Tag Archives: carers

The Courage and Compromise in Accepting You Need Help

A street with a blue house and many sash windows. One has a metal sign hanging out above a street level window. The sign reads HELP. The image says ‘The Courage and Compromise in Accepting You Need Help.’

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.

A selfie of Joel, Myself and our boys round the table in a coffee shop. I’m wearing red sunglasses and you can only see mine and Joel's face. Youngest is warring a black graphic T-shirt and Eldest is wearing a blue galaxy scene hoodie.
The McKees – We’re able to do things together because of the help we get.

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.

Orange read background for a quote that says. “You May encounter many defeats but you must not be defeated” Maya Angelou
I had to come to terms with the fact that although I needed help, I wasn’t defeated!

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.

A woman with long blond hair, I’m a white shirt, holding her hands on her temples as she looks at the camera with a sad, painful look on her face.
COMPROMISE or MISUNDERSTANDING?
Photo by NastyaSensei Sens on Pexels.com

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 found an agency that could tailor to my needs which as they are non-medical (I don’t need to be washed or hoisted)

Two Hands in a handshake pose, A woman with manicured nails holding hands with someone else.
Accepting the help that’s offered.

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.

Anyway a lovely gentle lady, let’s call her H, started just 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 S came into the picture. 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!

A person with long red, ginger hair pulled over their face with a pair of Black Rayban Sunglasses on so it looks silly,
This is because S called me Cousin It the other day as I ended up a bit like this doing my hair! Thankfully she helped me out!
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

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!

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.

Both 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.

Two people are holding hands with one lady holding a black, young person’s hand as though reassuring them. This is surrounded by a blue border with the Title at the top saying ‘The Courage and Compromise in Accepting You Need Help’. By Laura McKee Strength of Tears

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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5 Secrets for a Strong Relationship with Teenage Carers

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5 Secrets for a Strong Relationship with Teenage Carers

Young Carers

According to the ONS (Office for National Statistics), there are 149,000 young carers aged between 15 and 19 – about twice as many as in the 10-to-14 age range. [There are about 23,000 children under 9 who are carers].

There are about 50,000 Young Carers looking after someone with a Mental Health Condition in the UK. There are thought to be 3 in 5 Carers who have depression themselves, due to their role.

I aim to share the secrets that have guided our journey. They’re intended for younger families, caring for any family member, but are aimed at those with a teenage/young carer. I’m even sharing some free printables for you at the end of this post.

This advice is based on my experienced teacher viewpoint, but mostly that of a bed bound mum of 2 teenagers, who happen to be my Carers. It’s been tough, but we’re stronger than ever, as a family and individually, because we’ve worked at it!

My family

As the teen years approached our family, I feared the worst; especially as I was now chronically ill with a debilitating brain disease. How wrong could I be? I absolutely love it. We’ve just adapted our parenting style by listening and responding to each other.

With strong foundations, that Joel and I had worked hard to build together, it wasn’t hard to tweak our interactions. As our boys grow into young men, at 13 and 15 and 6ft+, we’ve found we actually enjoy spending time together – I know, crazy right?

I’m incredibly proud of both of them for all that they achieve. Their teachers recognise their awesomeness and they amaze me with what they achieve, both in and out of school. That they’re able to do so well, with so much else to deal with, is exceptional.

But I’m not delusional! I know not everyone has this and our life isn’t perfect either (erm – teenagers and brain disease involved). However, we’re a happy and loving family with amazing relationships. They are my motivation to keep positive every day!

If you want to find out more, read My story so far

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The McKee’s mucking about Christmas 2018

Parenting Styles

The secrets I want to share with you can be implemented into your family with just a little work. We are have our own parenting styles and there’s no right way. So it’s normal to go through phases of feeling like we’ve sussed it and others like we’ve fluffed it!

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So even if you’re a nailed it with some to spare parent; a doing your best, fair and square parent; a making a mess, laid out bare parent; a higgledy piggledy, up in the air parent; a tearing out your hair parent or a feeling guilty you’re not there parent, these secrets could work for you.

 

What Does Caring Involve For Me

I have a PA (carer) every weekday lunchtime, from an agency providing consistent care. These are some of the things I need help with:

  • Waking up after sleeping all morning,
  • Make me lunch, normally a smoothie as nausea stops me enjoying food
  • Making sure I have accessible water
  • Helping me to get dressed as needed and getting out my clothes each day
  • Picking anything up I drop as I can’t bend down
  • Do chores I can’t such as laundry, emptying bins and making beds
  • Preparing meals or freezing food for another day
  • Organising my medications
  • Enabling me to be more involved with the boys e.g. supporting us bake cakes
  • If I’m well enough taking us out for a cuppa or to the shops

I have a great relationship with my carers and we always have a giggle. I need laughter in my day and they bring it! They’re also always there to listen.

