Why being 'in control' means so much this
This Christmas will be the first time in eight years that my
family will all be together. My brother is coming home from
Australia and my parents, aged 84 and 81, will see four of their
grandchildren now aged 19, 16 and twins of 13. Just imagine the joy
of all of us going out for lunch as a family of 16 on Christmas
Eight years ago it was a different story.
Following my brothers departure to Australia, my mother Jean,
always a keen supporter of people with disabilities, a Samaritan,
volunteer at a mental health centre and member of the Epilepsy
society, started to decline in her health. A series of undiagnosed
strokes combined with sadness at the departure of part of her
family resulted in severe symptoms of dementia and physical
She was offered a service from the local authority - two
staff, three times a day for short periods of time. It was a long
and woeful story of poor service, frequent changes in staff, a lack
of knowledge of her conditions and a negligence that left my mother
dying. The GP even offered my father the chance to 'let her slip
But, through the sheer determination of a man who refused to
let his wife of nearly 60 years 'slip away', he fought the system
that seem determined to make him a widower. With my help, my father
and I managed to get mum a personal budget - only once he had
threatened to carry her out of hospital on his back mind! The
system was insulted that he felt he could care for her just as well
as they had - I leave you to think about that.
We were also told she would never walk again and would need
special adaptations and equipment at home.
But this Christmas will see my mother walk into our family
meal. And this can only be attributed to the team that now supports
her. One of her team is an orthopaedic nurse, the other is a
trainee occupational therapist. Another is a superb supporter and
hairdresser - she is just as important to my mother: she is
fashionable and likes to look nice and with her team's support she
The value of the team is shown through many such examples,
and more such as when she fractured her hip three years ago. She
was soon home, with no increase necessary in her support hours and
back on her feet in no time.
We owe these personal assistants the world. My mum and dad
could not do without them and importantly my mum loves her time
with them - she's always sorting out all their troubles.
When my mother celebrated her 80th she requested a Spanish
evening. She danced that evening and sang some lovely old songs her
father used to sing. Oh by the way, Jean hates shopping malls and
garden centres. Her days out are with mediums and séances - that's
what she really likes and so does one of her personal assistants.
They go together as friends. I'm just glad they don't ask
Yes this Christmas is going to be just great and without the
care of my dad, the carers, me, the rest of her family and friends
- and yes, the personal budget, my mother would not be here to
There could be no better reason to fully endorse personal
budgets and be thankful that this, and every Christmas, due to her
personal budget she is 'in control' of her life.