Friday, December 12, 2014

Care Home Concerns

It's being going on for years now, yet it still fills me with dread every time I see a report about a care home that has mistreated it's residents. 

The latest report is about the mistreatment of people with Intellectual Disabilities in a care home in Co Mayo, which was televised on RTE Prime Time on Tuesday night. By all accounts it made for some pretty horrific viewing.

I haven't watched it yet myself and have now decided that I won't . 

As the daughter of a parent who is a longtime resident of a care home it would be far too upsetting. And I can only imagine how the parent of a child with disabilities, who may ultimately need the facilities of a care home, must feel on watching these reports.

How many of these programmes do we have to watch before something is done?

I for one was glad when HIQA was set up in order to keep controls and to unearth unacceptable behaviours in our private and state run care homes. It is comforting to know that someone is calling unexpectedly - and sometimes by appointment - into these facilities to check them out. It is comforting to know that you are not your loved one's only advocate. I have studied recent reports on the care home we use and found them to be quite comprehensive, I actually feel that HIQA should have been harder on them over one particular and very serious issue. However, HIQA has been instrumental in instigating some helpful social activity changes and resident questionnaires, but it has also enforced what could be considered an administrative nightmare. One that has brought about an additional daily 'administrative charge' being passed on to residents in our case. HIQA has spent time analysing this cost, and the term used to apply it, and finds it unacceptable. They insist on it being changed and it would appear that an awful lot of paperwork has gone into ensuring that this happens.

Meanwhile there's a care home in Co Mayo where residents are being regularly and horrifically abused. What analysis was done in this home?

The decision to send your loved one - be they young, old, disabled or elderly - into a care home is one of the toughest decisions you'll ever have to make. It's one that, after nine long years, still doesn't sit easy with me. The fact is however, that it's not always possible for a family member to give 24/7 intensive care to one loved one while looking after everyone else in the family; and whilst also giving young children, who may have special needs of their own, their optimum chance in life.

Once you make the decision you then hope that they are always in good hands - especially when you can't visit. You make unexpected visits of your own, at differing times, and even stand outside their room if carers are in with them - secretly listening for any possible issues. You also listen to your loved ones concerns and complaints and investigate those that you can, while trying not to fling unsubstantiated accusations about. While it is very difficult if your loved one cannot verbally express themselves it is also difficult to deal with those who can. Mental Impairment can make distinguishing between fact and perception extremely difficult. 

The care home we use is very good, but it's not perfect. I've seen such loving care and gentle, yet quite firm, responses being administered in many different situations here over the years. I've even seen things I've not been happy with and was easily able to bring them to discussion. I've seen wonderful changes, particularly in the area of social activities, brought about by HIQA visits. I've also seen my own parent brought through diagnosed end-of-life stages, at least three times in as many years. It was excellent nursing care that made this happen, against the odds. And an indomitable fighting spirit and the incredible will to live of the patient herself, we must not forget that!  

However, no-one knows what happens behind closed doors when there no visitors, be they from HIQA or personal, around.

So, what can we do? 

There have been calls for imprisonment of the abusers. I do agree that these abusers must face investigations and be ultimately held accountable for their actions, but they must also face due process. This point is very well, and generously, made by a family member of one of the Aras Attracta residents .

However bringing the abusers to account is not going to completely solve this.

Closing down care homes because of abuse doesn't stop it from happening elsewhere either.  Although re-opened after some time, Leas Cross was closed down in 2005 and yet we're still hearing of  residential abuse today.

Personally speaking I think that maybe more consideration should also be given to the following:

Hiring: Qualifications, References and Training: It would seem that we need to pay more attention to these areas in our Private and State run facilities. We need to consider this very strongly for all nurses/carers in our system, no matter their nationality. Although the abusers in the Aras Attracta case were all Irish I would question if foreign qualifications are equal to our national ones? And indeed are our national ones sufficient? The same must apply to the hiring of management to run state facilities. Staff training for all should be regularly updated.

Owners and Management: Owners in private run facilities need to take a hands-on approach to running their own care homes. They must see their care home for the 'caring home-from-home' that it should be, and  not the tax relief investment they might prefer. The difference in the provisions of my mother's care home was very noticeable when the owners got fully on board. Police it yourself, don't wait for HIQA. Bring on board family members. Do night shifts. Unannounced.

