A wonderful mum

Anne Nevin 20/7/1940-18/11/2022

My mum died just over a week ago. If you note the date of my mum’s death, you may well think, ‘how come you wrote two comedy blogs since then?’ Humour is how I process sadness and loss. You will see that through all my blogs.

My mum has had Alzheimer’s for several years, a cruel disease. In many ways, I lost her a while back. Last time I was able to physically see her (not just on a video call) she did not even know who I was.

Her death came within a few days, caused by sepsis. Rushed into hospital too late to save her. She was living in a nursing home in Norfolk at the end of her life, near one of my brothers. He and my two sisters were with her during her last days.

It is times like this that the frustration of my own illness/disability really hurt. The moment I heard mum had been blue-lighted to hospital, my heart was to travel to her. My siblings rushed to her side. I watched from afar. It is not even possible for me to make it to the funeral.

Disability in itself does not prevent travel; it’s just harder. Add illness on top and all sorts of things are prevented. It is the combination of the two that prevent my travel.

If one good thing has come from covid it is the introduction of Zoom services at crematoriums. I will be able to be part of it remotely. I can also send a recorded message about mum.

Grief is an odd thing, I have not been in floods of tears. But I have felt flattened by the loss of my mum. It is as if my world has been knocked off course. The light is a bit dimmer. Things less sure and certain.

I know that my mum is in heaven, partying it up with Jesus. The reason I am sad, is that I miss her and must say goodbye for now.

Goodbye mum

Accessible Housing Item on ITV

If you watch the video on the article (near the bottom). I am the good news part of the story. You will have the inexorable (wow, that’s a big word) pleasure of seeing me on national TV. I was shocked to see my head fill the screen. No jokes about being a big head.

Now that I have been seen once on national TV, does that qualify me as a celebrity? The bar seems very low at the moment. You only seem to need to have appeared once on a reality show to be a celebrity. So, just wondering…

But to be serious. This news item is about a very real problem. The lack of accessible accommodation for many thousands of disabled people. Before we were fortunate enough to be left an inheritance. Then make the difficult choice to leave family and friends and move hundreds of miles north. We had been waiting years for a suitable property.

https://www.itv.com/news/2022-10-21/lack-of-wheelchair-accessible-housing-forces-man-to-live-in-parents-shed

How to get help?

Something that comes up time and again is how to get help with long term illness/disability. I want to try and answer the following questions. What to do after:

  1. You are taken ill that leads to long term limitations.
  2. You have an accident that leads to long term illness.
  3. You have a relative who is limited long term to their house.
  4. Gradually a condition you or a family member has deteriorates. Leaving you or them more limited long-term.

In all these situations where do you turn for help?

We tend to think that the medical profession are the answer to medical questions. In theory, they should direct you to the right place. In my experience, that doesn’t always happen. This blog is not perfect, I cannot accept responsibility for your care needs. This is only a rough pointer. But I hope it may help direct you to help. It only applies to England and is only for over 18-year-olds (adults)

Who you gonna call?

In England and that is all I know about. You contact your local Adult Social Services. Look online or in the directory, it may be listed as: ‘Child and Adult Services.’ If so, look for the section dealing with adults. There will be a hub or central number of some sort. Get through to the main number and say something like this:

I would like a care assessment for (name of person needing care)

If someone is providing care long term (i.e. family member) then request it for them too.

Explain basic details of why the assessment is needed. This phone call is not where you give every detail.

What happens next?

They should send out, at the very least, a social worker. I know, we all think of social workers as the people sent out in socially deprived areas or to kids being abused. But, they also have a role supporting adults needing care. They are your first point of contact in this situation.

Let me just make a quick aside here: If you have a medical emergency phone 999. If you have a medical need contact your GP. This blog is only talking about ongoing care needs after a medical professional has dealt with your acute needs.

Depending on your level of need. You should also get other people sent out. I would think at the least an OT (occupational therapist) nothing to do with work. They look at moving and handling. It is the OT who looks at things like specialist equipment to help you manage around the home. In some areas that includes profiling beds. They will be the one to check your home is safe and suitable. So, if you are living somewhere that is no longer suitable. The OT is the person who can assess that for you. Unfortunately moving somewhere more  suitable is not so easy.

If your needs are mainly medical, highly complex and variable. Then the social worker should look at a CHC (continuing healthcare) assessment. You can request this if you feel your needs are complex, variable and mainly medical. The local authority is really set-up to deal with less complex health care needs. You can always seek advice or request an advocate if you think that you are not getting the correct level of help.