The Impact Caring Can Have

Being a young carer can have a big impact on the things that are important to growing up

  • It can affect a young person’s health, social life and self-confidence.
  • Many young carers struggle to juggle their education and caring which can cause pressure and stress.
  • In a survey, 39% said that nobody in their school was aware of their caring role.
  • 26% have been bullied at school because of their caring role.
  • 1 in 20 miss school because of their caring role.
But young people can learn lots of useful skills by being a young carer.

Carers Trust – Young Carers

When we realised what life was going to be like, Joel and I didn’t want the boys lives overshadowed by caring. We’re lucky enough to have PAs, so the boys don’t miss school, but it can be hard to make school aware of everything they carry with them.

Worry and anxiety have affected their mental well-being and both boys have had to learn how to cope with complex feelings. Life as a young carer is tough as we can see in these quotes.

Carers UK’s annual survey (2015) with over 5,000 carers across the UK revealed that 84% of carers feel more stressed, 78% feel more anxious and 55% reported that they suffered from depression as a result of their caring role, which was higher than findings in 2014.3

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 I’ll discuss how we manage teenage mental health in my 5 secrets below.

Being My Carer Every Day

The boys bring me breakfast and dinner make sure I have water and snacks every day. They know how to support me physically and sort anything Clumsy McClumsypants here drops or spills; like the glass of water in (yes IN) my bedside table this morning.

They need to know what to do if I press my life line and what to say to the Lifeline care team. They’d have to stop playing Xbox and may need to support or help me up if I fell. They may need to help calm me down if I was having a panic attack.

The boys have had to get used to another new cleaner being in their personal space and form bonds with my PAs. They’ve been carers for 4 years now, so are used to it, but there’s still restrictions, such as having to be quiet each morning while I sleep.

They told me the other day that their friends have to do more chores than them. My response was to ask if their friends have to make sure the house is secure and answer a doorbell every time theory mum drops something. I said I was clumsy, didn’t I?

Building a Team

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How many kids would go to their parent and tell them they don’t do as many chores as their mates? This is just one example of how we’ve worked hard to build a family dynamic based on trust, honesty, empathy and care.

We’ve all had to learn coping skills and adapt as time goes on. The stress shows at home mostly, so it’s been important to use the same strategies around their behaviour. This has led to the strong relationship we have now.

As they’ve grown up and I’ve become a little bit more stable and aware, we’ve trusted them with more responsibility. We’ve just managed two nights with Joel went away for work. My Dad (who’s always stayed before) was just down the road if needed.

They wanted to cook tea unsupervised and probably not the tidying up afterward. They have to put the hens to bed, safely away from any foxy loxies and check Jasper Cat is in for the night. I had to be trust they would put the house to bed securely too.

They amazed me with how they coped with all this responsibility. There was no time to think about having house parties or sneaking out the house to meet up with a friend! (not that we’d know anything about ever doing that).

The way Joel and I choose to do this at the beginning, has shaped how we’ve handled the cards we’ve been dealt. Everyone chooses their own path, so I’m not making any comparisons. this is just my experience. Everyone’s path is unique, so follow yours.

But use my 5 secrets to help steer you. Firstly I just need to make it clear that we sought medical advice and were referred to social services for care and support. I’m not a health Care professional, so please ask for help if you need it.

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5 Secrets for a Strong Relationship with Young Carers

  1. Asking for help is the first step. Talk to your GP.  Talk to school. Ask your kids how they’d like the help. You might need family therapy so do try it, if offered. If support given is not right for you, ask for an alternative. The skills we learnt, recognised and have since reinforced; have shaped our family’s daily lives. We learnt how to talk about our feelings, whilst being respectful. and to speak honestly, without breaking trust. I recommend organising a named teacher or pastoral care and make sure to keep them in the loop. This is individual to your needs, but be prepared to fight for this, as support is in high demand. Mental well-being for you all is key.
  2. Let them be angry with the illness. Structure ways for your children to release this, safely. Help them understand that it’s the illness that’s changed everything. The whole family will grieve for life before chronic illness, so explore ways to cope with that. We used diaries, art therapy, music and a good old shout and swear session (oooh, controversial). We’ve found that music is a lifeline for every carer in the family. Being able to lose yourself in a distraction is a lifeline for carers and you!
  3. Develop open dialogue with the Young Carers in your life and find ways that allow them to discuss what they’re feeling and experiencing without fear of backlash. The silver lining of being a bed bound mum, is having time for my boys to talk to me about their day or about something worrying them as soon as they get home.
  4. Find time for everyone to set one goal at the start of each day. You could introduce Affirmations to reinforce positive thinking. See the end of the post for more details and free printables, available til 31st March 2019. Set a time to discuss at least 1 positive from their day. Create a regular time to air issues and reinforce positives.
  5. Give yourself rewards! A really important part of feeling able to succeed, is by rewarding positive language and behaviour. The rewards can be for anything, big or small. Rewards can be verbal praise, but making time for a family reward is important to reinforce positive thinking. For example, you could go out for lunch, bake a cake together or watch a movie in bed. Let them choose most of the time, but it has to be agreed by everyone. The point is to reward the whole family regularly.