The HSE must be very particular about whom they hire to run our state facilities. These managers should also do night shifts. Unannounced.

Staffing Levels: There should be no excuses or allowances made in any care home, private or state owned, for not employing the relevant, best practice, carer and nurse:resident ratio. Whatever the cost.

Camera Surveillance: There have been some suggestions of this online. We need to deal with any privacy issues and give this serious consideration,

HIQA: Personally speaking I'm impressed with the reports that I have read and the changes they have instigated; and I feel very re-assured that they continue to inspect. Any 'Administrative Nightmares' notwithstanding. However, perhaps we need to review how successful, or not, this authority has been in unearthing and tackling residential abuse; and in ensuring the delivery of 'Safer Better Care'? And then we need to make any necessary changes. Now.

Advocacy for Residents: All vulnerable residents in our care homes need to be given a voice and their voices need to be heard. Whatever the nature of their disability, or reason for needing such levels of care, their dignity and humanity must be preserved and respected.  Family members can only do so much. HIQA seem to attach a lot of importance to this area of care and inspect individual plans and their implementations with regard to resident's personal requirements and challenging behaviours, but clearly more needs to be done by some care homes themselves.

And finally we need to keep these stories in the limelight. 

Keep it fresh so that something is done and so that more assurances can be given to those who need these facilities - and to those who love them.



Since posting this last night I learned of a new care home abuse story in Stamullen, Co Meath .
I have also read this article contending that HIQA was 'deliberately misled by care homes'. This makes sense to me. As I've said above we need to know why they didn't unearth this abuse.... and then make any necessary changes.

Take care,

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Crafty Jazzy......

Well, with banned walks, exercise classes and some housework duties too, I had to find something to occupy my time while in recovery. I don't 'do' sitting doing nothing, especially when watching TV, and it would be so easy to just let the Social media world take over.

I wracked my brains and eventually decided that as I was knitting and crocheting a lot I may as well put that past-time to good use. So, I decided to put some items together for my son's school Christmas Fair.

It was quite the learning curve I can tell you and it it didn't quite work out as planned. In fairness I've never done anything like this before.

I tried to pre-judge the demographics you see, which is no easy feat, and to knit/crochet a variety of quick-to-make items to suit everyone. Such as.....

Fancy Scarves for the Mums, Aunties, Grannys etc, made with 1 ball of Tivoli Weave wool per scarf. The pattern is on the back of some wraps, and is available here, but basically using 6mm needles (UK) you just cast on 3 stitches and knit every row (ensure to go under both threads at top of wool) until you run out!

And then, for variety I knitted some Ravelry Drop Stitch Cowls/Neck Warmers; for teenagers, mums etc. Followed by some Coffee Cosys, pattern courtesy of Sarahbevan11designs , for those on-the-go-thermal cup carriers!

I also attempted some newborn baby hats, pattern by LisaAuch, and some mittens from this YouTube video. I did intend doing more beanie hats for a variety of ages but ran out of time.
I did however find time to make two ladies hats from a pattern in one of my many Art of Crochet magazines. I really enjoyed making these!

However the items I enjoyed making most of all were these Pretty Snowflakes by Julie A. Bolduc I crocheted the day before the fair. My very first attempt! Unfortunately the starch hadn't dried in time so they never made it to the fair. They may make it on to my Christmas Tree though.... or in some Christmas presents!

In fact there's quite a few items that may make it into some Christmas presents!

I think I may have mis-priced my items and mis-judged the crowd, you see.  It seems that everyone wants a bargain, they want something for nothing! But they also want something different.

I learned a lot from the experience though and I really enjoyed it too.

I'll definitely be back next year and I will have more time to get some ideas together. And to buy wool in the sales. It can be very costly all this knitting and crocheting you know!

And now it's on to my next project.

It's a fairly big one and I only have three weeks to do it in!

Stay tuned......


Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Woman of the House ........

I've never quite seen myself as any of the stereotypical monikers like 'her indoors' or 'the woman of the house'.