Different areas have varying approaches in the way they deal with district nurses and physiotherapists in the community. So I cannot give you any hard and fast answers on that. Ultimately it will depend on your needs. But your start point will still be adult social care.

A note about Wheelchairs

A specialist team of OT’s and other health professionals deal with wheelchairs and that normally needs a GP referral. In most areas you would need to have virtually no mobility to get an NHS wheelchair. But if you are struggling to mobilise, ask your GP about it.

Then what?

After your various assessments, a care package (if needed and agreed) will be arranged. How costs on this work, are a whole other area. I suggest googling that specifically. Or seeking advice on that. But in essence, if you have no savings and are on benefits, you won’t pay for care. There is a sliding scale after that.

To note

Care provision in the UK at the moment is limited. Too many people needing care and too few carers. Hopefully that will improve. Some of that is due to Covid and some post-Brexit.

A Request

This is a message from a Producer at ITV News:

Hello, 

My name is Jonathan Wald, I work for ITV News and I’m looking for your help with a special report I am working on about how there is not enough accessible homes for people with disabilities.

I am looking to film and interview two people in the following 2 different kinds of situations related to insufficient accessible housing:-

1.) Someone who is in a home that is clearly, visibly inappropriate for the needs caused by their disability

2.) Someone else who is forced to remain in a hospital or nursing home because there isn’t any accessible housing available for them to move into

We would like to interview these two people in the above settings on Wednesday or Thursday next week.

The report would be broadcast on ITV’s national news the following week beginning Monday September 19th.

Please can you email me on jonathan.wald@itn.co.uk or call me on 07771947805 if you would like to take part and you think one of the above descriptions applies to me.

Many thanks

Jonathan

A Bit of Support

I have a confession to make. I have had a bit of support. No, it’s not a girdle, nor a truss. Obviously I don’t need those. I’m surprised your mind went to such things.

The support I am talking about, came from Advent Advocacy. Specifically, Joanne, I can actually give you her real name, whoopee. I feel like I should make one up, just for fun. I’ve gotten so use to having to make up names.

JoJo, sorry, Joanne has been incredible. Let me just start up my Thesaurus. Otherwise, I’m gonna get boring saying how brilliant and fantastic she is.

We needed help with a care related issue and Joanne was awesome. Glad I started up the Thesaurus. She visited us at home and after spending time getting to know us and our situation, understood what would help. She is empathetic, caring and knowledgeable. The most amazing thing is that she doesn’t even cover Hartlepool. The request for advocacy help was accidentally sent to her (not by us, I hasten to add). She saw that we had been waiting for support for weeks and stepped in to help. Going above and beyond her normal remit, is just one thing that makes her stand out.

Superwoman, oh I forgot I can use her real name. We first met Joanne at a time when we didn’t know which way was up. Having turned my wheelchair the right way up. Why do feel the need to explain that is a joke? Oh yes, because we live in an age where some people think the earth is flat.

Joanne has a way about her that cuts through the… rubbish and helped us see the issues. I will not go into the details, that isn’t the point of this blog. She transformed the situation. Her knowledge and skill were essential. But it comes with understanding, empathy and compassion. At the end of the day, you can train someone with knowledge. Only character brings the rest.

Mary and I want to wholeheartedly thank Joanne. It is a heartfelt thanks and we know that she must be a blessing to many.

A Special Thanks

‘A special thanks goes to…’

I feel like one of those award show hosts. But without the false tan, bleached teeth and the big hair. Well without much hair at all really. Let’s not talk about teeth. Back to the thanks:

‘A special thanks goes to….’

 ‘The award for the best… goes to…’

Hey, maybe I should be an awards host. I’m a natural. I can just see me up front, in a big Hollywood venue. Will they have a ramp for the wheelchair? Or would I need to present from in front of the audience, just by the orchestra pit? I know, will start off with:

‘Welcome to the 2022 awards for the best…’

Everyone will be looking around asking, ‘who’s that speaking?’

‘Where is that deep and luscious voice coming from?’

‘Is that James Earl Jones’

‘No, don’t be silly, it’s Morgan Freeman.’

Anyway, enough of the asides. I am writing this blog as a big thank you. A very big thank you. A special thanks to the two social workers from Hartlepool Borough Council, who have helped Mary and I these last few months. I would love to name them, but I am told I can’t and besides, they know who they are. Thank you El and Karla, oops, no, just made those names up.

