The Courage and Compromise in Accepting You Need Help
I started this blog a while back but a call from my social worker to arrange a Care review made me think. I realised how much courage it had taken to admit I needed help; mainly to myself. Then I spoke to a fellow IIH warrior who told me how hard she’d found it to finally accept help, so I wanted to share my story incase it could help someone else take that leap.
Admitting you can’t cope anymore is a tough pill to swallow, whatever the reason. It’s most likely that you’ll pluck up courage to ask for, or even agree to, help from friends and family first. It took months for me to take the help that my friends and the mums at school were offering me but this became the support network that I didn’t even know we needed then!
Taking it to the next level and formally asking for help is intimidating. How do you ask for what you really need and what do you need to compromise on? This will be different for everyone but I hope my story can help you as I went from being a fiercely independent, healthy woman to owning my vulnerability by daring to acknowledge my needs.
The path to finding your perfect carer won’t be easy and will ask you to make many compromises but it really is worth it in the end. My decisions have been guided by my family which has given me courage to brave red tape so I do recommend having support. This is my story of the ins and outs of asking for and benefitting from help in the UK.
Asking For Help is easy – when it’s not for you!
In late 2014 when I was very poorly, I’d asked my GP what help was available for Joel. I was worried about him taking on all the housework, looking after the kids and house whilst working a stressful, full tIme job. My GP put me under the primary care team of nurses, OTs and other professionals. I knew an OT would be able to help me so I was ok with the idea.
Then I was told of my first ever visit from an adult social worker and became apprehensive. I didn’t know what to expect but she had a kind voice and showed genuine concern when I told her we were struggling and that I was particularly worried about Joel. As I write this now, I can see that I was projecting my guilt but at this point,in my mind, I was doing okay.
The social worker talked me through ways to support Joel, suggesting I got a cleaner using my PIP/disability benefits if I qualified for them. She talked me through these and some other benefits I should apply for. We’d kept on the cleaner we’d employed when we were both working but with my sick pay coming to an end; we’d have struggled to keep her on.
When the social worker delved into my day to day living, she realised I wasn’t being completely open about how much impact my illness had on me. In true determined Laura style, I was pushing through the pain and avoiding what was actually happening to me. However she realised this and knew that I was depleted of energy, without a charger.
So I was surprised when she told me I needed help too; I’d only asked for Joel! I was in denial that I, a 36 year old mum, needed daily care. Surely she was being over the top? But she went off to make arrangements and it dawned on me that I might be more ill than I’d let myself accept.
She’d put a care plan in place for my support, which would help Joel with those things I could no longer do. The plan was to give me care every week day for dressing and getting lunch. The outcome being, that I’d have the energy to focus on being Mummy.
Literally Leaping Through Hoops
Before you can get any of this Care or support, there’s financial and physical assessments, form filling and meetings with social workers and finance officers. Then you have to decide if you’ll use care agencies or employ someone yourself so you get someone come and explain all the ins and outs of this. To be honest, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Your written care plan is detailed and kept on file for everyone involved in your care. The welfare benefits adviser use it to make a financial assessment as to what they contribute. Luckily I qualified for full funding with care at home as I don’t need hoists etc. It’s tough but to get this support it really is worth the compromise of strangers going into your finances.
The assessment processes have to be rigorous as you’re asking for a lot, however, it can be confusing and exhausting for you. This is where you’re support network come in as even though you get used to all the annual reviews, sending off monthly bank statements and other checks; when you’re ill this can be too much physically or mentally.
Joel helps me with all of this palaver, printing and posting these statements, making phone calls on my behalf, reading the jargon letters that baffle me and completing all the forms for me. I had to be brave and ask him for help with this stuff early on as my condition means that I can’t understand them or retain the information I need to answer them.
Strength in The Face of Pain
Originally I employed my own carer with employer support to help with contracts, payroll etc. My first carer was a close friend’s daughter. She was just right for us and stayed for 18 months. She did some hours in the day and would pop back to help clear up after tea (she lived minutes away). The boys were much younger and were particularly fond of her.
I was still well enough to sort her time sheets and keep records, even having monthly 1-1 meetings to check how things were going. There were no issues unless she was sick, then we were stuck as we couldn’t cover her. On the odd day, friends would help as I got better at asking for help. Sadly we parted ways after a long period of sick leave we couldn’t cover.
When she left I tried a standard agency recommended by the care liaison team but I couldn’t cope with the plethora of different carers. They’d turn up at different times every day and I was finding it very confusing. I was losing my patience when a friend found a card advertising a local home help business – www.handsthathelp.co.uk in the village shop.
Sue who runs the business visited us and explained that she matched self-employed, DBS checked staff with clients. They covered any absences so she’d also be able to provide consistency. She was very kind and worked with me to tailor the care to my needs which as they are non-medical (I don’t need to be washed or hoisted), she could provide my care.
