I’m doing pretty good for me. Having Johan home all the time means no waiting for urgent care and shorter waits for less urgent care, which means I’m physically doing a bit better. Not being alone in the flat most of the day is great for my anxiety, even though I’m still spending most of my time alone. Unlike most people, I am used to being unable to go out or see friends and family, so a few more months isn’t going to make much of a difference (I last got out of bed on the 29th of December).
Being that little bit better means I can do my favourite things, like play video games and read a bit. I’ve managed to watch Steven Universe The Movie, and the first two episodes of Steven Universe Future. I’ve caught up with YouTube videos I have full notifications turned on for. I’ve had video chats with Sammie, voice chats with Johan and even was in a group chat with other This is True supporters (that last one did mean I slept for most of the next two days, but was fun). I even got my loom bands out and made a strap for when I use utensils and things so they don’t go flying when I spasm (looms hold things together when they get chucked, luckily).
We’ve also had many friends and organisations check we’re okay and offered to help if we needed it. So far it’s fine. Between deliveries and our local shop, we’ve been able to get everything we’ve needed except chicken, and that we can work around. I’m very grateful we’re not forgotten and hope those who do need the help get it.
It feels really weird to be doing well during a global crisis. The reason Johan is home is because people are becoming ill and dying from a virus with no known treatment. People are losing jobs and worse. I saw on Twitter someone being told that instead of getting personal protective equipment for her PAs (impossible to source as a single person right now) she should go in a care home, despite having been exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms. Care homes are terrible places for disabled people even in the best of times. This is wrong, just for the need of some face masks.
There are still some struggles. As we’re doing a modified version of shielding for me (because full shielding is impossible if you need personal care and I’m technically not in the extremely vulnerable group, just in the likely to die if there’s not enough medical care available group) the lack of skin contact hand holds (we hold hands while Johan is wearing gloves instead) and hugs is hard. As is knowing I’ll not be seeing Sammie or friends in person for a while, after having plans to do so. Johan is starting to feel cooped up, so we’re trying to figure out the safest way for them to go out (the main risk being our neighbour). It’s also a bit frustrating being well enough to go out for the first time in months but not being able to for reasons outside of my control.
I’m in the middle of setting up some routines based on our current circumstances, as my previous ones were based around my care calls, which we’ve now cancelled (along with the cleaner). I’ve got a list of options for things to do so I spend less time trying to figure them out. I’m working on the best way to prompt Johan to do tasks now their routine has also been messed up, and to replace the prompts from the carers and the cleaner (the better care workers would let us know if things needed doing which helped).
One problem we’ve yet to solve is Johan getting overwhelmed if I ask for two things at once, even if I give an order to do them in. I need to do so as if I don’t, I forget the second thing while the first is being done, and Johan gets frustrated when I realise again 10 minutes or so after they’ve sat back down. I also forget it if I try to type it. I know Johan finds my memory problems one of the hardest parts of my illness to cope with, and this situation makes it really obvious.
I’m frustrated that I can’t be the carer that Johan needs. Johan is frustrated that they struggle with providing some of my care. We’re still doing mostly fine, and not having to travel to work (or volunteering) means Johan has been able to cook more which I appreciate. I just don’t know how I’m meant to feel, and that feels weird.
So it didn’t take long after my last post for things to change. Johan’s races were cancelled, and we decided that putting me in a care home was not a good idea considering it would increase the risks to me and the other residents. Johan is also now working from home, as is everyone else in the office.
Johan still took the days booked off as holiday last week, which was Wednesday and Friday. On Wednesday we spent time together in my room, and they opened my curtain and window for me so I could get some fresh air (I originally wanted to go onto the ramp but we decided that wasn’t the best plan). Unfortunately I forgot to ask to have the curtain put up again, and the extra light in my bedroom caused me to feel horrendous over the weekend. It’s back up and I’m doing a bit better now.
Friday was originally meant to be Johan goes to Kielder day. Instead, it was Johan plays Doom Eternal day. I did get to see them occasionally, but mostly I heard lots of clicky noises from the living room 😛 At some point we want to play the board game Pandemic, as I’ve had it for ages but not opened it yet.