The two of them have helped us sort out care provision at a really difficult time. They have demonstrated empathy, understanding, care and patience. I cannot praise them highly enough. Anyone who has read my blogs regularly will know that I believe people who care for people are the most valuable people in the world. Does that remind you of a Barbara Streisand song? ‘People who need people, are the…’ Totally different meaning of course. But give me the whiff of a song and I’m off.

Back to these two amazing and wonderful social workers. Along with all those who care for and help others. We had a brilliant advocate as well. Not Advocaat that’s a cream liqueur. They should be recognised as the best and paid the most. People who care for people, not cream liqueurs. Instead, we as a country and indeed, the world recognises them least. We value money, fame and entertainment over those who care for people. What an upside-down world we live in.

I know this, when an MP, banker, millionaire financier or the PM is ill. They won’t be calling on their brokers, personal assistants or advisors to care for them. However highly they pay them. They will turn to health workers, carers and those at the sharp end of care. I am pleased to say that when we have needed to do that, we have found help and support.

As I round off my awards ceremony, I repeat my special thanks to these two wonderful social workers from Hartlepool Borough Council. Well done you are brilliant people, and we really value you. Everyone who can stand, up on your feet for a rousing applause.

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Habinteg Post

Our policy work is central to our strategy to improve housing options for disabled & older people. 👉 https://lnkd.in/dCwhAQvw

As part of that work we produce evidence – like our Forecast for Accessible Homes – to influence policy & support best practice in accessible housing.

#ukhousing #property #accessiblehousing

My Article Published

Inside Housing have published my article/blog Enabled by your environment. It has triggered interest from a national newspaper. They wrote the headline.

https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/comment/comment/i-had-to-move-to-the-north-east-to-get-an-accessible-home-we-need-to-provide-more-housing-for-people-with-disabilities-76113

You can register free to read the full article.

This is an important issue

We don’t think it’s right that only one new accessible home is planned for every 15 people over 65 by 2030. That’s why we could use your support in calling on the Government to establish the accessible & adaptable standard – Building Regs M4 (Cat 2) – as the baseline for all new homes. (Although this is UK, I am sure there are issues worldwide)

Reshare if you agree & join us. →https://lnkd.in/dCK6iEN

Now on Facebook

Let no one accuse me of rushing into things. I thought it was way beyond time that I had a social media presence (I’m even using the right terms). Mind you, at the moment it is just a copy of the posts on here.

I have a dream. I’m going all visionary now. I have a dream; see. I have a dream. That one day my Facebook site will have its own content. Oh, that wasn’t very exciting. Hardly worth waiting for.

I am told, that having a Facebook site, or any social media presence is advantageous. It is more immediate, more fun and best of all, it’s easier for me to use.

I am not technically challenged. In fact, I am quite clever with mechanical and electronic things. Sorry for the boast. But, I am useless at software. I have always been better at loading operating systems than using them. As for all those apps and programmes on the OS…

Websites, don’t even get me started on websites. In the past I could create a decent one. Then they made these amazing, all singing, all dancing ones. No problem you say, they have built in help systems. They almost create themselves; yeah right. They create themselves a very basic site. Not the one I want.

How did I start out telling you about my new Facebook presence and end up moaning about web site creation? It’s a funny old world.

Check out my new group at: https://www.facebook.com/Howcaring-114666084574910

Remember, the thing about Facebook is that it tracks you. If you say anything bad about my group, I will know. I will have your name, address, inside leg measurement… I am kidding of course. It only tracks likes and dislikes.

Smiling Under Pressure

A Tribute to The Women & Men of the NHS

In January I was taken by ambulance to A&E at North Tees. This is my tribute to every woman and man I dealt with that day; it was a long day.

I had to call 999. But this isn’t about the reason for my 999 call, (I am back home and much better).

This blog is about the response and the people my wife and I met.

From the moment we pressed my emergency call button and the operator dialled 999, the whole amazing UK system kicked into action. We are far too quick to criticise and too slow to compliment. Mary and I have reason to highlight problems, but I would rather focus on what was great yesterday and with the NHS generally.

The lady who called us from the 999 operator was quick to assess the situation and send a paramedic, who arrived fast. He was a lovely man, unruffled, calm, and professional. His easy calming nature took the stress Mary and I felt down a notch.

