Saturday, 27 April 2013

Living with a Rare Chromosome Disorder: A Life Transformed

Well....Chrissy's clinicians have deemed her ready for discharge now, just as I was beginning to wonder whether I was kidding myself to think that her behaviour and epilepsy would ever be stable again.

Since the last meds change several weeks ago, every day has been a sunshine day. We're almost at the optimum therapeutic dose of Zonisamide, at which point the stop-gap antiepileptic, Clobazam, will gradually be withdrawn.

It's heartwarming to see 'no seizures' and 'no challenging behaviours' recorded each day in Chrissy's ward/home report. The episodes of inconsolable distress have vanished. Music from her Ipad makes her dance in her chair and her cheeky chuckles ring out around the house. I took the photo above when we were sitting in my car and she had just reached across to stroke my arm lovingly. Simple gestures like that mean the world to me as Chrissy doesn't often instigate affection.

She is having a great time exploring the new ipad she got for her 29th birthday, doing puzzles, building snowmen and causing mayhem in her virtual home. At first she used different fingers and even changed hands to manipulate objects around the screen - but she's learning fast. She has relatively good manual dexterity and loves anything to do with computers.

On our morning walk to the village shop, Chrissy pointed out sights that interested her, including a metal arch over someone’s gate. 'Rainbow!' she cooed, then stood admiring it for a while. I was enchanted.

Chrissy admiring the 'rainbow'
Chrissy still struggles with transitions and needs all our attention but she's content and responsive, which makes our job much more rewarding. She wants to be out there living her life now. The unit do their best, and do take her out, but not as often as she would like. This morning when I asked her to take her medication, she replied: 'When the night staff come!' It's definitely time for her to move on but we've had to involve solicitors to focus commissioners' minds as things were dragging on. This has been the case with each of Chrissy's major transitions over the past few years. Legal aid cuts are brutal but, in this instance, Chrissy's solicitors were able to demonstrate that we had exhausted every other avenue and only turned to them as a last resort. She will, however, have to pay a contribution.

Chrissy's housing options are still unclear but we are finding a way through the maze. One of the biggest barriers we faced was accessing social housing. I was advised to bid on local homes by Chrissy's commissioners but after several bizarre 'admin errors,' a housing officer said that Chrissy wasn't 'well-placed' for general purpose social housing as she was 'unlikely to be thrown out onto the street.' If someone without a learning disability is at the point of discharge from hospital they would be moved to a priority banding..... The very few adapted properties that I've seen on the website are for the elderly only and, although Chrissy moves slowly and cautiously, she doesn't need adaptations for limited mobility. I then learned that there was a supported living panel at our local CC, which we had not been told about. Our local council's policy documents state that social housing for vulnerable adults and those with a learning disability are their priority. This hasn't been our experience and we've put in a Freedom of Information request to identify how many people with a learning disability have been offered social housing in the CC's area over the past year.

We've also made a mortgage application on Chrissy's behalf, which would be paid for from her benefits, and we're still exploring shared ownership schemes through registered social landlords. I had been left to deal with all this confusing information but now I've had enough and forward emails to the commissioners to deal with.

Chrissy finally has a social worker! Perhaps the long-awaited community care assessment will be done now. She must surely benefit from Social Services and NHS commissioners working together but why has it taken so long when the planning process has already taken place?

So, I'm still fighting to get Chrissy an appropriate care and housing package in the community, but the sting has gone out of it because she is so settled and content. This stability was only achieved by her spending time in an assessment and treatment unit and, in our view, the Government's knee-jerk reaction after Winterbourne to close down such units is misguided and dangerous. There's no doubt that big changes needed to be made, not least for assessment and treatment units to live up to their name - to assess and treat their patients - but we have much to thank Chrissy's unit for. They've brought her back to us.

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  1. Social Housing can be a joke. My daughter was told by GHA (the big HA in Glasgow) that because she did not have addiction issues or was on benefits, she was highly unlikely to get a property with the. So much for working hard at school, then college university to get your degree and having part time jobs to try and keep yourself going and not cadge off mum and dad or the state!.
    She did eventually - just in the past few weeks - get a place with a small HA, but we're not too happy because there have been issues with the central heating system and since there is no heating or hot water, she hasn't moved in yet .
    Social Housing should be seen as a priority for many people - just as well our children have parents who are prepared to help them

    1. Thanks for sharing Julie. I do worry about vulnerable adults that don't have anyone to fight for them.That's why we must keep speaking out. I hope your daughter gets to move into her new home soon & is very happy there.