Johan working from home is weird. Having them in the living room all day but not being able to just bug them about little things is weird, especially as they’re usually in a voice or video chat with colleagues so I can’t just yell through. We’re using the same system as when they were in the office, which is using WhatsApp for non important stuff (like funny pictures or tweets I find) and Google Hangouts for urgent stuff (I need some care doing). If it’s super duper important, I’ll yell anyway as the rest of the team knows that Johan is my carer, but hopefully it won’t come to that. (If I can’t yell, then I can use the Google Nest Minis to broadcast a message into the living room, which is also part of my wake up Johan plan on a night time.)
At the moment we still have the care workers still coming in. On top of the normal hand washing and gloves, they’re also wearing aprons now. We’ve told the agency that if/when they start having staffing problems, just let us know and they can cut our calls as Johan is here. It will make things harder for us but a lot of the clients have no-one so they’ll need to prioritise. We’re also considering if it might be safest to cancel the calls anyway, to reduce the chance of me catching the virus from them. We’ll need to check with the council for how that will work with direct payments but we’re not there yet.
Sammie is happy that there’s no school and her exams are cancelled. She was really stressed out about her GCSEs and I was getting worried about her. If her teacher’s assessment is close to her predicted grades she’s got no problems when it comes to doing the college course she’s interested in. We don’t know if her school will be providing any work as they’ve already done the curriculum and were just revising and getting prepared for the exams, but if not then she’s got projects she wants to work on. We’re also playing Minecraft together when we get the chance, and I believe she’s got an island to develop for her animal friends.
The hardest part of being in self isolation is that I won’t get to see Sammie in person for the foreseeable future. We’ll be video chatting as normal, but it’s not the same. This is especially hard as the last time she came over I was pretty ill and we couldn’t have any hugs. I’m also no longer having hugs or hand holds with Johan, and we’re reducing physical contact to the minimum. We go on voice chat when I’m on my puter and they’re not working so we can chat without being in the same room.
Johan is still going out for prescriptions and food, but otherwise is staying in. We did manage to get some baby wipes from Aldi, and I found an unopened bottle of alcohol based hand sanitiser that has technically expired but should still be okay according to what I’ve read online, so I’m now using that.
One of the reasons we’re being so strict about physical contact with me is that the NICE guidelines for critical care with COVID-19 came out. They will be using the Clinical Frailty Scale (pdf) to help inform when critical care is appropriate, as for those with a score of five or higher “there is uncertainty regarding the likely benefit of critical care organ support”. My score is seven or severely frail . Now this doesn’t mean that if I need critical care I definitely won’t get it, but as doctors already massively underestimate my quality of life (I’ve had many that don’t believe me when I say I’m not depressed among other things) and there is likely to be a shortage of ventilators, there’s a good chance that if I get that ill, I’ll be placed on palliative care instead.
As well as trying to avoid me getting ill at all, I’ll also be updating my emergency information sheet to state I want all life saving measures to be taken if required, and make sure that those who might be asked know my wishes. I still think the main risk is less the virus itself and it making my ME worse, as I’ve ended up in hospital before when unable to swallow and it would be even harder now. Unfortunately a couple of online friends have already come down with suspected COVID-19, one of whom is still in hospital. I really hope they’ll be okay. It’s so important for people to stay at home unless necessary, but some people haven’t got that yet.
So on to better stuff. Other than the payback from sensory overload caused by not having my curtain up for a couple of days, I’ve been doing pretty well for me. Lots of computer time, catching up with emails, chatting to Sammie and Johan. I’ve also been looking at the positives that are coming out of this. Everything from the mutual aid groups, people putting rainbows in their windows for kids to spot when they’re out on walks, individuals helping out those in need, and even companies giving free drinks to those who have to work.
For this week, I’m hoping to play more World of Warcraft and Minecraft, maybe read a book, and possibly watch the Steven Universe film. I’m also planning on lots of sleep and rest to keep myself as well as possible, doing my physiotherapy, and chatting to Sammie and Johan. I’ll be on Twitter so I can see penguin and cat pictures and videos. I’m going to set up a routine based around Johan working, especially since I seem to be awake during the day most of the time at the moment. Things may be uncertain right now, but there is still good out there.