The ambulance crew who were to take me to North Tees were just as lovely. Two ladies with a sunny disposition and helpful attitude. I have a repeated loss of muscle function, which is a rare condition. This means that I have often been left in difficult and painful positions. I must have Mary or a carer who knows about me, with me. In these Covid times, hospitals do not allow you to be accompanied unless essential. The ambulance crew assessed the need and agreed to help Mary demonstrate that need at the hospital, which they did, and Mary was allowed to stay.

On route in the ambulance, I lost muscle function, and the ambulance crew member in the back prevented my head rolling around the whole way. Even though it meant she had to travel sitting in an awkward position, she put me first. I find such things really move me, as being totally helpless in one of these ‘attacks’ I feel vulnerable and easily hurt. Mary was able to guide her from the seat next to me as to how to support my head.

At the hospital we had the most wonderful doctor, whose name meant peace, and who was a source of peace and help to us. The nurses managed to smile, laugh and be helpful, even though they were rushed off their feet. The A&E was so full they had to double up some areas. But we never felt a burden.

I do not know how they kept their sunny, bright smiling outlook during difficulties, stress, and problems. Being there for nine hours we got to hear and see a lot of changes and two different lots of staff. My admiration just grew. Our NHS is one of the most incredible, and I think often unappreciated things we have. The staff are battling on day after day, for massively long shifts. One we chatted to works 7-7. That is not a simple job, but a full on difficult, mentally, and physically taxing job.

The NHS staff are often the ones who suffer abuse from people who must wait. But it is not their fault that the NHS is underfunded. They do not choose how many staff to put on, nor the positions hospitals are built in. Nor which ones to close. It is not up to them how many ambulances there are, nor the way things are run. Yet day after day they smile and laugh and carry on. Surrounded by the dangers of Covid, the sadness of death, the anger of people let down by things outside their control. They carry on and do the most amazing thing. They are there for us. Not just at times of emergency, but in long term illness, for those illnesses that people don’t even want to talk about. They are there.

I want to say a thank you to North Tees Hospital A&E. To the local Ambulance Service and to the NHS. Thank You. You are awesome. You are appreciated. I don’t say it often enough, but I do say it often. The NHS is a brilliant organisation, staffed by wonderful people.

Please Like and Share This Blog, make sure that NHS staff see it.

So Long, Farewell

To anyone who has not seen The Sound of Music, the title of this blog will be lost on you. Let me give you a fuller part of the song:

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night
I hate to go and leave this pretty sight
So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu
Adieu, adieu, to yieu and yieu and yieu
So long, farewell, au revoir, auf wiedersehen
.

You can almost hear me singing it. What a treat. I was chatting to someone at the Creech Shed Cafe the other day. Having heard me speak online via YouTube during a Creech Baptist Church meeting, she can now hear my voice whenever she reads my blogs; poor lady. Perhaps you are with her in that, or you are now going to rush to YouTube (see below) and try and find that talk, just to hear me speak. Is that tumbleweed passing down Wellington High Street? I have been told that I have a very distinctive voice. There was somebody who used to say, “Hello Mike,” whenever I answered the phone. Perhaps I need to stop answering the phone, “Mike speaking.”

The reason for this blog, as I always have a reason, is to say goodbye to Wellington. Put those tissues away. Stop! Don’t jump off that cliff; life is still worth living. There is life after Mike. It may be a greyer and…. wait a minute, you don’t have to lose touch at all. I may be a million miles away, all the way up in the North East of England, but I will still share with you all. No, you had not got rid of me. I am still here by the wonders of social media.

We are moving to Hartlepool. I know, I also asked where it was when I was offered a job up there back in 2005. You all have no excuse; it has been in the news so much recently. But for anyone still puzzled; it’s in England. More specific than that?! OK, it is to the right of Durham and just below Newcastle. But whatever you do, don’t say that their accent is Jordy. They may sound the same to an untrained ear, but not to them.

Just like Scotland you can get your Mars bar deep fried in a chip shop there; why you would want to… The stotty buns, baps to me, are as big as dinner plates. My mum and her whole family come from the North East so it feels very cosy and warm; not literally of course, going back up there. On the subject of heat, when I first went up there in Winter 2005, I got out of the car, the North East wind slapped me round the chops and I got back in. I wouldn’t have minded so much but I hadn’t even been introduced to the wind; most rude of it.

Mind you, the local lads and lasses are obviously made of much stronger stuff than me. When I used to drive through the town centre to pick our sons up from the train station at night, we passed the Town centre clubs. All the lads and lasses were stood out in the icy winter winds in their summer wear. In fact, what they wore would be a bit chilly on a beach in Lanzarote. But they all looked happy enough.

