long days gaming in their bedrooms without seeing another soul, sense of hopelessness, depression and boredom.  These guys are 19, 20 ffs.

I am a naturally optimistic person.  I constantly ponder innovative ways in which I can make the world better, easier for WB and his friends.  I surf the internet looking for funding streams or new projects in the extra hours I have thanks to my insomnia which might offer some opportunities to WB.  I smile politely when I feel patronised by the well intentioned because I am *just* Mum (“ yeah that’s Dr. Mum to you ok mofo?”  I channel Pulp Fiction characters occasionally, that bit happens in my head, so its ok.)  But even I’m feeling increasingly hopeless and helpless.  The complexities of our lives, Dad in hospital, needing a mortgage, needing a job, needing support over the summer, needing more time to hug GCSE girl, needing to be well, taking time to notice just how beautiful and wickedly funny the baby of the bunch has become, building a relationship with the bf and his family, needing time to see my best friends, needing certainty, the mundane, stability, is all taking its toll.

I’ll feel better tomorrow.  I’ll get some sleep and remind myself I’m doing a bloody good job despite the difficulties and I’ll start the day afresh.  This is probably just a blip caused by a stupid cold and not getting a job I didn’t want, but it is also a reflection on what it feels like to not have the support you feel you need.   Maybe I should request an MDT meeting for real….

 

 

 

 

Christmas and other emotional labours

Wonder Boy had to have Thursday off school.  They were going to see Star Wars at the cinema, an opportunity which two thirds of the country would probably jump at, but not Wonder Boy.  Cinemas have lights in the carpet.  Cinemas and Wonder Boy don’t mix well.

 

Neither do lights generally.  Or crowds.  Or trees indoors.  Or people popping in unexpectedly.  Or surprises.  Secret Santa was a particular challenge this year.  If you are the parent of a vulnerable young person you tell them that no adult would ever ask them to keep a secret.  Just sticking Santa on the end doesn’t make it ok.  Even after almost 20 years with Wonder Boy I’m still learning.

 

In addition, we lost our lovely social worker this month too.  Hard to find a social worker who you like, is good at what they do and who WB also likes.  We are very sorry to see her go.  It transpires that you lose your children’s social worker the December before you leave school.  I had – laughably – thought there would be seemless transition from children’s to adult social care.  I mean we’ve been ‘in transition’ for the past five years so it should all run smoothly right?  Wrong.  It transpires that we will not be picked up by the autism team within adult social care because WB was ten IQ points away from a learning disability and because we are not ‘in crisis’.

 

I’m not sure quite what we need to be to be ‘in crisis’ but I reckon it must be more expensive to deal with than ‘ticking along nicely with decent support and a nice plan for the future’.  I have no idea what WB’s future looks like.  I’ve been told that there are no five day packages any more.  A five day package would typically involve three days at college and two getting work experience with a local charity – not paid work obviously – with only 15% of adults on the spectrum being in full time employment this is fast becoming an impossible dream.   So college it is.  If only we could find a course with modules in sharks, tractors, history (war years only), juggling and anger management which sets assignments only on the days WB feels like it and allows time out when the whim takes him.

 

Even if such a course could be found, it still leaves the other two days a week to fill.  We might be lucky and get one day but that leaves one day a week with no support.  This doesn’t just affect WB.  Every decision I make has to factor this in.  I have spent 9 years qualifying to do something I love.  I have £20k of student debt which needs to be paid back ideally from full time employment.  Only I don’t feel I can work full time, not yet.  Sometimes friends and colleagues send me exciting fellowship info, research posts or dream job opportunities.  First thing I do is look where it’s based.  I could not contemplate moving.  Upping sticks away from everything that we know – the social care system we, kind of, understand, the friends who support in a million different ways, the ex-husband who offers vital respite every other weekend, elderly parents who step in at the last minute….  It makes me smile and then makes me cry at the naivety of these emails as they ping into my box with unattainable offers.  I really appreciate what people are trying to do, but just cannot comprehend how they think I will manage it.  I do not think less of them for not understanding.  Being a carer is a complex situation which seeps into every aspect of your life.

 

My response is to work part time on lots of things at the same time, juggling time to accommodate WB’s needs.  I take time off one job to work on another so that I can manage things.  Everything is temporary contract so the rug could be pulled at the drop of a hat.  Maybe then we would be ‘in crisis’.  During the daylight hours, I tell myself I thrive on the stress and that a conventional job with security, someone else who keeps an eye on my tax, or even – oooh the luxury – a pension would be dull and I wouldn’t like it.  I’m a nomad, doing fabulous and interesting work wherever I go.  Unconventional and loving it.  But at 3am knowing that work is drying up a bit after Feb I’d sell my soul for a 9 to 5 or better still a 9.30 to 3.30 with any days off that WB is left unattended.

