The Simon Heng Column – 9 November

Housebound is a word that’s out of fashion; it brings up images of someone who is too frail, too ill or too frightened to leave their home. It implies that the person who is housebound is trapped against their will by their circumstances, with little hope of release – in fact, with little hope at all. It’s a negative word, and I can understand why social care professionals try to avoid it.

But housebound is how I’ve been feeling for the past week. Half of my care team has been ill and, although I found replacements, they have been unfamiliar with the daily routine that keeps me healthy and physically comfortable. It has taken much of my time each day to explain to each new person how everything needs to be done.

The disruption, along with an illness which has left me tired and dizzy, has meant that I have been stuck at home for the first time in years.

The experience has put me back in touch with the way that many people live, with mental illness, degenerative conditions or frailty through old age.

It has reminded me of the feelings which are too common for people permanently trapped in their own homes: the sense of isolation, the (unrealistic) feeling that everyone else is having a good time; the sense of frustration of being unable to do something as simple – and as everyday – as visiting the local shops or the pub.

For me, all of this will pass quickly. My personal assistants will come back to work, and I’ll feel better soon – with luck. I will be able to pick up the threads of a reasonably active life, with interesting things to do, interesting people to meet, and goals to aim for. But I’ll not forget that there are many people who don’t have the energy, physical or mental, to break out of their prisons.

And I’ll try to do something with the realisation that many people are trapped in these circumstances simply because they don’t have the right kind of assistance.


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