This evening I was finally well enough at the time one of my favourite care workers was here to have a proper hair wash, with water and shampoo. The last time was in July so it was desperately needed. I had used shampoo caps in between, but they stop working so well after a couple of months. It’s taken a couple of hours but I’ve now stopped shaking from the pain and exertion so I can write this blog post. I am happy 🙂
The last few weeks I’ve had quite a few new care workers. Some I’ve missed by being asleep when they’ve come (if anyone can figure out how to have set time care calls when you have no sleeping pattern, let me know) but others I’ve met.
Most of them come with one of my regular care workers, especially T, who is my main evening carer. T is one of my favourites, who I know very well at this point and trust her with the tasks that are most painful to me, such as tonight’s hair washing and having a body wash earlier this week (might have been yesterday? I can’t quite remember). She’s also a pretty good judge of who I’m likely to do well with and who I’m likely to struggle with, so if she’s previously worked with the new care workers she lets me know how it’s been.
Some of them have been fine. I have to have things done in a certain way or it makes me very anxious, but I have written an instruction book that goes through everything step by step. The ones who are willing to read the book and follow it usually do okay. If they listen to T as well, it can go pretty well, and usually I’m less nervous about their next call. Tonight I had a new care worker who listened, followed instructions, and I got on with quite well.
Some of them… not so much. One, who luckily left after a few weeks, was genuinely scary. Not because she was abusive or anything, but because she basically needed care herself. She needed every instruction given to her multiple times, and even then would get it wrong. I’ve never known it take 20 minutes to fill my Hydrant with squash before, but she took that long even with help. I heard some stories about her from the other care workers that were terrifying (including trying to hoist someone incorrectly and nearly dropping someone down the stairs), and just mentioning her name to those who had worked with her caused despair. I was surprised that she hadn’t been fired but luckily she left herself.
Others just don’t listen to the more experienced care worker while here. I find having two care workers in my room overwhelming while having personal care done, so usually one goes into the kitchen to sort my drinks and food and such, while the other does my personal care. It works well, and means we get everything I need doing in the time I have. The book the care workers have to fill in is kept in the kitchen, where there’s a brighter light (as I’m light sensitive), there’s the counter to lean on and it is better for me.
Last week I had one that just wouldn’t listen to T. It was frustrating for both of us. Instead of doing the book in the kitchen, she decided to bring it into my room and stood in the middle trying to lean on the back of my wheelchair to fill it in. There’s not very much space in my room so she was just getting in T’s way, and wouldn’t move when asked. I’d ran out of baby wipes and was just standing there while T was looking for the box with them in, which meant she couldn’t find them and we had to use my more expensive bath in bed wipes. Turns out the new care worker had been pretty much on top of them. There was also just something about her that made me feel very uneasy, and by the end of it I was more knackered and overwhelmed than normal. The next time I saw T she told me she was about as helpful at the other calls.
I got my rota for next week and saw that she’d been assigned to work with T for two nights. I had a suspicion that T would be asking for that to be changed, and when she came tonight she confirmed that I was having two of my more regular, liked carers coming instead. She even talked one of the care workers into coming in on her day off so she didn’t have to work with that new care worker. I am relieved, and there’s only one completely new care worker on my rota for next week.
There is a lot of turnover in care work. Most of my regular care workers have been with this agency for a year or longer, but the organisation has gotten worse over the last year or so (see also the saga of it taking eight months before they’d stop sending a care worker here that I’d banned) and it’s resulted in quite a few of the best workers going elsewhere. I try to give new care workers a chance, and know that sometimes first impressions can sometimes be wrong (one that I thought was super patronising the first time I met her turned out to be lovely and is now one of my favourites). Sometimes though there are care workers who I’m just incompatible with.
Of the over 80 care workers I’ve had with this agency, I’ve only had to ban four of them, which considering I’m autistic and picky about how things are done is not bad. There have been some that I only saw once or twice before they left, often because they realised that this job wasn’t for them. It’s definitely not paid well enough, and I suspect some of those who don’t last only started because it’s one of the few jobs that is always seeking new people. It does take a certain set of skills though, and not everyone has them (neither Johan or I could do it, even if I were perfectly healthy). My favourite care workers are those who are doing the job because they want to, and it shows.