 

I’m a loyal soul.  The thought of letting someone down is too much for me, so until I know that WB has a college place, has a safe place to be for the rest of the week and is reasonably happy I don’t feel it’s fair to any future prospective employer.  If I keep moving I’m ok, but if I stop I sleep – a lot.  I’m more than a little aware that a couple of glasses of wine a week have become a necessary part of my day if I want to sleep all through the night.  The weight gain I blamed on the PhD is still there -and some – long after I’ve finished and is probably more to do with the biscuits consumed to offer some comfort for the myriad of daily complications.  I work in healthcare, I know the signs of comfort eating and self-medicating.  I know that I need to take better care of myself.  I am bloody tired.

 

Add to this the season of panic buying for loved ones, estranged family, new family, coming up with ideas of what loved ones can buy other loved ones, secret Santa’s, endless lists…. No wonder my bloody pressure is on the up.  But we are not ‘in crisis’, not yet.  I’ll just keep swimming and everything will be ok, but I can’t see the shore so there is a limit….  So tis time to take care of myself so I can armour up and run into the next bout of complexity this life seems to chuck at me.  I really, really need to curl up on the sofa and let the world look after itself for a bit, so if I don’t make it to your Christmas party please don’t think too badly of me.  I feel hugely blessed to be invited to so many places, to have so many lovely people in my life but sometimes a girl has just got to lie under a duvet in pj’s and watch telly for the sake of her own sanity.  If you know anyone else who cares for a young person on the spectrum, know that what you think is fun is probably an emotional minefield, know that when you say you understand, you really don’t and that’s fine, know that we are doing our best but this time of year is just hard for us, know that we see the stuff you don’t see, know that we know our children and will do what’s best for them regardless of what the rest of the world says we should do.

 

Big Christmassy love xxx

 

You can make a law, but attitudes take a bit longer to change….

Wonder Boy wants to take up gymnastics.  He’s also spending a bit of time doing his hair, worrying about spots and how to get rid of them and generally caring what he looks like.  I love the ordinariness of these behaviours.  Wonder Boy is not ordinary as a rule.

Now he is 19 and I’m busy, I advised him to contact the gym where he wanted to go and find out about it all, where, what day, what time.  He amazed me when he called me in a fluster of excitement to tell me he had phoned MK Gymnastics and asked if they ran a disabled class as he has Autism.   I cannot tell you how fabulous that is.  One of his greatest vulnerabilities is his inability to accept his diagnosis.  As we inch further and further towards adult services, this vulnerability has become more and more plain to see.  Services which are currently stretched to the max are more than happy to walk away from a service user who insists they can manage independently – although as wonderful as Wonder Boy is – he can’t.

So I’m made up that he phoned and disclosed this information – it’s an enormous breakthrough.  He was told that MK Gymnastics do run a disabled class but it’s only for children and WB is too old.  However, he would be more than welcome at an adult session, they run throughout the week, just turn up.  In a wonderfully autistic way, this was devastating news to WB as the time the classes ran was 8.30-10.00.  He gave me this news despondently, “why the unhappy face?” I ask.  “I’m at school 8.30-10 so I can’t go”  “Oh, you think the classes are in the morning, no, they are in the evening.”  “Are you sure?  I’ll ring them again!” I love hearing WB on the phone to people; he turns into Hugh Grant for some reason.  I hear “Hello I’m terribly sorry, but it’s me again, can I confirm that when you said 8.30-10.00 is it at all possible that you meant in the evening? ….. You do! That’s wonderful, I can come!”

We head over in good time as WB has been ready since 5pm.  We arrive and park up.  It’s a big building easy to find, but there is no signage that we could see, as to where the entrance was.  We found it down a broad unlit corridor between the buildings.  If it was a horror film you would be screaming “don’t go down there” at the screen.  Not exactly welcoming.  We found a door which was open and a reception to the left.

