What care looks like

By Helen Jones

Note: For ease, I’m going to use carer to cover any kind of care support but I’m aware people have their preferred terminology such as PA, or Personal Assistant.

If you look at how care is talked about in the media, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was all about pop-in calls for older people who need help making a cuppa or popping to the loo, or support living in a care home.

The images that appear in news articles about care are almost inevitably a young, white woman supporting an older person to walk, or perhaps that young, white woman is holding the older person’s hands in a caring sort of way. The carer is probably wearing a uniform.

While this kind of care is important, the media focus on it means it’s often the only type of care that people think of. And it creates a narrative that erases the many disabled adults who have care.

The recent government announcement about reforming adult social care means we have had a lot of this single narrative coverage, despite working age disabled adults receiving almost half of adult social care expenditure (Kings Fund).

For many working age disabled people, care involves so much more and often doesn’t involve uniforms! Of course, it varies a lot from person to person but it may include support to help someone work. Whether that’s supporting them in the workplace, or helping them get ready for work, it can be a crucial part of enabling disabled people to work.

It can be getting someone out of bed, administering medication or support to eat and drink. These are essential to living, however good care empowers people to do much more than just exist.

There are many different reasons why someone might receive care support. They may need physical assistance, have mental health illnesses or learning disabilities and this will shape the nature of their care. If someone is unable to cross the road safely, or navigate their environment, they may need help going out. Or someone who is visually impaired may need support with written information or banking.

For any and every task that non-disabled people can do, a disabled person somewhere will need support to do that. This could be wrapping gifts, filling a bird feeder, taking meter readings or replacing batteries. It can even be helping us pay for things in shops. Disability can affect any part of the body or mind, so seemingly simple tasks like opening a bottle of milk or speaking to the bank on the phone can become very difficult.

Disabled people, like everyone else, want to go out to restaurants, go on holiday and meet up with friends and family. We want to go shopping, to gigs and enjoy our hobbies, all of which carers support us with. It might be doing art in the woods, gardening or kayaking.

Some of the seemingly more unusual things that carers and personal assistants help with include supporting someone on a date, getting a urine sample and mending dog toys. Like everyone else, disabled people want to go on dates, need medical tests and when the dog’s favourite toy has a rip… it needs stitching up! If someone needs support to eat or drink, then a carer can do this while someone is on a date. Or perhaps a carer is needed to guide someone to the date or assist with communication. Disabled people have medical appointments: sometimes this can be many more appointments that a non-disabled person and if physical exams are required, a carer often knows the best and safest way to support their client. Equally, they are often best placed to know the best and safest way to help their client move around in many situations, from the hospital bed to the swimming pool!

In essence, the takeaway message is that many people need care, for many reasons, and it is far more than hand-holding and cups of tea! At least, good care, that meets the needs of disabled people, should be.

 Helen Jones is a writer and activist based in York.

Image: License: Creative Commons 3 – CC BY-SA 3.0. Attribution: Alpha Stock Images – http://alphastockimages.com/ Original Author: Nick Youngson – link to – http://www.nyphotographic.com/Original Image: https://www.picpedia.org/highway-signs/d/disabled.html

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