Nor do I see myself as the 'housewife' or the 'home carer' - although the latter does kind of come close; and I'm happy to allow that particular moniker to apply if it means a lowly Tax Credit from our self-monikered 'family friendly' Government. Harumph.....

Although the 'stay-at-home-mum' is my moniker of choice, I'm not quite sure that I completely see myself as that either.

I'd like to think that these monikers do not define me you see, they are only components of the complete me. All except the first two, of course, I was never either of them!

Actually I've not had cause to pay any real attention to any of the above until this week...

This week being the one filled with dusty air and dust-sheeted stairs and with wiring, piping and noisy kango-hammering being the order of the day. For days. However you can't make an omelette without cracking some eggs, so I'm happy to let the continuing parade of hard-working tradesmen through my house to, well, crack on.

And crack on they did, in more ways than one! It was interesting the many different personalities, all tinged with good old fashioned - and tamed down - tradesmen humour!

There's always one that has an old fashioned view of women in the home though, isn't there? Well, one that should know better than to show it, that is!

Now I'm not thoughtlessly putting this nice and very polite man into this particular stereotypical slot. Oh no. He was quite capable of doing that all by himself. The first sign was me arriving home to the steamy sounds ... of a kettle on the boil (steady people, steady) and the strains of 'oh here's the woman of the house' floating at me down my very own staircase! With accompanying hints of 'I like mine with a little milk and two sugars please' - now remember this was the cup of coffee he was quite willing to make all by himself when I wasn't there! The big tell of course was his proud admission, within mere minutes of the above, that he 'comes home from the pub to his dinner on the table'.

Oh dear. I've lived with one of these men for many years, from birth actually, and thought - well hoped really - that they (the type, not the person) had disappeared from our evolutionary gene pool. Forever.

Clearly not!

While I was confident that I had his stereotypical slot completely on target, I wondered how he thought he had done with the one he had mapped out for me?

I mean, there was no apron permanently wrapped around my middle, there was no ribbon in my hair and no constant homely smells of lovely home-baking to float through the very dusty particles. Any time he popped his head into where I was, when I was at home that is, I was to be found ensconced on the sofa either reading my kindle or on my laptop, and with the TV on in the background. On one occasion - almost, but not quite, to my shame - I was even found asleep on the sofa! Actually, passed out through exhaustion after crawling, foetal style, into the corner of the sofa was a more apt description, if it would make any difference to Mr Neanderthal! Joking.... he's really a very nice man!

See, looks can be deceiving, He wasn't to know all the things I had done this week, things that wouldn't normally floor me yet did. Yes, a new hair-do was one of them but I've waited a very long time to be able to sit long enough to get one! There were physio trips too and parent visitations and school meetings and pick-ups to attend to also.

And I can only imagine the shock on his face when my husband, straight home from his working day, was dispatched by 'the woman of the house' to ask if he'd like more coffee.... and then deliver it him! All because I just couldn't bear to make another trip up those dust-sheeted stairs.....

He must have thought me the laziest woman alive.

And I must confess to a little 'stay-at-home-mum' guilt.

But everyone got fed and no-one has run out of washed and ironed clothes. Yet.....

And all will return to normal when I am fully recovered.

Or a lot sooner.

All that dust........!!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On Peaceful Protests and Having Respect.....

It was quite disconcerting answering the door just before lunchtime on a midweek day. I thought I had figured it out you see. The optimum time to play 'Avoid The Cold Caller' and not answer the door under any circumstances, is just about dinner time. Preferably just when you're about to lift up the dinner, or just when the cheese on that pizza is almost bubbling away to perfection. That's when you hear the dulcet tones of your ringing door-bell. It's not usually at lunchtime, unless it's a Saturday.

Saturday is usually 'Jehovah's Witness' day, so therefore I was so surprised to open the door at lunchtime this Tuesday  to see two women holding Bibles. With one lady standing on the step, almost in my face, and both waving leaflets they were quite intent on ensuring I take. I declined. Politely.