Carers: Finding Your Perfect Match
It’s tricky getting the right Carers for a young(ish) mum as carer companies are normally used to assist elderly clients. There have been a few mismatches where the ladies didn’t really get me and/or my needs. I guess my slightly weird (I said slightly) sense of humour and the quirks of my rare disease that no one has heard of, can be tricky to understand.
That doesn’t faze Sue though. Over the last 4 1/2 years she’s made me dozens of smoothies and sorted my meds so many times when covering, that she can show newbies round without thinking. We’ve built a great relationship with her as she’s always there to listen to me jibber jabber or work through any challenges that arise,
Anyway, when Sue set me up with a lovely gentle lady, let’s call her H, over a year ago; I knew it would work immediately. She has a calm and gentle manner and a kind face (a necessity for me). I found the cheekier side of her personality so we always have a giggle if I’m well enough! Mostly I love that her priority is to always makes sure I’m okay.
H knows what my needs are and let’s me have a chat whilst she potters, before telling me to drink my tea before it gets cold. She can be quite bossy about this 😉. H is so good at getting everything done and just gets on with the regular jobs. I don’t have to think about anything (always good] apart from ingredients for my lunchtime smoothie or family meals.
Last year, I needed someone new to take on the other days so Sue introduced me to S. I instantly understood that she was a complete loop and loved it. We giggle our way through most days but she isn’t afraid to tell me off if needed – there’s a theme! She’s straight up and openly weird so she fits right in! Joel says all my friends are a bit weird – sorry lovelies!
S is clumsy but doesn’t even have to try to cause mayhem. She’ll never live down the day we went for coffee. She managed to find the only cobbles, parked right next to scaffolding, nearly tipped me down the curb and we made a hoo-hah at the cafe that was closed but looked open. We were in fits by the time we got back to the car and drove to another cafe!
S and H are the Perfect Carers for me, they get my sense of humour and always leave with a smile on their face even if they don’t arrive with one. That makes me really happy and I don’t think they know how much this means to me! Sue knows my needs so well and is great at sorting cover if someone is ill, always making sure I get lunch and clean clothes!
I’m very grateful to get the funding to have these wonderful Carers/friends in my life. They know I need a chat and a giggle whatever my pain levels, as I’ve got to live my life still. They know me so well, that I fight through the pain, but they know when to tell me to stop. With compromise in mind, I do know when to listen and preserve my energy for being mum.
All three ladies and some others that have moved on, have been the perfect match for me. Yes I’ve needed to compromise my expectations and learn to prioritise about what matters in the bigger picture. I’ve found what I didn’t even know I needed in these lovely ladies and they’ve become a huge part of my life and sanity and a quirky addition to our family.
The Courage Needed and Compromises Made
Courage -the ability to do something that frightens one; bravery or strength in the face of pain or grief.
Compromise – a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles etc.
When I realised our little McKee bubble was near bursting point I had to take a great leap of faith… Facing the frightening prospect that this was our life for the near future, meant we needed to accept help! When I was brave enough to face up to this fact, the offers of help from friends, family and our community was humbling.
In every act of asking for help I’ve had to make some kind of compromise; usually with the differences between my head and my heart. Logically I knew that we needed the support but as a perfectionist, it’s so hard to pass power to someone else; knowing that no one else will do it your way. I’ve learnt so much about myself through this, even when it’s tough!
For me the hardest part of accepting help in a long term situation is grieving for the way you do things and relinquishing control. It comes with waves of relief but a nagging doubt that it isn’t the right thing to do. However hard it is to let someone else sort your wardrobe or take charge of your medication etc. it’s right for you and your family
Who knew that the day I was visited by my first social worker that I’d be saying any of this. My denial of my need for care took a while to ease but as soon as I understood that having the help alleviates the pressure on all four of us, the compromises were worth it. We’ve gained so much by letting others help us get through this.
So this is my opportunity to thank all of our friends and family for everything they’ve done to help us over the past 5 and a half years. Of course we couldn’t have managed without the care I’ve received from the pros so I can’t forget to share my gratitude for everyone who’s cleaned our loos, swept the floor and fed the cat on their way.
Yes, accepting help meant I didn’t spend as much time with the boys when another mum picked them up from school and that the kids shirts don’t get washed in time for ironing day every week. I hate not being able to make my own lunch and the not choosing my own knickers thing is just weird; but in the end it means that I’m able to be the best mum I can!
So we appreciate every kind word, every helping hand and every ounce of your belief in us. I cannot express how much it means that we get the help we do to give Joel a bit of a break and the kids one less thing to do. That help that allows me to conserve my energy and means that we get more time for fun stuff and more opportunities to spend time together.
So I’ll be sending positive energies when the social worker visits in September so that she understands that despite some improvements through surgery, I’m still in constant pain however much I try and hide it. But my main reason for writing this post was to let other chronic illness warriors know to take the hand that offers you help! – just do it!
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