I did the talking.  This had already been discussed in the car.  WB has trouble getting words out when he is nervous.  I explain to the person on reception we are here to join a class, first time here and all that.  We were given a form (actually two, she thought I was there to do gymnastics too, I’m a middle aged chubby woman, my leotard wearing days are well and truly over).  I offered to fill in the form, while WB paid.  Receptionist asked me how old WB was, because sometimes he becomes invisible.  “19” I say.  We fill out the paperwork and pay.  There is a bit of a kerfuffle because they had quoted WB a price 10pence less than we had to pay, but we navigated our way through that.  I then asked for a receipt and explained that WB gets a budget from the LA to pay for things like this as it meets his social care need.  I thought that this little exchange – the fact that he’s 19, but he’s come with his Mum who is asking if it’s ok if she stays, his Mum has to fill in the form and he is behaving a little oddly about a 10p price increase – would indicate that WB is a bit different.

We are told where the men’s changing rooms are and which door to go through, assured that we will see people warming up soon.  So we go in.  Someone who we think is a coach is chatting to someone else, so we loiter by the door as classes finish and people leave.  Adults start coming in, we loiter a bit more.  Then decide to sit on a bench while coach is still talking.  I keep looking over, you know, like you do when you want to attract someone’s attention.   Coach walks off to other side of the room and remains there.

We watch as more people file in, take off shoes and start using equipment and doing exercises we have no idea how to do.  After 15 minutes, WB turns to me and says “I feel really uncomfortable”.  You see, having autism doesn’t preclude you from realising when you are being ignored.  I go to reception and explain that we wanted a disabled class but were told we should come here, we were assured that we would be made welcome but so far we have just been ignored.  To her credit, she apologised and said she would talk to someone.  She explained that one coach would work with WB on the trampolines and another (presumably the one who was steadfastly ignoring us) would show him some other stuff.

Trampolines made WB dizzy so he was shown some stretches and asked to do push-ups.  The receptionist then took over and showed WB the rings and how to roll into a pit of foam blocks.  At this point I saw the coach who had been ignoring us laughing and apparently chatting to WB.  For a while there I thought maybe I was being a bit harsh in my judgement, but on the way home WB explained that the coach was laughing at him because he was struggling to get out of the pit.  Laughing at him for trying.  Nice.

In the end WB was encouraged to try a cartwheel – he has CP and low muscle tone, a situation I would have been more than happy to explain if disability had been mentioned ANYWHERE on the form – so this was quite hard for him to do.  At points, he just stood and shrugged at me because he was so unsure of what to do.

In the end, I think he asked about parkour which seems to run in an adjacent room.  He explained to me that he thought that parkour might be more his thing, as the whole gymnastics thing wasn’t as friendly as he thought it would be.  “No, problem” I say.  Obviously, I don’t mean this, WB has had more than enough scrapes throughout his life and taking up a potentially dangerous sport is not on my ‘to do’ list, but it’s not my life it’s his and I will support whatever he wants to do (but I won’t watch him backflip off a wall….)

WB scoots off to find the Parkour bloke who comes out to meet me (lovely!) and have a chat.  He seems much more friendly, explains that they teach Parkour on a Tuesday and how much it is.  If you pay in advance you get it cheaper so I explain we have to pay weekly because it’s just easier with our LA payments, the ones WB gets to pay for clubs that meet his health and social care need.  I was then advised that a children’s class might be better, the implication being that disabled people should be treated like children I concluded.  “No, I think an adult class would be more appropriate” then I departed with “See you next Tuesday”, which made me smile all the way home.  You have to take the small wins where you can.

I know my gorgeous WB isn’t physically as able as the people we met yesterday but watching him pulling himself up onto the bars, knowing where he has come from and just how brave it is for an anxious young man to walk into a room of physically fit young men I could not be more proud of him.

I don’t know much about gymnastics but it seems to me it’s about focusing on your body and making it do extraordinary things.  Wonder Boy does that every.single.day.

It also seems to be about pushing the limits of what should be possible.  Wonder Boy does that every.single.day.

If I was MK Gymnastics I would be wanting to find many, many different Wonder Boys.  Please, please, please, if a Wonder Boy happens to come along to a class or two at your organisation make them feel welcome.

The Relationship Project

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A few days ago, my crowdfunding bid came to an end (http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/relationship-project/).  I had set up a project to gather love stories from people affected by dementia to form an online repository, a living archive.  The idea was that participants would be recruited and interviewed, these interviews would be recorded and these recordings would be uploaded to a webpage managed by the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Northampton.  The aim is to give participants the opportunity to tell their love stories while they are still able, to evidence the importance of intimate relationships even in old age and in the face of dementia and to make this knowledge and information public for all to share.

When you set up a crowdfunding project you have to estimate how much money the project will need and offer rewards in exchange for pledges.  There is a time limit and you have to raise the full amount in pledges or the project gets nothing.  I estimated I would need £1500 to make this project a reality, host a launch event and produce postcards and a book to promote the project.  I managed to secure £525 in pledges – which is truly fabulous and amazing – however, did not reach target.  So I started to think about a Plan B.

