During my time as a businessman I have been responsible for the creation and growth of numerous businesses based around Care, to drive change for good and look after adolescents learning independence in the community, young people who have mental health issues and have been previously sectioned under Mental Health Act through to looking after the elderly and socially isolated in their own homes.
One thing that has always impacted the quality of support that we could offer and that was the fact that there is never enough money. Evidence shows that this is still true today.
There are never enough resources to ensure that the young and socially vulnerable, or the old and physically vulnerable are not left for extended periods of time without support, often leading to a feeling of total isolation.
In the case of young people, they may lack social skills, or they may justly be highly adept at choosing friends that have no real interest in them but want to use their flat to party. After all this sort of knowledge only comes through experience to any of us.
They may be anxious about leaving the house because they have mental health issues.
They may be one of the ‘hidden carers’, children and young people who end up devoting their lives to care for a parent who is unable to cope alone. This often leads to regular non-attendance in education and therefore becoming socially isolated from their peers.
Or they may be adults, who like me, gave everything up that they have created to look after ill parents or significant others.
They may be people who need to be able to reach out of their immediate environment and get support… To be able to say “I need support”, whether that’s in the form of a physical hug or just getting to sound off to somebody you know about how crappy your day has been so that you can sleep with a clear head and survive it all again tomorrow.
After years of trying to work out a solution I finally have a plan to drive change for good.
A plan that will totally reshape the way we think about providing social care and support within the community globally.
This is ‘a bottom-up approach’, whereby the community works with a framework of external support to ensure that all of the people within it reap the benefits of the area and that none of the people within it are isolated.
Almost daily over the last year or so we have seen government members fall out, disrupt each other and fight to score points off their colleagues for their own short-term gain.
This ridiculous behaviour has to stop. In the face of the major social issues that we need to resolve, there is no room for schoolyard politics. It doesn’t matter what you have voted historically or who you hold allegiances to: Conservative, Labour and Liberals are absolutely losing out on their own future at the moment. Nobody is benefiting from it and even the politicians are not benefiting beyond a positive soundbite each day.
It is destructive and has no long-term purpose in society.
What I propose is this:
To drive change for good I suggest we use existing technology and specially written software to pilot the project, we initially need to equip a number of elderly people in an area with tablet devices that have our own bespoke software on it.
This bespoke software will enable people to push a button on the screen and access our support workers face-to-face, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Not only will they be able to access a support worker, but it will be a support worker they know and somebody who knows them.
This same principle will also be used with a target group of young carers.
The underlying theory behind this is simple… A radical re-think of any service provision is too risky for the Government to attempt, so they never will.
If we are able to prove our model to have better outcomes and be more cost effective, then I believe that with public support the Govt will have to trial it and let it grow as its success grows.
Why does this mean so much to me?
6 years ago I was founder and CEO of seven different businesses.
I was a workaholic.
Eventually, as always happens, I burned out and my business partner and I decided that I should take a six-month sabbatical.
As the businesses were operating very successfully, we had staff teams of a couple of hundred people and managers in place to ensure that it would run smoothly without me.
What actually happened during this time off was that both of my parents became very ill.
My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer and my dad was diagnosed with a chronic chest condition in almost the same month.
I made a conscious decision then, to be the best I could be for them, to support them wholeheartedly as they had always supported me growing up.
So I became their carer.
Initially it was relatively easy because I was able to use my own domiciliary care company staff to come in and support with the basic care and allow my parents to build up relationships with the best care workers that I had available.
This worked well, meaning that the care I provided was primarily that of making food for them both, and being general moral support and taxi driver to their numerous medical appointments.
However, over the next six to nine months, as my mum and dad went through periods of deterioration, it became apparent that the local authority was only ever going to provide care assistance for a maximum of one and a half hours a day and that was under constant re-assessment if either of them perked up for any length of time.
(The strange conundrum that makes you want your parents to be healthy and pain free whilst hoping that once they have been assessed that they remain as ill or worsen so as to not lose the support that you depend on.)
This support was initially useful, enabling me to have a shower and personal admin time whilst they were there. But as time progressed and my parents deteriorated it soon became woefully inadequate.
As the months went by and my role almost became that of full time parent to them both, I transformed from a highly positive, intelligent and reactive business person able to juggle numerous businesses successfully, to someone who was so sleep deprived and emotionally wrung out that I probably couldn’t have told you what day it was. I was unable to see a future, let alone plan for one.
After about an indeterminable amount of time, I actually handed over my bank cards, keys and all responsibility to my business partner saying I did not want to be involved anymore. The business that I had built from scratch with a team over the last 3.5 years had recently been valued at eight figures.
“Why would you do that?” I hear you cry.
The simple answer, I had become so exhausted mentally and emotionally and so entrenched in the unforgiving daily situation, that at that time I honestly believed it was my role solely to look after both of my parents until they died. After that I would have no purpose anyway and cease to exist.
My mum died of cancer in December 2014.
Not long after that my dad started to display the symptoms of dementia.
Perhaps he had just stopped fighting. Perhaps he had managed to keep it together by concentrating all of his emotional energy on worrying and concern about mum. Perhaps it was just crappy biological timing.
Either way it was the start of a whole new nightmare.
By the time my dad died in September 2017 I was unrecognisable to anyone from my former business life.
I was a functional alcoholic drinking at least a litre of spirits per day.
I was unable to read or even concentrate on television programmes.
I was agoraphobic.
The only time I left the house was to go shopping, usually after midnight so I didn’t have to see anybody. My personal hygiene was non-existent.
I was a broken man.
The reality of it is if I hadn’t met the amazing person I am now married to – a woman who had known me when I was successful and who took the time to draw me back out, through all of the stuff I was going through, then I probably would not even been here now.
So, that was all pretty cheerful wasn’t it?
I’m a bloke, so you can understand when I say that I am not really a natural sharer.
I share my journey with you today for a couple of reasons;
Firstly and most importantly, you may be at the start of a caring journey with one or both of your parents and it is SO important to know the slippery slope you are about to embark on.
You need support.
Ensure that if you have siblings you engage them fully with what you are having to do – you don’t keep it to yourself and crack on.
You spill the beans to them about everything and you make them understand the sacrifices and the shit that you are going through.
They cannot read your mind and if they have their own families to bring up it might not be obvious to them from the outside.
Secondly, in today’s civilised society with the amount of progress we’ve made technologically and with the amount of progress we’ve made psychologically, we have never been clearer about what motivates us, what drives us to and from things and situations. We all understand what we need to have the life we deserve.
So why do we have so many carers struggling by themselves particularly young carers?
Why do we allow our most vulnerable people to become socially isolated and devoid of hope?
I believe that I am a reasonably Intelligent person. I have a broad base of Life experience and I am emotionally intelligent.
If my experience with my parents almost destroyed me, then what chance do children or young people have who are caring for their parents?
Men who have worked on the shop floor their entire working lives are suddenly now having to provide personal care and emotional support to their significant other who cannot return the favour.
It is time we take back the word ‘Community’.
It is time we start working together instead of against each other.
It is time that we put the heart back into a society.
It is time that we drive change for good … together.
“It is our commonality that enables us to build communities.
It is our uniqueness that makes them work.”
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below and please reach out if you would like to join forces with me in ending loneliness in every community.