The agency we use for personal care couldn’t provide night cover but I thought it would be easy to find one which did. Silly me! Despite there being so many care agencies most of which advertise sleepover and waking nights when I phoned to ask about the service it turned out they didn’t actually provide it. Some sounded genuinely regretful at being unable to help – staff shortages – others sounded like they couldn’t care less. One or two, while not quite laughing out loud at my request made it sound like I was asking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The person who answered the phone at one agency sounded like it might be possible but couldn’t say for sure. Her manager would call me when he came in. He did call back. “I’m afraid we can’t provide anyone right now. We are recruiting, though, so it could be possible in three to four weeks,” he told me cheerfully. I wasn’t sure if either the Goldfish or I would still be alive by then. I did ask how he could recruit and train staff within that kind of time frame. I should have kept my mouth shut because he did not, as promised, call me back with details of a nursing agency.
I did try nursing agencies. I didn’t care about the cost. None could help. Although Social Services are not allowed to recommend one agency over another the CC did whisper a couple of contacts. Maybe I copied the numbers down wrongly but no one bothered to call back. Perhaps the desperation in my voice as I gabbled voicemail messages put them off?
A friend gave me a contact for an agency of which I’d heard but hadn’t considered because it mainly supported people with learning difficulties. I rang the number. The person who answered sounded so positive they could help I almost wept – actually, I think I did. She promised she would have someone call me back next day – and actually rang me again to confirm this was going to happen. And it did. I was delirious with joy as we arranged dates and times for meetings to discuss what care the Goldfish required. Care plans, person-centred support, interviews: I ignored the first faint tinkling of alarm bells – someone was going to be able to come and stay for a couple of nights. I was going to get a break.
The Goldfish slept throughout the meeting/interview with the manager of the care agency, who turned up without the ‘very nice chap’ who was going to do the shifts but couldn’t make it today because… I think he was doing some emergency cover. She asked lots of questions about his routine, what he liked to do, about going to the toilet, evening routine, bedtime routine. I answered but kept trying to explain nothing was routine any more. She nodded and made sympathetic noises. My heart began to sink. But, not to worry, we’d cried out for help and it was coming – soon. Was it what we wanted, though?
Of course, it bloody wasn’t. The Goldfish was, understandably, anxious about the stranger who’d come to stay and wouldn’t settle. The very nice chap who turned up didn’t want to upset him by insisting he went to bed so the Goldfish stayed up until four o’clock in the morning. Slept most of the next day, stayed awake until four or five next morning with the nice chap. We kept telling ourselves it would take a wee while to establish a routine. Aagh!