To my absolute surprise and amazement, some of the people who pledged asked if they could make a contribution anyway regardless of the fact that the crowdfunding bid came up short.  I then caught sight of an American article which has picked up on my Relationship Project and run a story.  (For the full article here is the link: http://www.mcknights.com/daily-editors-notes/campaign-to-archive-dementia-love-stories-stumbles/article/418285/)

I am so moved by the level of support and would love to continue with this project.  So, if you would still like to contribute, please make a donation via PayPal (my email address is jane.youell@northampton.ac.uk).  I will keep a full set of accounts so you can see where the money has been spent and I’ll keep blogging progress as I go.

My deep and sincere thanks to all those who are supporting this project.

I'm going to change the world

Wonder Boy and the world of work

The local Co-Op are looking for evening/weekend staff so I pick up an application form.  I know it’s a world away from being an acrobatic pilot, which is Wonder Boy’s first choice job, but we’ve all got to start somewhere.  I help with the application, it takes over three hours.  I realise that application forms are not best suited to describing all the quirky skills which Wonder Boy has.  I hope that the scant details are enough to get his foot in the door.

The majority of the application is a series of scenarios for which you must indicate the best and least best option.  WB did alright on these really, mostly picking the most polite option as the best option.  He is assuming he will get the job, so I’m planning to deal with the disappointment if he doesn’t.  But I’m also keeping everything crossed that he at least gets an interview.  In our house this is an epic event.

Wonder Boy decided he wanted to hand the application in personally by himself.  He dressed accordingly.  I asked him what he thinks he would enjoy about working in the Co-Op and chatting to all the customers was his reply.  I pointed out he needed to work too, it wasn’t all about the chatting.  I was told I should appreciate the customer experience a bit more.  I really hope he gets the job.  He has informed me that should he get an interview he will need a suit which he will also wear should he get the job.  I said I thought they had uniform. I’ll wear it over my suit I was told.  We’ll deal with that if he gets the job….

So he left the house alone, brimming with confidence and ready for the world of work, leaving me at home brimming with equal amounts of pride and terror.  It’s a small town where we live and I know that WB likes to wander around the charity shops so I wasn’t too worried when he didn’t come straight back.  Actually, that’s a lie.  I worry as soon as he walks out the door, the worry reduces only slightly when he comes home.  I’m good at worrying.  I suppressed the urge to call him until he had been out for two hours.  “I’m buying strimmer twine and goggles” I’m cheerily told.  “Ok” I say – it’s not ok, we have loads of pairs of goggles and I want him home “Enjoy shopping” I lie “Have you got a key, I need to drop the girls off at the town centre” “Just leave the side gate open”.  This is the equivalent of ‘don’t wait up’ but I go along with it.

A further two and a half hours later, I phone him again “I’m in the pub, but it’s ok, I’m not drinking! I’ve just got myself a diet coke”  I know the pub he is in, it’s got a full bookshelf and a good stock of newspapers.  It’s the sort of place I would go alone if I fancied a glass of wine and a chat with friendly locals.  But suddenly, because my beautiful Wonder Boy is in there alone, its a den of iniquity, something akin to Hogarth’s gin house.  “Who are you with?” I’m asking him “No one I’m on my own but its ok because I’m not drinking, I’ve just got a coke”  And it IS ok because he is doing all the independent things we hoped he would do from the moment we got a diagnosis.  We have actively encouraged, coached and supported him in order to achieve the very things he has been out doing today.

When I was a teenager I used to say my Mum was like June Whitfield.  Whatever I seemed to say to her she would respond with some kind of comment which I almost always heard as “that’s nice, dear”.  I used to challenge her on this all the time.  “I’m pregnant with triplets” “That’s nice, dear”, “I’ve joined the foreign legion you’ll never see me again” “That’s nice, dear”, “I’m earning money through prostitution” “That’s nice, dear”.  My teenage self was seriously annoyed by the relentless June Whitfield loveliness.  However, my adult mother self sees this as absolutely the right response when what you really feel is overwhelming worry that you haven’t prepared your children sufficiently for the outside world.  Almost certainly you have and so has their school and peers and extended family.  But emotionally you are scared shitless when your children find their independent feet.  You know it’s unreasonable.  Given the choice in all honesty I would keep my children at home wrapped in cotton wool for all time.  That’s not OK with them, so next time WB tells me he’s in the pub but he’s ok, I’m going to say “that’s nice, dear”.