Our new house is a beach front property. Given its location in Hartlepool, we will spend more time looking out at the impressive skies and waves. I am looking forward to writing while looking at the drama of it all. Best of all the house is accessible to start with and being made more so. We are moving from a house I can barely move in, to a home I will be able to fully access. I won’t know myself. Literally, I won’t know myself. I will see a bloke in the bathroom mirror and think; who’s that?

You may think I write for my own amusement a lot of people would miss me. Wait, I always tell people grammar is so important. Let me try that sentence again. You may think, “I write for my own amusement.” A lot of people would. Miss me? Language is so confusing. Someone on one of the disability sites said, that they were hanging around naked, instead of standing up transferring from their bed to their wheelchair. Wait bare and weight bear, confusing, eh?

So, my starting farewell, is really just a cheerio. I will be practicing extreme social distancing via my writing.

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More blogs at: howcaring.com

If you want to hear me speak, in the flesh so to speak: https://youtu.be/7tyQ-BX1lpY

(I start speaking about 53 minutes into the meeting.)

 

 

And if you must speak…

We have been practising our significant looks; this is going to be interesting to get over in writing. Have you noticed how so many people give you a look that means so much? That raised eyebrow, the lowered lip, the half-smile, both eyebrows up and mouth wide, pursed lips, sideways glance, licked lips etc. Some are really obvious, but others leave me clueless.

Greg and John on MasterChef; what you hadn’t realised we watch that? They are always giving each other very strange looks. But what do they mean? After a contestant has just shared their cooking passion, does their look mean: “No passion there.” or “Wow! I have never heard such passion.” or “Are you hungry too John?” or “Get off my toe.” or “Do I look good in this top?” Are we even meant to understand their look? Or is it just a teaser to frustrate us?

The trouble with significant looks is they can get you in trouble. I remember as a child one teacher looking at me expectant of an answer to his question? As if I should know what his look meant. What am I; a mind reader? Then, when I replied, “Are you alright?” For some inexplicable reason he considered that cheek, worthy of a trip to the headmaster. Why didn’t he just say; “Where is your homework?” That way at least my trip to the headmaster would have been justified. It wasn’t my fault that he looked at me as if he was in pain; nothing was ever my fault in my youth. Ah, those were the days.

The purpose of this blog is not to talk about my childhood or to find better excuses for lost homework; because obviously it was lost and not forgotten. I wanted to point out how much facial expressions are essential to human communication. I am sure that anyone who has looked at the profile picture I use for my ‘howcaring.com’ blog immediately realise it is an expression of shock/surprise. Mary thinks it makes me look stupid; but I am sure none of you think that? You do! I need to change it immediately. Another case of Mary being right. I have noticed that woman have an alarming tendency of often, I won’t say always, being right. I put it down to the fact that us men are far too practical and straightforward to bother with little details like getting things right all the time. For us, it is far more important to feel we are right, rather than actually being right.

There are a lot of women whose expressions I think I would fully understand at the moment; justification, long-suffering, disgust, horror, well you know what you’re feeling. Any men reading this have that shocked look on their faces; disbelief, betrayal, well hang on a second, before you jump to any conclusions. I am not saying that we men are actually wrong; we just know when it’s best to say that women are right. Now what do those facial expressions mean?

I am off course messing around, as usual. Although, no doubt, I will get some serious responses. My blogs are meant to explore ideas in a light hearted way. Are there a few raised eyebrows out there? Cross looks and pursed lips? Oh well, hopefully there are also a few smiles.

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Habinteg Essay

I didn’t win the competition, but I thought as the issues I raise are important I would share the essay as it made it to the final.

Essay Question


In 50 years’ time the nature of impairments may change significantly, and the proportion of disabled people in the population is set to increase. Taking these factors into account and retaining the social model of disability as a central approach, how should the design and construction of homes and neighbourhoods develop over the next five decades in order to be inclusive regardless of impairment.

Essay Answer


The Social model of disability says: “… that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference. Barriers can be physical, like buildings not having accessible toilets. Or they can be caused by people’s attitudes to difference, like assuming disabled people can’t do certain things” . Assuming this to be true we need to establish a working criterion for ‘disability’.