But like the sucker I usually am when I don't follow my own 'Avoid The Cold Caller' rules, I had to listen to them for a while - it's a fact that cold callers are cold to any attempts you make to get them to understand that (a) you don't have the time, (b) the dinner is burning or (c) the cat is about to eat the goldfish. They insist on having their say anyway. It is very annoying.

However the ladies today raised a couple of questions I'd been wondering about recently. The main ones being: What is wrong with our world? and: Can we make it better?

Now I'm sure they were making a more global reference which perhaps pertained more to Syria, Iraq and the Israel/Palestinian conflict etc.

Although these issues do of course concern me my recent thoughts were more closer to home.

In particular: What is happening to our little corner of the world?

While I am absolutely delighted that finally, after years of recession and austerity measures being continually flung at us by our 'partners' in Europe (The Troika) - all of whom dress exceedingly well and look like they've no worry about where their next meal is coming from, Ireland's citizens have finally found one issue to stand up and be counted on. That issue being 'Water Charges'. Now, if you're reading this from another country and are thinking 'but we pay water charges, why doesn't Ireland?' please know that these Water Charges are the proverbial straw that broke the backs of the Irish people. This protest is about far more than Water Charges. Did you know that Ireland has paid 42% of the total cost of the European bank crisis?  That's despite the fact that we only make up about 0.09% of the EU population and our economy only makes up 1.2% of EU GDP.

Sure no wonder we're angry.

No wonder we're - finally - protesting.

However, based on accounts of some recent protests I do wish we could take the bitter anger out of our protestations and think long and hard about how best to get our point across.

I thought that the original and recent street protest marches were outstanding and peaceful.

It's the 'pop-up' ones that I abhor. The one at Coolock which subsequently moved to Coolock Garda Station and sounded terrifying.

Then there's the more recent ones in Santry, Sligo and Tallaght where protesters have taken to surrounding Government Minister's cars. While I appreciate that this is a prime opportunity for protesters to make their very valid points I do not think it appropriate to surround a Minister's car for two-and-a-half hours.

I don't think it appropriate to hold anyone, be they Irish Water Meter Installers or Government Ministers, hostage in their cars or vans for hours with no access to food, water or toilets. What if someone became ill, had a panic attack or was hit by a flying missile?

And while I thought the surrounding of the Garda Station (these are Government employees with families at home) was appalling I also think that the reported incidents, if true, of how our Gardaí are dealing with the protesters are completely unacceptable.

Seriously, did that beefy Garda really have to lift up this small young woman only to discard her by flinging her aside , like a finished coffee cup, to the side of the road; where she could be clearly heard banging her head off a metal bollard? Could he not have just put her on the foot-path?

I do not agree with a lot that comes out of our 'great leader' Enda Kenny's mouth but I do agree with his assertion that there is a 'sinister element' to these protests. I had said something similar myself earlier on. In my experience there is usually a cohort of people who will join your Dáil protest, shouting slogans in 'support'. But they have their own agenda and can seem quite intimidating. And of course then there are the people who are just gagging for a fight....any fight.

The result of these out-of -hand protests is that beefed up security measures will now be in place..... with the taxpayer footing the bill. And while the Gardai are busy minding our Government Ministers and the Irish Water Meter Installers who is going to mind the public?

It seems to me that we, the public, need to re-iterate the need for peaceful protests and disassociate ourselves from the 'sinister elements'. And our Gardaí seriously need to review how they treat members of the public who are protesting.

Maybe my bible thumping callers were right and the answers to 'What is wrong in the world and how to fix it' is in the bible.

Or maybe the answers lie within ourselves and how we treat and have respect for one another.


Saturday, November 15, 2014


Recovery from a back injury can be such a painfully (pun intended) long drawn out affair. It is all about taking things easy for such an interminably long period of time - especially when one is more used to running one's daily life at breakneck speed.

Recovery is then clearly for patient people - or patient patients if you like - and definitely not for impatient ones. Like me!

Recovery is about rejoicing and embracing all the little, minute improvements that you may experience on any given day ..... Ooh look, I can now walk up the stairs with no crutch!

Recovery is also about pacing yourself.... Just because you got can now walk up the stairs - ahem - crutch-less doesn't mean that you can suddenly go for a 30 minute walk! Be patient Jazzy.... be patient.

