Pledging & Unity
I’ve felt mightily conflicted the past couple of days. Feel bemused at the level of criticism George Julian got for her interview on the Victoria Derbyshire show. Feel even more bemused by the number of online discussions I’ve had about it since Tuesday and words and phrases like “unity” and “we must work together” keep coming up. Does a different opinion on something have to mean that unity goes out of the window? Are some people/organisations beyond challenge? How can we describe our experience of something without pissing off someone who has had a different experience? Thoughts and questions that kept me awake to 1.30 this morning.
Yesterday a photo was circulated on the Challenging Behaviour Foundation Facebook page. It was a picture of a group of professionals, including the Minister, Alistair Burt, coming together to sign a pledge to stop the over medication of people with learning disabilities when they are in hospital/ATUs.
I’ve got many thoughts about whether a “pledge” carries any weight at all but will save that for another day. What struck me as interesting about the photo was that one of the pledgees is the responsible clinician in the case of two of the dudes from Seven Days of Action. The day before, one of the mothers posted the story of how Jack, who is due to be discharged any day now (although not back home as the LA won’t agree to that but to a residential placement locally), has been very anxious about something going wrong and the discharge not happening. Eve posted the picture chart the Unit had devised to “help” Jack with his anxiety:
It chilled me because it was a dead ringer for the photos used when Steven had his mental capacity assessment. The plan is that Jack will be in the hospital and having trips to his new home during the week. At the weekend, he will be going home to his parents as usual. But look at how that chart has been produced and see if will actually help in reducing anxiety. There are real photos of the ATU across Monday to Thursday. Then on Friday there is a clip art picture of a house to represent the new home. Why couldn’t they take a photo of the new home which Jack could relate to. And then there is a great big gaping hole at the weekend with no picture at all. Surely, they could have asked Eve for a photo of home that Jack would recognise.
What was the solution to Jack’s anxiety? Sit him down and help him compile his own plan? Nope. Listen to him and try and understand where the anxiety is coming from? Nope. Empathy? Nope. A PRN lorazepam? Of course. How ironic that the day a psychiatrist signs a pledge to stop over medicating his patients, a member of his clinical team prescribed an additional, heavy duty drug out of laziness or lack of insight.
But that brings me back to people’s different experiences. Can we really expect a hospital, which is quite the most unsuitable place in the first place, to consider any other form of treatment? Would the doctor even think that PRN dose was over medicating? Surely, any medication, where there is a reasonable alternative is over medication. What a task ahead for all the people who signed the pledge.
Unity? Are people allowed to have different experiences? I know that every time I post a positive story of our experience in the Court of Protection in this blog, I will get at least three people reply with their bad experiences. Does my good experience invalidate their bad experiences? Or vise versa? Of course not. Pare it right back and it’s about two people walking through the doors of the same place and one leaving having had a positive outcome and the other leaving having had a horrid outcome. I can’t jump on those people who’ve had it bad and tell them they’re wrong. I can’t dismiss their story as it threatens unity.
What has shown up so strongly since Tuesday is that people have had very differing experiences with Mencap. Some families feel very supported by them; other families feel very unsupported. Both experiences are real. But I’m uneasy that to present a show of unity, the people who have had poor experiences are expected to keep schtum. Both the fans and the non fans can be totally united in their aim of trying to get people out of ATUs and into their own homes. Personally, I think it’s good to discuss the bad experiences and give them an airing as in doing so, everyone is more likely to get a clearer picture of what needs to be done to achieve the overall goal. I also think it’s completely unachievable. You put 3000 people in a room together and try and get them to come up with a unified voice. It would be quite scary if it did happen.
When Steven was in the ATU, the LA cancelled his holiday. We went the following year with two support workers. It was a place in Somerset called the Unity Holiday Park. One of the support workers loved it. The other one hated it. But we were united in giving Steven a damn fine holiday.
From → Social Care