Category Archives: Caring

Why I became Wisegrannie, put down my sewing and began to blog

 
Reason 1:  Years ago I came across an article by a priest working in South America. It was called “Taking Sides”.
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He challenged the widely held belief that any problem could be resolved by bringing together the two parties with different beliefs or ideologies to discuss the matter.  He pointed out that this was far too simplistic. In some situations, it was simply impossible.

In unjust situations, where one side holds all the power over the other there can never be an equal dialogue.

Faced with such a situation you have to decide for yourself who is right and who is wrong, then be very, very brave.

Sometimes you have to take sides.

Reason 2:  Another time, watching a World War 2 documentary, I was suddenly shocked into attention by the image on the screen. The scene showed an architect’s office and, on a drawing board, the meticulous plans for an intricate building.  The plans were for Auschwitz and the designs were for the gas chambers.

Somehow it was more chilling than the dreadful images of the death camps themselves. This cultured man, an exemplary model of a conscientious architect, taking up his pencil and his slide rule and, with every attention to detail, calmly calculating the measurements necessary to achieve the greatest efficiency in destroying his fellow human beings.

Sometimes the worst monsters are sitting in impressive offices.

Reason 3:  I learnt another lesson from the example of Sister Elizabeth Kenny the pioneering Australian who transformed the treatment of polio victims in the 1930s and 40s.

Ridiculed, looked down upon and obstructed by the medical establishment at every turn, she steadfastly fought on, in defiance of the accepted wisdom, to demonstrate that her approach was the most effective method of aiding the recovery of her child patients.  Starting with only the grass roots support from parents and patients, then gradually winning over a few other professionals who paid serious attention to her evidence, she eventually succeeded in revolutionising practice and transforming the lives of polio victims.

In the end, if you have the strength to keep going, a commitment to whwpid-hope-in-focus.jpgat is right, and a stalwart cohort of fellow fighters, you can win through

These are three reasons why I became Wisegrannie and joined the blogging universe – just one old person hanging on in there, still loving life and telling stories to feed the spirit. In my own small way joining the fight against the monsters living in the forests of an unequal world.

 

 

Campaign? What campaign? Am I bothered?

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One day, idling around Facebook, I came across the story of LB, the Laughing Boy who grew up into a handsome teenager and drowned in a bath at a National Health Unit, where he was temporarily staying for assessment of his needs.

 

Even somebody like me, with no specialist knowledge, could see this was wrong.  My heart went out to the family.  I wanted to support them in finding out the truth of exactly how and why their beloved healthy son could possibly have died in this way at 18 years old.

 

I was able to help because LB’s family and friends organised a do-it-yourself, hands-on, make-it-up-as-you -go-along, online campaign.  This highlighted the struggle of an ordinary family to get help for a son who needed a different kind of care from his brothers and sister, especially as he became an adult.

 

He wasn’t ill.  He simply had two conditions that could perfectly well be lived with.  He was autistic and he had a form of epilepsy.  Neither should have killed him.

 

Yet the Health Trust responsible for his care said he died of “Natural Causes”

 

This was a lie.  The online campaign (Justice for LB) raised £26,000 to pay for legal representation for the family and after two long years an inquest jury agreed that it was a lie.  They said Laughing Boy died because of neglect in National Health Service care.

 

Not only that.  His campaign uncovered that there had been many, many other deaths, which had never been investigated.  National Health Service (NHS) procedures made it almost impossible for families ever to find out the truth about how their sons and daughters had come to die in National Health care, years before their time.

 

Health professionals who tried to tell the truth about NH services were called “Whistleblowers” and were gagged and/or driven out of their jobs.  Family members who persisted in protesting about poor care were victimised, harassed and even forced to leave their homes.  They lost their life savings in legal costs, attempting to uncover the truth.

 

Many families had just wanted to be able to care for their children, even when they became adults, at home.  Why couldn’t they?

 

Because the organisation of the care system in the UK made it well-nigh impossible for them.  The support they needed wasn’t there.  It was a long, complicated battle to get their children’s needs acknowledged and to find funding.  Procedures were confusing, over-complicated, constantly changing and poorly understood, even by those administering them.

 

Any provision of care was patchy and inflexible.  Your son or daughter had to fit in with whatever was available wherever you happened to live.  Parents and siblings became ill and grew old.  They became poor, because they couldn’t work at the same time as caring full-time for a family member.

 

The whole UK care system became a clunky mess.

 

This is the situation today.

 

This is what we campaign to change.

 

The challenge is to get lots of people actively involved in making good changes happen.

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LB’s Justice Quilt stitched by his supporters & displayed in Coventry Cathedral this month

A bit of culture.

Couldn’t put it better!

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Well now. Much has been written about Mazars report into Southern Health’s failings.   The anguish and eloquent anger of LB’s family has touched me greatly.  Their poise and determination in the face of brutal onslaughts is amazing.

In the last 20 years as a social worker I have seen brilliant practice.  I have seen appalling practice. I have seen lives transformed.  I have seen lives destroyed.  Over the last few months I have had particular cause to reflect on what it is that determines how people are treated by organisations.

Culture.

