Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The powers of the HSE

Deep breaths.

Re-Emergning sculpture by Corina Duyn. naked figure pushing herself out of a rock
Re-emerging 2014
Sculpture by Corina Duyn, in collection of
Dzogchen Beara Care Centre

As you undoubtedly know, I have been fighting our Irish Health Care Service (HSE) Disability and Social Care Services for two years. My continued quest has been to obtain autonomy over my care.
My fight for justice has been highlighted on this blog; ME Advocates Ireland blog; Journal.ie, and most recently in the Irish Examiner in the lead up to the General Election. And yet the HSE often remains a “silent partner” in all of this.
Infuriatingly silent!

Yes, I had some good news a few months ago, when I was finally awarded an assessment from Disability Services. Until that time I was not being heard as my illness is not listed as a disability, while at the same time I obviously have a disability and receive support, and aids, from every other part of the HSE.

So, the assessment finally happened in October 2019. Twenty months after starting this journey in earnest. I was awarded 2.5 hours of Personal Assistance Support per week. The remainder of my good care package is still listed as Home Care. Trust me, there is a fast difference. PA hours mean I can leave my home with support.
Twice a week I am legally allowed to go for a walk with my PA support. I truly enjoy these short escapes from my walls. I can relinquish being a hermit for short spells of time.


But my energy, or the weather, is not always in line with these scheduled escapes.
So, I asked the HSE, repeatedly, if more of my Home Care Hours could be transferred to PA hours.
Makes sense, doesn't it?
Especially as it is all Cost Neutral for the HSE: Same care agency, same carer, and same rate of pay. (My main carer was given the PA hours).

Changing Home Care hours to PA hours would give me autonomy over my care, over my life.

Personal Assistance, according to Independent Living Movement Ireland means: “... PA to carry out tasks both inside and outside of the home, including personal care, domestic duties, assisting in day-to-day tasks such as shopping, support in the workplace or socialising.”

The HSE ignores this request.

No acknowledgement of my emails since December. Nothing. Not a word. It drives me bonkers.

They also have not responded to the other issues raised during the Disability Services Assessment (October): do I now qualify for respite care, can I access psychological care (much needed after this nonsense of dealing with the HSE…), and access support from a social worker? (I fell, or still fall, between the cracks of the various ‘boxes’: I was/am not disabled (?), and not over 65. There is no plan for the chronically ill people under 65 years of age.)

Nothing. Not a word.

I find these silences abusive.

Every time I tell someone about my struggles to have autonomy over my care, over my life, I am in tears. Everyone seems baffled by the length I have to go through to be heard. I am in tears while writing this.
The behavior of those in power borders on being abusive. Their power they have over my life is abusive.
They don't seem to understand any of this.

I am uncomfortable with breaking the HSE rules of leaving my home with my carers. I don't want to get into trouble. I don't want my carers to get into trouble. My wonderful carers who totally understand my situation and would do anything in their power to give me the life I wish to live. I don't want to risk losing my much needed care, by breaking these ridiculous rules.

So, I ask again and again for clarification.

Situations I find myself in:

Wanting to cast my vote during the General Election: Do I really have to break the HSE rules to exercise my democratic right to vote? My PA hours are during the week. The election was on a Saturday.

At times I really need to be able to look at a different view. I spend 99% of the time at home. Request for eligibility to respite has not been answered.
Friends kindly agreed to take me away for a few nights. As an experiment I made it to Youghal. Half hour from here. But, during these two days I had no access to personal care, so am dependent on my kind friends to help with basic stuff. Not easy. Not right. Friends should be friends, not act as carers.

Next week I will be away, I hope ! for another few nights. But on this occasion I really need to have access to care.
Surely I should have the right to avail of having a bath while there (a novelty), and not having to be pulled out of it by my kind friend. I am there on my birthday. Wouldn't it be lovely to be clean? 
I love the opportunity to float in the pool. Something I haven’t been able to do for years. As I have no idea if I am able for this, I really would appreciate to having my PA there, to pull me out, to help me get dried off and dressed. Or probably to be helped into bed as I imagine it will take a lot of energy… I feel confortable with my carer/PA as she has helped me with personal care for over a year.
Surely I should not have to ask for this support from my friend?

For other short possible escapes, I visited nearby Glencairn Abbey Guesthouse last week (will write about that another day). This wonderful, loving, fully accessible location could be a home from home, for self-funded respite days. 
I just need to have my care transferred. Simple, one might think…

Having access to more PA hours would solve the problems. As I understand it PA hours is to support me inside and outside my home, so surely I can ask for a PA to support me wherever I am? (Within reason).

As there has yet been no response from various people in the HSE if my care hours can be changed to PA hours, I asked if my Home Care hours (which obviously includes personal care) can be transferred for a few days to other locations: same distance for the carer, who is more than happy to do this for me.

No response from those in power in the HSE. The care agency didn't know. My Public Health Nurse totally understands and supports me, but has no power to make these changes in my care. She tried.

Do those in power not realize the unnecessary stress they continue to cause? That having access to a carer/PA, wherever I am (within reason) would make such a difference in my life? Do they not understand how they in a way keep me a prisoner in my own home? Do they not understand that it feels unreasonable to have to ask permission to leave one’s home? Do they not understand that if one requires support at home, one needs it too when escaping the house for a few days?

I feel that I am not asking for the impossible.

All I am asking is to have autonomy over my life.
All I am asking is to have the label of my care and be given the freedom to live the best life I can. It is restricted enough as it is.

And if this is an unreasonable question, please let me know why!

Until they respond I have to take Very Deep Breaths to stay sane.