Saturday, October 06, 2007


Dictionary definitions of the word Respite:

• to relieve temporarily, esp. from anything distressing or trying; give an interval of relief from
• a usually short interval of rest or relief
• a (temporary) relief from harm or discomfort

Respite comes from Old French respit, from Latin respectus, “a refuge, a retreat”

Mr Man went into his respite home again recently. It’s one of those necessary evils that both of us hate. If I’m going away somewhere Mr Man can’t cope with either coming with me or staying at home, and so he needs to go into “respite” accommodation. I know I’ve complained earlier in the year that there are not enough respite beds, but that doesn’t mean that we like using them!

The day that Mr Man goes in is always a stressful one, and we tend to leave everything to the last minute; pointlessly trying to delay the inevitable. I feel so cruel dropping Mr Man off there when I know that he hates it there so much. He feels insecure being away from the familiar surroundings of our own home, but we both know he won’t cope being on his own. At least when he goes into the respite home he always stays in the same room, which helps to give him that sense of familiarity that he needs. Also, I worry about how he will cope while I’m away. I don’t trust the staff to notice if his symptoms worsen.

"Respite" by Philippa King

We both tend to avoid contact with the people who work there as much as possible. They’re pleasant but clueless, and so laid back that they’re almost levitating in a horizontal position. It’s frustrating to say the least. The presence of one member of staff in particular makes Mr Man feel extremely uncomfortable as he used to be his manager when he worked for Royal Mail, and they didn’t get along at all. Neither of them has brought up their past relationship, and they’re pleasant to each other, but it’s very awkward.

Mr Man tends to just stay in his own room most of the time. He takes his laptop with him and connects to the internet using his mobile phone as a modem, and he also has a little gadget that he takes with him that he can watch all his favourite films on.

He did spend some time in the living room this time though, comforting a woman who was also a “guest” there. Now bear in mind that there is only one respite bed and Mr Man was in it, so this lady has either just been discharged from hospital and her stay there is part of her rehabilitation into society, or she is staying there as a form of “crisis intervention” – in other words her mental health is deteriorating and she is not coping at home, so they move her to this home in the hope that they can stabilize her before she deteriorates further and needs a hospital admission - after all, prevention is better than cure, and rehabilitation homes with unqualified staff are cheaper to run than psychiatric wards which require proper nurses. Bearing that in mind, I’m not quite sure how this “crisis intervention” thing is supposed to work; the staff have no say over medication or any other form of treatment or therapy. In all honesty they appear to be nothing more than baby sitters.

When Mr Man first stayed in this home I was quite impressed with the relaxed atmosphere and the fact that the staff room door was always open. Rather than making themselves unapproachable by hiding away in the office for their gossip and tea, the staff have an open door policy whereby guests can just walk in to the office at any time of the day or night for a chat. This is so different from the hospital that Mr Man was in where patients were treated like naughty school children, left queuing outside the office door, and were not allowed out of their rooms after a certain time.

However, going back to the lady that Mr Man was comforting, what she needed was more pro-active care rather than re-active*. As she struggled to hold back tears she explained to Mr Man that she felt too shy to just walk into the office and announce “I need to talk to someone”. Once again I suppose it comes down to the age old problem of these staff members not being psychic; they can’t offer help unless they know it’s needed. But surely discernment would be a good quality to possess for a job like this?

To be honest I’m not sure what qualities or qualifications are looked for when these people are employed. I mentioned previously how Mr Mans Key worker, Jim, unhelpfully tried to offer me various dates for Mr Man to stay as a substitute for the actual dates I needed – not very helpful when you have a hospital appointment for an operation on a specific day. He has also rather tactlessly suggested to Mr Man that he should stay more often to give me a break at home, as if Mr Man is a burden to me. If it didn’t make me so angry it would be laughable considering the cutbacks in respite accommodation. How could he possibly stay more often?

This time when I booked the dates for respite Jim booked Mr Man in for the Sunday night “just in case”, in addition to the Friday and Saturday I had asked for, despite the fact that I had already told him that Mr Man would be picked up by his sister on the Sunday morning. I couldn’t be bothered to argue with him. The less time spent in conversation with him the better. When I dropped Mr Man off I made sure that the staff were aware that Mr Man would not need the bed on Sunday night, but they left him booked in saying “It doesn’t matter”. Well, obviously not to them, but as someone who struggles to get the dates needed for Mr Man, especially now that there is only one respite bed for the whole of the north of the county, I feel it is a shocking waste of resources to book a bed for use when you know full well that it will remain empty. What happened in the summer is a classic example; I didn’t know until less than one week before I was due to go away whether the bed would be free on the Thursday night or not. Is this the kind of attitude that staff have at all of these kinds of homes?

To be honest I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s really worth all the stress just for a few days away. This last time that Mr Man stayed there I was incredibly worried about him as he began to feel very down on the Saturday. I couldn’t sleep that night because I was so worried about him and ended up phoning him at about 2am to make sure he was ok. Even after all this time I can’t shake the thought that he might seriously harm himself or even attempt suicide. I suppose after living with that very real fear for so long it will never leave me entirely. My only comfort is that when he is in the respite home he is not completely alone, so if I suspected that something was seriously wrong I could get the staff to check on him.

On Sunday evening I was so relieved to have him home again with me. Our true respite.

*In behavioral medicine, proactive often refers to a treatment approach where a therapist initiates contacts as opposed to reactive where the responsibility for contacts with the therapist is entirely on the client. - Wikipedia


Slurry said...

Its a real shame respite doesnt seem to have the desired effect for both of you, same seems they make it so dam hard aswell.

When I go in to respite, its very good, I get a good few weeks each yr, and find them very pro active, and stimulating. but it varies from county to county sadly.

Hope your both ok!

Mr Mans Wife said...

Thank you Slurry, we're fine thank you.

I'm glad that your experience of respite is a more positive one. It's true what you say about care varying from county to county. I dare say some guests are very happy with the level of care that Mr Mans respite home provides, but for some people it just isn't enough. I suppose they can't please everyone.

How are you keeping at the moment?

Slurry said...

Im keeping well thanks, Abit fed up as they have fiddled with my meds again, but nothing to drastic, and have a CPA next week, so all fun and games!

Mr Mans Wife said...

Good, I'm glad you're keeping well despite the interference from the CMHT! :o)