That’s it.  Pure and simple.  Culture dictates attitude. Attitude dictates quality of service.  Culture is determined by leadership.  Large health organisations and social services departments are top-down organisations.  Hierarchical wilderbeasts, stampeding in discombobulating circles at the whim of their political drivers.

Such frenzied behaviour is destroying services.  It is ruining lives. Its prime focus is on the survival…

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Less Than Human.

Says it better than I ever could.

Who By Fire

It was Grenouille’s school Christmas Concert yesterday.  Always an utterly fab event.  The school has a very strong music department and runs an orchestra and two choirs.  G, love and bless, can’t carry a tune in a bucket, or remember all the words of a song in the correct sequence, but has been an enthusiastic and assiduous member of the choir from the word go.  The wonderful music teacher has given nothing but encouragement and praise for every effort, and has done wonders for G’s confidence and willingness to join in.

Attending the concert this year was tricky.  G had a healthcare monitoring appointment after school, so the afternoon schedule went: leave school; be driven along 10 miles of Rural Road to meet me at Healthcare Facility; get through (longish) appointment; go home; have early dinner; be driven back along 10 miles of Rural Road to Concert Venue in Schooltown; and…

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Preventable deaths are not tragic #JusticeforLB

George Blogs

I’ve spent the last fortnight in Oxford live-tweeting the inquest into the death of Connor Sparrowhawk – you can learn more about Connor here:

You can learn about the campaign at JusticeforLB website and you can read the inquest happenings over on twitter @LBinquest. At some stage I’ll write about the inquest process, the amazingly resilient and love filled family and friends of Connor; the forensic attention to detail, care and expertise of the legal team; the smatters of candour juxtaposed with complete refusal to change anything even with hindsight that we heard from witnesses [only the psychiatrist was that arrogant]; and the whole process.

For now I just wanted to pick up on one small [but really massive] language point.

Connor’s death was not tragic.

Preventable deaths are not tragic.

Connor’s preventable death was described in great detail over the two weeks, the time immediately before it and…

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Love Has Brought Me Around

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It’s a sad day and a low time of year.  When living and working in towns and cities, we don’t have much time or opportunity to study the skies. We forget how the seasons lift us up and pull us down.

Yet surprising things can help us through the lows.

For me a new love came into my life quite unasked and undeserved.

It was my granddoggie.  I never did anything to merit his adoration. I didn’t feed him, except on the odd mercy mission when his family were held up in traffic. I didn’t keep the roof over his head or take him for walks in wintry weather.

Yet he just loved me. When I came to the door he would rush from wherever he was comfortably snoozing and go into an ecstasy of tail wagging and welcome whimpers. When I finally sat down he would leap onto my knee. It was a source of huge entertainment and amazement to the family.

Of course I loved him in return.

He’s old now and he was never particularly clever, but he was long-suffering and forgiving. He put up with all the silly costumes the grandchildren made him wear, the endless idiotic tricks they taught him.

Even now in his more tetchy, less energetic old age, he welcomes every day in the world with cheerful anticipation.

Here he is, forever puzzled but patiently accepting of the strange things life throws at him, trying to lick up a frozen puddle in the park.

Yes, in unexpected ways, in life’s bad places, love has brought me around.

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Vacancy -Monster Fighting Change Agent Required

On “turning things round”

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Before Florence Nightingale, “nurses” enjoyed a deservedly dodgy reputation.  Dickens, always plugged into the popular culture of his time, knew what he was doing when he created the ghastly Mrs Gamp and her dreadful friend.

Caring is a role that brings with it a very dark side. It is dangerously easy to take advantage of the weak and the sick.  It is so simple to blackmail or terrorise them into silence and acquiescence. 

The vulnerable quickly learn that, to get even half decent treatment, you have to be “good”. And good is always defined by the care provider as giving your  “carer” an easy time.

It was bad enough in the past, with gin-sodden, slovenly Mrs Gamp, but now we seem to have created something even worse: a whole monstrous system which is based on not giving the care provider a hard time.

Whether it be the Hospital Trust or the Local Authority or the judgemental Social Work Department, we little people are blocked from attempting to criticise or question. As patients, clients or employees, we are expected to be “good”: to be quiet and compliant; to accept without complaint every idiocy of chaotic administration; every petty cruelty of poor organisation; the endless esteem-sapping disrespect and indignity.

Because otherwise we know we’ll suffer, in body, pocket, mind or spirit, or any combination of the above.

Now Florence Nightingale was a ferociously determined and successful change agent, but she also had a good few things on her side. She was well connected, with privileged access to people of power and wealth. She had a highly successful market image, a sympathetic press and popular support. She was not a little person.

How are we little people going to fight our newly created monster?

I’ve seen institutions change, but it’s a big ask, as they say nowadays

1. You find a leader with determination, endurance and integrity.
2.  You get a board/cabinet/party/pressure group to back her/him.
3.  You get rid of the bad staff by (a) making them work (b) dragging them through disciplinary procedures, tribunals etc.
4.  You promote and reward the good staff, so that the balance of power & influence in the workforce changes, with good practice becoming the norm.

A big ask indeed! We’re going to need a monster fighting change agent, to battle alongside us little people.

Any good politicians out there any more?

Anyone with principles and a bit of backbone?

Situation vacant.

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