A couple of years ago I think the care worker who was a danger to clients and herself wouldn’t have got past the shadowing stage. When I joined the agency it was the best in the area, was decently ran and most of the care workers were happy. Nowadays, not so much. They took on too many new clients too quickly, which meant needing a lot of new care workers quickly and overworking the ones they already had, resulting in quite a few quitting and others threatening. It wasn’t unusual for one of my favourite care workers to end up with 90+ hours a week, which is just dangerous, especially on a regular basis. It took her threatening to quit before they reduced her hours to something a bit more reasonable (though still a lot higher than 48 hours a week) and she’s starting to learn to say no when asked to do more.
For me, my main issue is the disorganisation. I need to know who is coming and when, and to be informed of any changes. If this is done, even at short notice, then I’ll be fine. If it isn’t, and these days it’s unusual for me to get told of changes, then I can’t cope and panic. This makes me more ill, and has caused problems for Johan as he’s often had to abandon what he’s doing to be able to come and calm me down. The agency has been aware of this since we joined, and one of the owners has an autistic son so should know why it’s needed.
What doesn’t help is I get a rota on a Friday that is for the following week starting on Monday, but by the next Friday the weekend calls have often changed, and though the care workers get an updated rota I don’t. I don’t understand why they don’t just give me a rota on a Friday for a week starting the Saturday, so if anything changes at the weekend it’ll be reflected in my rota.
I also know that emergencies happen. They have Johan’s mobile number, and they are supposed to ring or text him if something happens. Even a couple of minutes notice (Johan messages me if he’s out so I still find out) makes a big difference if they can give it. I have some care workers now who refuse to cover for my calls unless I’m told they’re coming, as they’ve seen what it’s like for me.
The worst is when they change the call time and don’t tell me. I’m pretty okay with care workers being late, as stuff happens, calls can overrun, there can be traffic and such. I do start to worry if they don’t arrive during my call time though (half an hour for my lunch and afternoon calls, 45 minutes for my evening call), especially as I’ve had care workers not turn up in the past (mostly with previous agencies). Johan struggles to initiate communication but if someone doesn’t turn up he usually can let them know and find out who is coming and when they’re likely to be here (sometimes it’s just a bad emergency, sometimes a care worker has just not turned up and they have to find cover).
What I can’t cope with is them being early. It took me years to manage not to panic if they arrived the allowed 15 minutes before my call, and I now have alerts set to go off then so I am ready for them. Sometimes though they change the call time to earlier than is on my rota, and don’t tell me. My brain explodes and I just can’t cope with it, and often the care worker has no idea what’s wrong as it was correct on their rota. If it’s a combination of an earlier call and a new care worker, I often end up in meltdown or shutdown. I wish I didn’t react like that but receiving personal care is already scary and painful, I struggle with strangers especially when alone (if Johan knows I’m getting a new care worker on a single call, he tries to be here with me) and changes to my routine are difficult to cope with. If they just let me know, everything is fine.
Wow this turned into a bit of a rant. Compared to the previous care agencies I’ve had, this is still the best, even if it is going downhill a bit at the moment. Most of the care workers I have are nice, my most regular ones are awesome and I get on with them great, and most of the time everything goes as well as it can. Previous agencies have included care workers deliberately causing me pain (and being told by my then social worker that I just had to put up with it), calls being missed and not having anyone cover them, not sending me rotas at all so I panicked at every call, and even being put into special measures by the CQC and losing the contract with the council. In comparison, this one is much better. I just wish they’d sort things out so it is better for the clients and the care workers.
Super late with this, but there’s a good reason. I went out! Have three photos instead to make up for it 😛
The beginning of the week was okay, other than a migraine. Didn’t do anything particularly interesting. Went on my computer on Wednesday and Thursday and played World of Warcraft (as well as catching up with the previous late blog posts).
