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Carers Week: Perth service user Mira tells how frontline workers kept her safe during lockdown

Carers
Carers

As part of Carers’ Week, local writer Mira Grierson has shared her experiences of living through lockdown as a service user with Perth-based Crossroads.

“The two women sat facing me. Anita, my carer, had ushered me on to the bus and I was off for some retail therapy in the town. I was trying out my new outdoor wheelchair.

“Susie confided in Meg: ‘She is a lovely girl, but Bruce is ambitious. She is only a carer with something to do with the council.’

“That horrified me as I sat there an obviously disabled woman who was only on the bus because my carer had helped me to board and see that I was safely settled before she left.

“But that is what it is like – we the ‘service users’ become as invisible as the women who daily look after us.

“Let’s look at what a carer is. She, because it is mainly women, has to be multi skilled and well trained.  She has to be empathetic, patient, understanding, and strong.

“She also has to be committed to the job.  She has to have a sense of humour and be brave enough to say ‘no’ when it is an issue of safety or inappropriate behaviour.

“The coronavirus has changed so much for both my carers and me. Because of my age and disability I am on lockdown. When I heard the news of the doctor in China who gave warning of the possible pandemic on the World Service BBC radio in February, I did not realise things would progress so quickly. That young doctor died in March of the virus.

“Now my carers arrive masked and gloved.  Hands are washed, while door handles and taps are sanitized.  I have lost the two women who serve up my evening meal.  My thermometer comforts me and all of my carers check their temp. And, added to that, my hairdresser has had to self isolate.

“Now I have become an Annie Lennox look-a-like.  My carer is recovering from the experience of shaving my hair off.  I am going to keep it like it is.

“So added to the usual work of keeping me fed, clean and safe, the pattern of my life has changed.  The carers too have had to face huge change.

“They still check my radios for battery replacement. Light bulbs are replaced when they fail. The wheelchair chargers are checked and my medication is ordered and put in a safe place. My clothes are washed an ironed and I look fresh and clean.

“I am pretty fortunate. However, adaption seems to be something we are doing together as we deal with shops closing down and the restrictions of the lockdown.

“I stay within the safety of my home and, when I hear the door closing and they leave – that makes me fearful of their safety.  The possible loss that might transpire as they go from client to client doing their job is real. They are pretty brave folks.

“We are now in the world of plastic aprons, rubber gloves, hand sanitizers, face shields and a new way of working together.

“The team of carers that I have are excellent and I could not live without their help.

“The quality of my life would be very poor without their presence in my life.

“They respect my endeavours to be as independent as I need to be.  They are capable of great empathy and huge dollops of respect.

“Since lockdown and the horrors of this pandemic I have come to realise that at last these women who keep me safe and the fun, disasters and solutions we reach together  are friendships we both enjoy . They know how great they are because I tell them over and over.  Repeating my self over and over has at last become a gift.”

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