Just a little bit of help now…
My amazing Nan was 95 and a half when she died in 2019. She was a bit under 5 foot tall, lived in the same little house for over 60 years, knew every neighbour in her street and was fiercely independent. All her family lived an hour away or more. She hated the thought of care or indeed anyone having to help her do anything. I know she is not alone in that, in fact I don’t know many people who actually aspire to be supported or even cared for.
A couple of years before she died she started to struggle to cook a full meal or indulge in her love of baking. After an unsuccessful dabble with that well-known brand of delivered ready meals, frozen batch cooked meals, take away delivery and neighbours supplying pies became the norm. The house, in the past pristine and smelling faintly of her beloved Domestos, started to look a little unkempt and my Nan’s eyesight meant she didn’t always see what we all knew would appal her.
We worried but knew she was a long way from needing (or being eligible) for ‘care’. By care we meant someone in a uniform calling to help with a bath or perhaps a move to a care home. (Without any prompting Nan would say she would ‘take tablets before you put me in one of those places’). So what to do.
We decided to have the talk – no fun I can tell you! We spoke about her fear of care and of hospitals and developed a mantra of ‘have a little bit of help now…and avoid the kind of help you dread’. She conceded to a cleaner, a couple of hours a week, as long as she had control.
We found Sally, a self-employed cleaner whose clients were nearly all like my Nan. Sally, it turned out was not the best cleaner, either that or my Nan decided, in her management role that cleaning was not a priority. But, and this is crucial, she did offer exactly the help that was needed. Sally drove my Nan to the bank, helped her pack a suitcase for holidays, kept an eye on mouldering cheese, was a shout away whilst Nan showered, cleaned up discreetly after accidents and was always at the end of the phone. Sally, combined with helpful neighbours and attentive family, meant my Nan could stay at home, living her best life until the end.
I suppose the type of arrangement made for my Nan would be pigeonholed ‘prevention’ or ‘community support’ by the siloed world of social care. A world in which the need for ‘personal care’ determines everything and where short-term tasks not long term lives hold sway.
Here at Community Catalysts, we are proud to know and support lots and lots of Sallys. People who understand that asking for help is hard, flexibility and responsiveness are everything and relationships and trust are key. The Sallys we know may not be regulated as care providers but they are highly skilled, they may not offer personal care but they deserve much much more than a dismissive label of ‘prevention’.
We know too that ‘a little bit of help’ might be all that is ever needed. So, for my Nan and all the people like her we nurture splendid Sallys in every way we can. We also do our best to help people, their families and public sector decision makers to see that personal care is not the be all and end all and that the best time to get some help might well be now.
To find a ‘Sally’ in your area have a look at our Small Good Stuff website
By Angela Catley – Director of Development
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