Didn’t do much for Halloween other than wear my rubber penguin mask when the carers came in, which they somehow managed not to notice until after I took it off a few minutes later. Must have been one of those days for them.
On Friday Blizzcon started! Missed the opening ceremony as was asleep but watched some panels after waking up. The Diablo mobile game presentation was not good. I don’t think they’d realised how much they’d misjudged their audience. What they showed looked remarkably similar to a mobile game I’d played a few years ago, so while I might try it I’m not looking forward to it the way I would a new PC game. The non-Diablo panels I saw were good though.
Saturday was awesome! The local park had a fireworks display for Guy Fawkes Night (though a couple of days early so it was on a Saturday rather than a Monday) and I was well enough to go! The noise from the stage was so loud it was audible as soon as we left our building (about a mile away) but luckily it was the type of noise my noise cancelling headphones does well with. The fireworks themselves were awesome, and I’m really happy that I managed it (not so sure Johan was as he had to push me up and down steep hills and on grass :P). On the way home we picked up some pizza, and watched some more Blizzcon. It was an amazing day.
Sunday I slept most of the day, which was not a surprise. When I was awake I just listened to Welcome to Night Vale and played easy games on my tablet.
Overall mood – 3 good days, 4 awesome ones. High symptoms at the beginning of the week, but dropped to my normal by the end.
Average daily sleep – 10 hours 14 minutes
Longest sleep – 20 hours 7 minutes, from Thursday evening to Friday evening
Clothes changed – 3 (including 13th Doctor top and Gender is a Universe hoodie)
Wipe wash – 1
Water wash – 0
Hair wash – 1 (shampoo cap)
Books read – 0
TV watched – 0
Streams watched – Blizzcon!
Youtube watched – Yup
Music listened to – Battle for Azeroth soundtrack (while out on Saturday)
Podcasts listened to – Episodes 63 and 64 of Welcome to Night Vale
Blog posts written – 1
Penguins cuddled – Yup
Johan hand holds – Some
Johan hugs – Yes! On Saturday (is easier to hug in wheelchair)
Time on Twitter – 7 hours 38 minutes (average 1 hour 4 minutes a day)
Time on Reddit – 24 hours 3 minutes (average 3 hours 23 minutes a day)
Time on Facebook – 3 minutes
That sleep from Thursday to Friday was epic. Without it, I doubt I’d have been able to go out. I did wake up every so often for painkillers and stuff, but fell asleep again quickly.
Fireworks are so pretty! Going out is awesome!
Noise cancelling headphones are amazing. I don’t know what I’d do without them at this point. Definitely not go out to watch fireworks.
The Gutenberg editor for WordPress was fixed quickly after the bug was reported. I’ve been using it fine for this post.
Games played – 8
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp
World of Warcraft
AC: Pocket Camp Level – 131
Godville Heroine Level – 61 (23% done)
Godville wood for ark – 48.3%
Godville savings – 2 million, 185 thousand
Cross stitch completed – 1
Most played game – Animal Crossing (11 hours 39 minutes, average 3 hours 3 minutes a day)
New events in Animal Crossing – an anniversary event that will have the other types of event with it.
Started with a flower event on Thursday. Finished the first half of it by Sunday.
When in World of Warcraft managed to get 2 new pets from Hallow’s End and made progress on the legendary staff.
You’ll never guess what I got up to this week. It definitely didn’t involve a massive multiplayer online role playing game that I’m a bit obsessed with, honest 😛
Yeah, another WoW week. Last week I did the Jaina storyline, but had stop before the end as to finish it you needed to go into a mythic only dungeon (which is the hardest standard difficulty level). On Tuesday some people in my guild talked me into healing said mythic dungeon, so I managed to get to the end but also learnt I’m really not well enough to heal mythics. If it hadn’t been a guild group I would have been kicked really early on as I kept dying and wiping the group as I just didn’t have the concentration needed to heal and remember the mechanics at the same time.
It did mean I completed the Jaina storyline completely though. Will put the last spoilers below in a spoiler thingy, but I got very emotional again finishing it.