Recovery means that when when you feel a little better you can allow yourself  to do something you enjoyed doing in your pre-injury days. Like a simple and short trip to a popular local General Store, all by yourself. The General Store where, you know, where they sell stuff other than groceries.... like clothes for example! And recovering from a back injury means that you are limited in what you can wear so you might need new clothes. To make you more comfortable like, and to cheer yourself up!

Recovery means that although you may now be able to get to the shops all by yourself, for small groceries .... or clothes .... or even pretty little ballerina Christmas decorations!.... you also have to give a lot more thought to getting the items you desire from shelves, or rails, to checkout.... and then back to your car!

Recovery most definitely means totally re-defining the meaning of the word 'heavy' - even the tiniest item can cause overload and strain on your back. 

Recovery means being careful to avoid basket-carrying and trolley-pushing busy shoppers, and shop workers too, all of whom are far too busy to notice the careful shopper with her small basket and crutch! (It's actually quite scary - I may even have to develop a 'look' to give them!) I do appreciate the apologies but please try not to bump into me in the first place, I fear for my back you see......

Recovery offers the opportunity to meet some lovely, kind people. Kind enough to push your purchased items in their trolley to your car, which is a long way away from theirs... in the lashings of rain! Thank you kind, post-crutch user, shopping angel.....

Recovery means that I will also have a much kinder attitude to crutch-users when I am fully recovered. And I WILL be fully recovered. All in good time Jazzy, all in good time....

Recovery means having your ups and downs, your good and bad days and trying to remember that this is normal. And also remembering to keep the emphasis on the 'ups' and the 'good'.Things WILL get better Jazzy, they simply must....

Recovery is all about glimpsing that tiny flickering light of hope, gently burning down the very long tunnel and remaining positive.

Recovery is all about listening. To your medical practitioners, your body ....... and yourself. Your opinions count you know and you're so right to examine the possibilities that potential therapies may have to enhance your own recovery.

Recovery is therefore about being proactive. It shouldn't be all about the medications. Ask those questions, find those other complementary routes.....

Recovery means being very, very thankful that you never dropped your Health Insurance. It really is the 'security blanket' that advert professes it to be, no matter the provider. Shame on successive Governments for making this so.....

Recovery is about discovery. Like discovering all those hills that have suddenly popped up in nearby towns. I'm quite positive they weren't there in my - ahem - crutch-less days ......

Recovery is about solving confusing conundrums. Like keeping mobile, while also being sedentary. And thinking: it's all very well having a litter-picker to help pick up dropped items (I drop things, a lot) but what happens when the litter-picker itself falls down? What then, I ask you?!

Recovery is limiting. Especially on mid-term breaks and on being sedentary. What is one supposed to do then, eh? Well.... I guess there's baking and cooking for the home-cooked goodies loving teen on his Mid-term break - with his help of course ......

And there's a myriad of completed, semi-completed and barely started crochet and knitting projects - more of which anon - that I sincerely hope are completed in time........

Recovery is therefore all about hoping that one gets better .....  FAST.

Or else this Desperate Housewife is in serious danger of transforming into some kind of  a deranged, mutant Domestic Diva!!

And we really couldn't have that, now could we?!


Note: And finally, Recovery is about finding an outlet to release your thoughts and fears. It's very therapeutic and for me my blog is my main outlet. So, apologies for all my recent injury-related blog posts, it's all I seem to be able to blog about. But then ...... it's my blog, my rules :-) 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why I am Strictly a #strictly Fan.....

There are so many of these competitive, make-me-a-star, raise-my-profile type TV shows these days, aren't there?

For me it all started with Pop Idol in 2001 which was subsequently 'replaced', as such, by The X Factor show in 2004.

There are tons of these shows. I should make it clear at this point though that I'm not particularly a fan of these type of shows per se, despite what my twitter feed may currently indicate on Saturday nights! And although I do watch it, I particularly dislike The X Factor show, mainly for the mentor game-playing they sometimes engage in and the fun they make of the 'weak' contestants - those they let through to the live shows for that reason - and how those with a back story have the best chance. Makes for better entertainment 'dahling', I'm sure they'll tell us.