To adapt these for younger children

  1. Involve school as soon as possible, both the class teacher and headteacher should know. School may offer extra support, which can be invaluable. Play and Art therapy is in short supply, so if you’re concerned speak to your GP!
  2. Talk to them about what’s happening in a way they’ll understand. Help them express their feelings using puppets, library books and roleplay (Drs/patient).
  3. Tell them why you’re going to hospital/in pain etc. They may know more than you expect, so let them lead. My rule is that if they’re asking about it, then they’re ready for answers. Just be prepared for a ‘why, but why’ session!
  4. Ask them what they want to do that day on the way to school, you may even find out more than asking at the end of the day! Start a positives jar by everyone writing (for them if needed) ONE positive from their day. Set a regular time, to open the jar and read some. My favourite pulling out ‘cuddling with my Mummy’ on a bad day.
  5. Make time for rewards, they don’t have to cost anything, just do things as a family.

A last word and some links!

I want to help others have positive experiences, even on tough days. So I’m sharing these secrets for you. Families are unique, though, so there’s no one size fits all. Take what you want from my 5 secrets, but remember these things are key:

Ask for help! Young Carers may have to do more at home than their friends, so schools should provide support and make allowances.

Make sure everyone truly understands and enable your kids to express how they feel. Create a safe environment and look out for signs that you may need to step in.

A great team relies on good communication which is honest, loyal and respectful, so be a good role model. Recognise small wins! Celebrate at least one good thing from your day.

If the life you want for your family seems a long way off or you’d like some reassurance you’re doing okay, then I hope this post has helped. Please ask me questions in the comments and tell me how you make life positive for young carers and your family.

Resources 

Carers Trust -Support for Young Carers

Young Minds – Looking After Yourself aa a Young Carer

NHS – Young Carers Rights

Carer Gateway – Advice for Parents & Teachers of Young Carers

Carers UK – Hidden Depression

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Life as a bed-bound workaholic. #chronicillness

Stopping work due to ill health usually leads to a feeling of loss and purpose. For workaholics, giving up a career just adds to the grief of a previous life. If you’re also mostly bed bound; it’s almost impossible to give in.

On being a workaholic 

Design

I’d wanted to teach from age 5 and I loved it from the moment I stepped in the classroom. I was a workaholic, working nights and weekends, to try to make a difference.

Teaching is so much more than a job, you never stop thinking about some aspect and with you take on many roles.

Design

When I had my boys I worked part time, but was still working a 40-50 hour week. A workaholic is compelled to keep working and creates a life that’s out of balance. Read more here. Being a mum always came first, but I always felt the need to be doing something. Just a workaholic in another role; feeling like I couldn’t do either role justice. In hindsight; I know I gave both roles everything I could.

Becoming Bed-Bound

If you’ve read my story, you’ll know I had to stop teaching when I became ill. When we came to the mutual decision that I should be medically dismissed, I knew it was best for everyone. However, I struggled with the reality of having to bow out, from my bed, with no farewell, after the 14+ years I’d dedicated to my profession. I still wish I’d done more, but I’m proud of all that I achieved and that I had some influence on so many little lives.

We realised that becoming bedbound had a silver lining. I could now just enjoy the most important job I had and put everything I could into motherhood, without throwing life out of balance! We love that I’m more present and less stressed. Now I love hearing the key in the lock, anticipating my boys coming to see me.

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However, as a workaholic, even a bed-bound one with brain disease, I still needed to be DOING something. So I began making jewellery and soon discovered Conscious Crafties Marketplace The site was set up to give those with chronic illness, disabilites or their carers a sense of purpose again. You’ll find this statement on the site’s homepage.

‘A community of talented artists and crafters who are living a purposeful life by changing the way humanity perceives those living with Chronic Illness, Disabilities or Carers of those affected’

This amazing community has helped me connect with others who understand what we’re going through. I’ve made many true friends and am living a purposeful life. But, I’m a busy minded person and so volunteered to help Karen (the founder) run the site. Everyone tells me I do too much, but I thrive on helping others and love organising things. But I was juggling all of this and more, from bed, and it was beginning to impact on our family time, so something had to change!

Breaking Free

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Making the best of family time

I needed to break some of the bad habits I’ve developed over years of being a workaholic. But I have the best motivation; to bring balance in to my life. I’ve looked at my behaviour patterns and found I was spending far too much time on social media. I’m now slowly re-training my brain to know that it’s okay to rest!

Josie from Worry Free told me that ‘My JOB is to heal. By giving me a role/job of healing and rest, I have that all important role we crave and am now a resting workaholic! Such a simple idea, but so effective; I’m already breaking bad habits,  doing less and achieving more. Ultimately I’ll have more quality time to spend with my family.

 

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Normals illness vs Chronic illness. What happens when Carers get ill?

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Continue reading Normals illness vs Chronic illness. What happens when Carers get ill?