‘Disabilities’ are not all the same as this term is used to describe a multitude of impairments from complete inability of a person to function unaided by medical intervention (i.e. a ventilator) and 24/7 care; to those who appear externally to have no issues but suffer so called ‘invisible disabilities’. The needs of someone with an ‘invisible disability’ such as deafness, cannot be met in the same way as the someone who needs medical intervention and 24/7 care. Even a less dramatic comparison such as between someone who cannot walk and someone who is deaf, can be used to demonstrate the wide variety of needs and the vastly different ways that those needs must be met. Both are very limiting problems with a complex variety of issues uniquely their own, but each solved in very different ways.


For me physical impairment dominates. I cannot walk and need carers to wash and dress me. My food must be prepared for me and everything brought to me. I must have a home with ramps and wide doors. I need a ceiling track hoist and a wet room. These are a few examples of the adaptations that I need to cope with my impairment. Someone who is profoundly deaf may need a visual doorbell and text phone, perhaps a loop system if they have any hearing. These are just a few examples but obviously very different ones to my needs. Yet both would count as ‘disability’. This simple comparison shows that the term ‘disability’ cannot be used universally to describe all those of us with impairments without additional information.


Given the fact that ‘disability’ is such a wide ranging term providing one type of housing, care or provisions generally for ‘disabled’ people is like trying to provide a written pamphlet for a roomful of people from different countries all of whom speak different languages. It is an impossible task. You cannot succeed to provide all things for all ‘disabled’ people in one way. Yet as a nation we have set out plans to help ‘disabled’ people as if we were all the same. We cannot all be treated the same. There is only one common ground that I can see, we are all human beings with human needs. We need each other and the biggest lack in modern society is a lack of community. We have become isolated and boxed in. Many of the issues surrounding ‘disabled’ people are to be found in society at large and stem from that isolation.


Therefore, the first and greatest need which must be addressed in homes and neighbourhoods over the next five decades is a restoration of that sense of community. This is both a social and a physical change which will bring mental and physical health benefits to our society. It may seem to be unrelated to the question but in fact unless we deal with the issue of community, we cannot solve the problem of homes and neighbourhoods. The two are interrelated as I will endeavour to show.


We have come to believe that self-reliance and isolation are the ultimate goal for our lives. In pursuing this goal, we have, as a nation lost sight of the benefits of being alongside others. This has meant that as a society we have fallen in a black hole of care. Too many people needing care and too little money and too few people to provide it. Likewise, we have failed to provide suitable accommodation because we have tried to approach the problem in the wrong way. To solve this problem, we must first solve the underlying social issues that cause it then the issue we want to solve can be tackled.


If we look at society as it is now, we can see the outworking of the process of isolation at every level of society from families to neighbourhoods to work environments. Families have become smaller networks involving perhaps just one parent on a regular basis, wider family being either unavailable or at a distance. Neighbourhoods have been created where there is no natural interface between neighbours. This is sometimes an outworking of differing work patterns, but often exacerbated by the lack of common areas to meet or just come across others. Workplaces have become more controlled especially for lower paid workers. Either offering zero hours contracts which limit work contact with others to times when work is actually carried out and therefore removing social interaction with work colleagues or limiting numbers of staff to the point where workload precludes time for social interaction. Time outside work becomes a premium that must be split between competing needs. The results of all these factors is a lack of community at work or in our neighbourhoods and families which then feel stretched and often fractured. The result is a tendency to hide in our sanctuaries and pull up the drawbridge. Stress causing us to not want any further interference from outside. All sense or desire for community is lost and any natural care and concern that people feel for neighbours go. Research has shown that isolation has a negative effect on the elderly, even reducing life span. It seems self-evident that this will apply wider.


One thing that is quite apparent in this current Corona Virus Crisis is the way that community is growing. Ironic considering the instructions to isolate. But community is not only about being face to face, but also caring and understanding. Groups are spontaneously forming in towns, villages and cities to help and support neighbours and the vulnerable. One example is in Gloucester. Neighbours are talking to each other, albeit at two metre distance. The reason for this change? Time and being at home will play a part, but also a sense of a common goal. People naturally want to act as a community, they miss it and enjoy the sense of working towards a common goal.


I have laid out a wider social issue than ‘disability’ because it fits into the whole. Being impaired does not exclude us from society, we are still part of the whole picture and very much aware of the problems. To deal with the issue of homes and neighbourhoods into the next five decades we must deal with the whole of society. The reason we have so badly failed in the past is because ‘disability’ has been seen as a problem to be solved separately rather than part of the whole picture of society.