The shows that I enjoy best though are 'Dancing on Ice', sadly no longer on our screens, which brought the fabulous British Ice Dancing stars Torville and Dean back into the public domain, making Ice Dancing cool again; and  Britain's Got Talent, which I love for the zaniness of the characters

However my absolute favorites are Got To Dance and Strictly Come Dancing. Mainly because they don't engage in the afore-mentioned game-playing, and also because they are, well, dance-based!

Myself and Looking for Blue Sky were chatting recently and a question was raised:

How come a programme about Ballroom Dancing, once a niche activity, has become so popular?

A very valid question that I'm not sure I can satisfactorily answer Blue sky, but I can tell you what I get from it and why I like it so much.

Anyone who knows me, or who are regular readers here, will know that dancing is my thing. You'll know that my love for dancing started with a chance TV item when I was three years old. From then on I watched any TV show that had dancing in it, which in my era consisted primarily of 2 shows: Top of the Pops and....... Come Dancing! This show was quite demure, staid even, and developed from following all of the many Ballroom Dancing competitions throughout the UK. The format evolved over the years and ultimately became the one I was familiar with. Groups of contestants (sometimes large, sometimes small) dancing around the floor, with the TV camera highlighting them one by one. Stunning costumes, in glorious colours with reams of satin and taffeta, feathers and sequins. With the men all in their suits and boleros, with ne'er a bare chest or rippling muscle to be seen. Through this programme I was introduced to the many different styles of ballroom dancing; the beautiful waltzes, the lively foxtrots and jives, the passionate Pasa Dobles and the sexy Rumbas and Sambas! Made such wonderful family viewing on a Saturday night!

My favourite part though, the one I lived for, was the more eclectic style - which allowed for more free-style dancing while also being technically correct -  the Group 'Formation Dance'. This was dancing-on-the-edge stuff, the highlight of the night, and I loved it!

Who could have known back then what this traditional dance TV programme would ultimately mature to be?

And that's exactly what happened with the introduction of the many competitive 'make-me-a-star' TV programmes. It worked for music so why not with dancing? I think that by applying this on-trend format of TV entertainment to the old style 'Come Dancing', they did for Ballroom Dancing what Riverdance did for Irish Dancing - they made it more popular and introduced it to a whole new audience. They made Ballroom Dancing 'sexy' ...... 'dahling'!

This show differs from The X Factor in that they invite 'celebrities' from all walks of the entertainment industry - thereby cutting out the 'game-playing'. Although the contestants have talent it is not usually (for most of them) in the area in which they are competing. They get to learn a whole new talent, one that takes as many forms as there are dance styles within this genre of Ballroom Dancing. There is a whole chemistry and bond, based on the most basic element there is; one that must exist if two people are to successfully dance together, i.e. trust. That is wonderful to watch. To see all of that develop, as well as the rapport between all of the couples and, of course, their dancing skills, as the weeks go by is another thing that attracts me to this show.This revamped dance show also provides a platform for the professional dancers and helps to highlight their phenomenal talents.  Of course I LOVE the choreography that these professional dancers bring to the show, and, although it can be a tad over-frenetic at times, I do love their more modern version of the 'Formation Dance', which is less restrictive and more creative than ever before.  And still the camera pans in from low on the dance floor, similar to how it did back in the day......

So for me it's not just the dancing; Strictly Come Dancing has such a history attached to it, it has risen from the ashes of Come Dancing and has been on our screens for ten years now. Ballroom Dancing is not that much of a niche, not really. Certainly not when compared to Ice Dancing and besides, as I've said above: there are many different dance styles encompassed within the title 'Ballroom Dancing'.

Ballroom Dancing is also a whole industry within itself. There are still many, regularly held, dancing competitions throughout the UK and Ireland, and the US too; for whom I'm sure Strictly means a lot.

The Strictly format has also become a hugely popular mode of fundraising for sports clubs, schools and charities here in Ireland alone, with this Fundraising Events Group being a hugely successful one-stop-shop for making your event happen!

And one day, hopefully soon -when my injury has totally healed, I will get to dance in one of these events.

It's on my to-do list after all!