I went though a really tough time when Eedy hit 18. I dare not think how it was for him. That bloody awful word ‘transition’ (it’s a fine word in ‘normal’ life, but when applied to social care it becomes an epiphany of fear, worry, anxiety and stress). OK, so I have more years experience of the system than he has years on this planet, but working with adults with learning disabilities I’d never experienced ‘transition’ and never before in a parenting role.
‘Transition’ is an odd terminology, in my experience it is more likened to the guy with a disability suddenly being ripped from what they know and thrown into the unknown with no lifebelt, no parachute and no safety net.
Eedy has a diagnosis of autism, learning disabilities, microcephaly, adhd, challenging behaviour and various ‘oppositional defiance’/’ptst’ labels (depending on the diagnosing practitioner). Quite a placard to carry around.
He’s actually a really cool, loving and funny dude (thank you Sara Ryan for the terminology, it suits him perfectly!), a bit of a ‘job’s worth’ and a firm believer in righteousness, justness and playing by the rules…as long as you say exactly what you mean!
So, ‘transition’. Eedy hit 18 and moved into adult services. Suddenly he had to give permission for people to speak to me and to involve me in his life. Rather difficult for Eedy as he rates me highly. Due to this he thinks if he knows (or thinks) something then I know what he knows. (And on occasion I do). But…When he is anxious and ‘challenging’ *Staff speak* (or as he’d put it ‘having a bit of fuss’) and he’s asked, ‘shall we inform your auntie?’ He’s gonna say ‘no’. Because I should already know!
Fast forward 12 months. Eedy hasn’t shaved, washed, showered, bathed or had his toe/finger nails cut for at least 6 months (and two service providers). He is sporting long tufts of facial and head hair. His shoes hurt because his toe nails are so long, his behaviour appears to be out of control. He has a police caution for assaulting his staff (and realistically should have more). He won’t phone me or visit because he has had it stressed to him that ‘he is an adult now’. And he has taken that literally. Physically and emotionally he is a wreck.
I’ve been in a hard place too, I’m his auntie, not his mother, so am struggling with the emotional trauma of everything that’s past and present.
Eedy being an adult was a ‘transition’ for me too, but not the one I had expected. I don’t know what I thought and 6 months in, when Eedy’s service provider changed to the one I worked for, I innocently expected great things. But no…I was subjected to secret meetings, the unavailability of care plans, risk assessments, incident reports and at one point stumbled upon Eedy’s file, poorly hidden in a spare filing cabinet away from all the other files. I then, and still now have a problem distinguishing confidentially from incompetence. After all I was employed as a senior team member who should professionally have this information to competently be ‘on call’. (Regardless of involving family members in a person’s care – but that’s another story).
So, Eedy’s ‘behaviours’ began to spiral out of control, the environment he lived in was totally unsuitable and his support staff were not given any training in how to work with him. Suddenly, as ‘next of kin’ we were back in his life. Emergency meetings were held, Eedy not attending because he said he was ‘too busy’ – his words for ‘I don’t want to/don’t understand/feel pressured’ etc.
The need was established for an admission to the local assessment and treatment unit. But how would he get there informally?
My husband and I stated we would get him there, we directed his support organisation to remain totally uninvolved and on said day we went to his flat.
It was a tip! The flat was not a therapeutic environment for someone to gain in self-esteem or confidence; it was a visual confusion of the inside of Eedy’s head. Paper, writing, toys covering all floor space – wherever you stepped you’d be stepping on Eedy’s obsession with ‘road closures’ symbolised by bits of paper that only he understood. If mind-shut-down could be symbolised in paper, then this was staring you in the face (and he’d been living like this for months).
We spoke to Eedy candidly and sensibly, an hour and a half later he was agreeable to ‘going to hospital’. Of course I used my influence, Eedy was doing what he thought I wanted him to do. The hospital sussed this, and within two days of admission they decided to section him. There were going to be no issues regarding mental capacity here!
The Assessment and Treatment Unit was a watershed for Eedy removing the pressure he had been under, but once there, they pulled him off all his meds. He was climbing the walls, running off and attacking people. The section order was put in place. He was put back on the same meds, he calmed. The section was removed.
I served notice on his tenancy and his support organisation. He was now a bed-blocker with no provider and no home. We had meetings virtually every other day. To my knowledge he didn’t have any other assessment except the removal and reapplication of drugs and a sensory assessment to evidence the high level of tactile defensiveness that he already displays in everyday life. Two months later we moved him to a residential home where he would live with 2 other dudes.
We chose residential because ‘supported living’ had let him down. They had failed in recognising who Eedy really was and what he really needed. In reality it wasn’t supported living that had let him down, it was the management of the staff team, the incompetence of the assessment process and the failings in understanding Eedy’s needs.
Guess what? Good verbal communication does not mean the person has good comprehension or coping skills!
In Eedy’s case when he is stressed, overwhelmed or anxious, physical intervention isn’t the last resort; it’s the least traumatic action. When he is feeling loss of control he needs a team around him who, for a short period of time, will take the control from him, and give it back when he has had a chance to calm down. We’re not talking pin-down or prone restraint – just firm holds to stop him damaging himself or others.
Apparently that wasn’t available in supported living. All they had in place was to walk away.
… And leave him to spiral out of control.