For change to happen it must be included in the whole social planning process then we can see real change. For that change to happen there must be the political will. Community is the key, together as a mix of different abilities and backgrounds we can form a diverse group who support and encourage each other. Taking encouragement from the fact that people do want to act together. We have spent years becoming more and more isolated. People no longer know or trust their neighbours, yet we have seen that can change, people want it to change. What is needed are new housing estates with localised shared facilities, almost like mini villages. Going back to an earlier idea. These would naturally form communities with a wide age range and social background. Schools and shops, community centres, medical centres and other facilities would serve each community. There need to be areas where people naturally come together. The variety of impairments represented would fit into the general mix. Housing would be varied and cover all needs. By bringing people together in community there is a tendency to increase the pool of care for each other. Not everyone needs professional carers. Sometimes we just need a neighbour who will take us shopping, a friend to chat to. Many professional care companies provide ‘sitting’ services. These are basically carers who are there just to be company. If we again lived in community rather than isolation, then we would be company to each other. I am not suggesting neighbours provide washing and dressing for those of us who need that. But there are many things that friends and neighbours used to do and would be happy to do, which are now covered by paid carers. In a society struggling to cover such costs and provision, this is an obvious advantage.


To provide housing that meets the needs of all impairments would be impossible in one type of house. Indeed, I see no reason to attempt such a thing. I understand that it may seem convenient to lump together all types of impairments. But it cannot work in practice. I am aware of housing associations who build houses which are suitable for wheelchair users as standard. What I don’t understand is why. How many wheelchair users are there? Surely it makes more sense to provide appropriate housing rather than build unnecessary features and waste money and space.


A property suitable for a wheelchair user needs wide doors and halls, extra turning space, a wet room, possibly ceiling hoists, raised kitchen units etc. To provide this for all ‘disabled’ housing would surely be unnecessarily costly and wasteful. A property for a non-wheelchair user needs to cater for the impairment they have. A blind person may need Braille signage and clear ways through the property. A deaf person may need visual clues to doorbells etc. Someone who struggles to walk needs a property on the ground floor. Housing for able bodied users have different requirements. A mix of all these properties in each development makes most sense to build community.


The neighbourhood is another important consideration. If every new building project had all suitable types of properties, then a community of different people could be formed. This would also have a secondary benefit of preventing ghettoization of ‘disabled’ or elderly people in special properties. By doing that you prevent the creation of viable communities.


In all these instances the key issue is suitability rather than uniformity. There is an adage used in the Estate Agency business, ‘Location, location, location.’ The location of a property will ultimately make the suitability of it work or not. It will not be suitable to place a person suffering from an impairment who has no transport at a distance from any amenities. Nor would it work to place a person suffering from an impairment with a vehicle in a property without nearby and suitable parking. This applies wider to families or elderly with or without cars. So, within a development positioning of properties is important but also the suitability of particular developments to some types of impairment would limit their suitability for some potential residents.


Cost is of course another limiting factor for most ‘disabled’ people. Some are still able to work or have independent income. But for most we are reliant on disability benefits for our income. For those able to buy a property it would need to be available at a subsidised price on a government scheme. Affordable housing is a wider issue than just for ‘disabled’ people.


We need to be planning a large-scale building project within all new builds in every area. Each project must include housing of different types. Housing that suits wheelchair users and non-wheelchair users with other impairments. All built in a community of housing that suits a variety of family types, ages and social backgrounds. There need to be common areas where people can naturally meet. Things only change when we choose to change them. We are too used to moaning about problems and creating reports about issues. If we really want to make a social change then we need to stir up the political will to make that change. Back in the Victorian times when the middle classes were shocked by child labour, they lobbied for change. Stories were written to stir up public feelings but, in the end, it took campaigners to create legislation ultimately things must happen, and political change occur if we are really dissatisfied with how things are now. It is up to us to make that change.

The original essay had full source references.

Please feel free to share this essay.

A blog by a relative in NZ

Tuesday 14 April, 2020
(S.B. on her work as an essential worker in a Wellington NZ hospital during lockdown)


I’ve never been afraid of hospitals. I actually find them sort of comforting. I was in a burns unit as a pre-schooler and I wonder if it imprinted on me somehow. The faintly antiseptic scent. The uniforms. I even like the smell of mashed potato that I sometimes get a whiff of from the meal trolleys.

