Caring for her parents, Jennifer Harvey finds that it is her turn to be overwhelmed by visits from social care professionals

I have had to contact a lot of people lately: two social workers, a psychiatrist, a gastroenterologist, a GP, several nurses, an audiologist, two benefits advisers and three carers.

It is a role I’ve only taken on recently to help my parents, and I don’t pretend to be a full-time carer, so I have great respect for people who have been doing it for years with little or no respite. If anyone knows the collective noun for lots of caring professionals, that’s what it’s taking to get any results. It seems that everyone has their own assessment to do.

After three and a half years of trying, my mum obtained some drugs for her Alzheimer’s. My parents now have a flashing doorbell and an extra loud phone, but are still awaiting special smoke alarms that vibrate to wake you. These gadgets are necessary as dad is very deaf and mum has substantial hearing loss. Her Alzheimer’s means she is suspicious of new things. She won’t use the new phone, preferring the old one, although she can’t hear on it.

The benefits man was helpful, but when he came to their house to make me appointee (as neither of my parents can deal with forms and phone calls), a degree of subterfuge went on, as my mum won’t accept that there’s anything wrong with her, so why should she be claiming attendance allowance? In reality, mum can’t be left on her own for more than an hour or two.

She is of a generation that has known real poverty, and often harks back to her childhood in the 1930s, the hunger marches and her dad going off to fight in the Spanish Civil War. She will, if pressed, agree that she has worked all her life and paid taxes, so she should now have what she is entitled to. Like many older people she is almost ashamed to be claiming what is hers, when she now has a comfortable home and plenty to eat.

As a day services co-ordinator for people with learning difficulties, I sympathise with service users and carers who are sometimes overwhelmed by visits from social workers, community nurses, support workers, welfare rights officers, speech and language therapists, physiotherapists, GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists and so on. To anybody who’s ever pretended to be out when I visit – I now understand.

Jennifer Harvey is a day services co-ordinator working with people with learning difficulties

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