I met Terry the other day – a former boxer and now struggling alone at home having been discharged from hospital after his second stroke.
Terry has fallen through the cracks in ‘the system‘.
The call was given as an elderly male suffering a CVA. When I arrived Terry was on the phone to his doctor; nearly in tears and at his wits end. Terry’s one of the ‘old school‘; an independent and ‘pull your socks up and get on with it‘ sort. He’s used to being able-bodied and now his second stroke has literally taken his legs out from under him. Sure he can still get around; but only just; and he needs a frame to do it. Terry’s not a man for frames though, he still wants to dance around the ring like the old days but he’s all at sea. His legs won’t do what he wants and he has to flail his arms around trying to keep his balance. Luckily he still has amazing upper body strength and a physique that Arnie would be proud of. For now that strength is all that’s getting Terry up and down the stairs to the bedroom and the bathroom; he hasn’t yet contemplated a life where the stairs are an unassailable mountain.
Terry got discharged from the local DGH about a week after his second stroke. “I can manage”, was his attitude so the staff packed his bags and sent him home – no social care package; no follow up appointments; nothing. Terry’s out the system and been forgotten. A fortnight on and he’s struggling. He doesn’t know what to do or who to turn to. He thought he could live a normal life but he was wrong. He needs two hands on that frame to get around so how’s he going to carry his cup of tea from the kitchen to the lounge? Get his dinner from the microwave to the kitchen table? Carry the kettle to the sink? Put the dishes away? Sweep the floor? Tidy up? Have a bath? The list is endless. And to top it all there are two huge steps outside his front door and no way for him to manage them – he’s effectively a prisoner in his own home.
Before you ask, he has a sister who comes once a week to do his shopping but she wants to ‘mother‘ him and he’s having none of it. He tells me their relationship is getting a little strained whilst they work out this new brother/sister arrangement.
In desperation he called 999 – he didn’t know where else to turn. Then he tried his GP and luckily she was both available and sympathetic. I spoke to her after Terry had finished. She’d be round tomorrow for a full assessment we just needed to get him through the evening and the night.
Now I don’t have any psychological training. There’s no referral to the community mental health team. No back-up. No support. Just me with a few years of doing this job under my belt and Terry with his ‘I can do it‘ attitude. I tried the softly, softly, understanding approach – it was getting nowhere so I figured I’d nothing to lose by trying a bit of trainer/boxer tough talking. We spoke matter-of-factly. I had him up and about and using that frame whether he wanted to or not. I moved a few things about – I put the microwave on the kitchen table so he didn’t have to carry his meals. I moved the kettle, re-arranged some of the furniture. After an hour things seemed a bit brighter. Help was on its way. The GP was coming round tomorrow. Things will get sorted. He will get out of his house again – and down to the cafe for a cup of tea and a spot of lunch. Life will be different – sure, but it will go on and Terry will survive. He’s a fighter after all but even the toughest of tough guys need help occasionally.