I do ultrasound scans of hearts – called echoes – for a living. People either get it or they don’t. They look at the screen with the same interested awe as me, or they say “is this what you do all day?” And I say, “Yep, hearts all day long.”
I’m lucky, I really like my work. But it wasn’t a life-long dream – I never even knew it existed. I’d been overseas and when I came home my brother was sick and in hospital for a long time. I remember walking around the corridors thinking ‘I’ve got a science degree, I must be able to get a job here.’
But right now I’m a little afraid of hospitals, and of my job. When people come for an echo I get them to undress to the waist and lie on their side facing me. I say: “It’s like a pregnancy scan, but looking at your heart.” When I put gel on their abdomen and rest the probe on their skin they say “Is it a boy or a girl?” and I smile and say “Twins.” Often, they are nervous. Their heart rate gives it away. But usually by the time I’m finished – about half an hour later – the rate has come down. We’ve talked about the weather, their family, their plans for the weekend.
There’s no way to do an echo from two metres away, or in less than fifteen minutes. You can often smell the coffee they’ve just had, or their brand of soap. It’s hard to smile at someone behind the masks we now wear. Hopefully my tone is chirpy – I’ve tried to be more expressive with my eyebrows.
I’m very lucky to have a job, to have an income. My commute time has halved, and I can park in hospital grounds without charge. Yesterday I skipped a supermarket queue with my ID card. I have somewhere to live, and food and electricity and water and firewood.
When I drive home I go along Paekākāriki’s The Parade, to greet Kāpiti Island. I see the locals out walking in their bubbles. My bubble is me, my husband, our daughter and son, and the dog – and all the patients I’ve scanned and will scan – and all the people in their bubbles. I think about actual bubbles and surface tension, and how the bigger they get the more unstable they are.
At the end of the day I do what I can. I disinfect my pen, phone and swipe-card. I leave my work shoes behind, and change out of scrubs. I wash my face, hands and arms to the elbows. I drive home and leave my shoes in the car. I wipe down the steering wheel, the gear stick, the door handle. I go into the house by the back door and straight into the shower. The clothes I’ve come home in go into a hot wash. I’ve taken off my wedding ring and pounamu.
We’ve cleared out the spare room, but we’ve only got one bathroom. We’ve bought plastic plates and bowls so if I get sick no one has to handle dirty dishes. We’ve got a sort-of-plan except for if or when I should isolate myself from them. Lately when my daughter comes for a cuddle she says “I’m scared.” One time I asked her what I could do to make her feel better. She said “never stop hugging me.”
Online everybody is exercising, baking, busy in their gardens, and posting creative schooling ideas. It feels like they are inside a different kind of bubble, but one that is shared. I call my sister the midwife, another sister the nurse. We grumble about bookings, PPE, infection rates in overseas healthcare workers. It feels good to speak in a common tongue.
There was early rain but this afternoon the sun came out. We made paper Easter eggs for the window. There were only 29 new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand. I hugged the kids.

Is it a bird, is it a plane?

We all know those immortal lines and what comes next, it’s Superman. But in my case, it’s supergal, wpsupergal to be precise. I am not brilliant at sorting out websites. I am of course brilliant at absolutely everything else; I wish. So, my blog site has been a bit of a mess for some time. Well a lot of a mess actually. Some of the buttons didn’t work, pages were missing, links didn’t work. Basic functions just weren’t there. Navigating my blog site was like shooting the rapids, lots of fun, but watch out for the rocks.

Then I decided that enough was enough and it needed sorting out. I found a site called Fiverr where lots of people offer their services at rates varying from a few quid to hundreds. I wasn’t sure how to chose so I went on instinct. I think God often prompts us that way. I found a young lady called wpsupergal and I asked what she would charge to sort my site out. I explained the purpose of my site. That it’s a source of help, advice and entertainment for those with illnesses and limitations or those interested in the issues. I also explained that I funded it myself and didn’t charge for the site, so I was hoping it wouldn’t cost too much.

Wpsupergal said don’t worry about the cost she would have a look at my site for me. I expected her to tweak a couple of things. Well actually she has completely fixed it. Everything now works as it should. There is now a translate button, just as well as I have many visitors from abroad. You can see how many visitors I have had. Buttons are easy to access and click if you want to like, share or comment. You can even contact me with ease now. It is amazing, I am blown away by all she has done and all the time she put into it. Thank you wpsupergal, you really are super. I pray that you will be blessed with loads of business and customers, you deserve to succeed, you are a wonderful lady.

So, if you are accessing this blog on my site, look around, good isn’t it? If not, then check out my site, it is so much better and easier to navigate.

Now that it’s so easy like, share or comment.

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