End of Jaina Questline
In between the constant deaths and wipes, our group of adventurers fought against Lady Priscilla Ashbane’s most powerful allies, including the Irontide pirates in the Siege of Boralus dungeon. As the name suggests, we’re fighting to retake the city back from her. As it’s pirate themed, there’s a lot of gun fire and cannons, and a sea monster.
Once you’ve defeated them all, you speak to Jaina which spawns a cinematic, where Lady Ashvane’s ships are heading towards the shore. Katherine Proudmoore gives Jaina the Kul Tiras pendant that her father used to have, and using it and her magic she was able to call the Kul Tiran fleet home from the mist (where they’d been hidden for reasons). Lady Ashvane is surrounded, and she surrenders.
Afterwards you go to Unity Square and watch as Katherine declares Jaina the new Lord Admiral of Kul Tiras, and the other houses pledge their allegiance to her and the Alliance. Lady Katherine remains the leader of the Proudmoore Admirality and Tiragarde Sound, but Jaina is now in charge.
We also find out that Taelia is the daughter of Bolvar Fordragon, who was a great hero of the Alliance. Not sure she wants to know he’s now the Lich King though…
Once I completed the questline, I mostly concentrated on doing side quests and working on my reputations, especially the war campaign. I also went back and cleared Firelands on 25 heroic as it’s trivial content now, and it’s annoying me that I don’t have the reputation at exalted. I got lucky and won the mount from Alysrazor which made me happy. I also managed to complete the achievement Ready for War which was the end of another, less emotional storyline (though petable baby dinosaurs were involved afterwards).
I didn’t go on my computer everyday though. Thursday and Friday I ended up feeling rather rotten, and became really moody (and not as a response to anything). Based on the cramping pain I then got, we’re pretty sure that it was hormones, which was reassuring as it meant we knew it would be temporary. I had to ask Johan to send the carers away Friday night as I just couldn’t cope and was worried if they touched me then I’d end up hitting them. Panic attacks, paranoia and hallucinations are not fun. (I’m feeling better now.) Once it calmed down a bit I was able to go back on puter and play WoW as a distraction, which helped. I also listened to the song Daughter of the Sea from Warbringers: Jaina, the story of how Jaina became a traitor (from the Kul Tiran point of view), on repeat a lot. The first video is the animated story version, the second is just the song.
Overall mood – Mix of awesome, good and poor on Friday. High symptoms because of hormones and weather changes.
Average daily sleep – 10 hours 43 minutes
Longest sleep – 17 hours 49 minutes, from Sunday morning to Sunday night.
Podcasts listened to – Episodes 46 to 50 of Welcome to Night Vale
Blog posts written – 0
Penguins cuddled – Definitely
Johan hand holds – Indeed
Johan hugs – Nope, too ill
Time on Twitter – 10 hours 18 minutes (average 1 hour 28 minutes a day)
Time on Reddit – 19 hours 32 minutes (average 2 hours 47 minutes a day)
Time on Facebook – 1 hour 7 minutes (average 9 minutes a day)
I am so grateful I don’t go through the hormonal premenstrual stuff monthly now. I don’t think either of us could cope.
I found out how to see what percentage of my time I spend on things. For this week, it was 45% sleeping, 17% on social media, 15% on World of Warcraft, 6% on other games (mostly Animal Crossing) and the rest was most other stuff. Only problem is my tracker can’t deal properly when I’m doing two things at once (such as on World of Warcraft on my computer and twitter on my tablet).
I had been planning on changing my clothes and having a wash at the weekend. That didn’t happen.
I’m so glad I had Johan while I wasn’t coping. He helps a lot.
My new eye mask is awesome. I’m hoping to do a full review at some point, but that might be a while.
Games played – 5
Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp
World of Warcraft
AC: Pocket Camp Level – 120
Godville Heroine Level – 58 (69% done)
Godville wood for ark – 39.5%
Godville savings – 1 million, 686 thousand
Cross stitch completed – 2
Most played game – Animal Crossing Pocket Camp (17 hours 2 minutes, average 2 hours 26 minutes a day)
New bug catching event in Animal Crossing, this time Bumbledrops.
Finished the first part of the bug event in just over a day, thanks to very active friends.
Remembered that cross stitch is good, especially when listening to podcasts.