I Would Never (Or So I Thought): My Changing Perspective on My Care Needs #31Days2022

Hi everyone. Today’s optional prompt for #31Days2022 is “never”. I am immediately reminded of my shifting perspectives on my care needs over the 17+ years that I’ve been in the care system. Some things I thought I’d never accept, let alone want, in my care, are now things I wish for.

Most notably, in 2008, when I’d been in the psych hospital for about three months, I was being discussed among some autism know-it-alls. When asked what I wanted them to know before the meeting – since I wasn’t present at the meeting itself -, I wrote down that I wanted to be back in the community as much as possible as quickly as possible.

Out of the meeting came the recommendation that I be transferred to an autism treatment facility on psych institution grounds. I eventually ended up going to the orientation visit for the facility and the treatment coordinator and I mutually agreed it wouldn’t be the best place for me, precisely because of what it was: a treatment facility. I didn’t need further training in independence skills, after all, because, due to the combination of my disabilities, this wouldn’t be successful.

At first, I however misunderstood the meeting’s recommendations and thought they wanted me to go into the workhome, which is essentially a long-term living facility for autistics on the same institution grounds. And this is where I started to object in a way I wouldn’t now: I didn’t want to go live on institution grounds long-term.

For the first several years of my experience in the care system, I thought that institutionalization was an excuse for poor care. I am not saying it isn’t, because people who live in the community may need more support than those who live on sheltered institution grounds. In fact, when my current care facility was built in 2015, grouping several community-based care homes together, it was out of a need for budget cuts.

However, that wasn’t the reason I didn’t want to live on institution grounds. Indeed, the reason was the fact that I perceived myself as far more independent than I currently perceive myself. Not just that, but I had a misguided view of the amount of care I could receive.

You see, in 2007, I left an independence training home, where, during the week, the staff/client ratio was usually 2:7. Granted, there was no night shift, not even a sleeping one. I could deal with that at the time and, as a result, thought I could live in a community supported housing facility with staffing available even part of the day. Never mind that this usually meant a much lower staff/client ratio, so that within staffing hours, I would need to share my staff with a larger number of fellow residents.

I also rebelled against living on institution grounds because of my wish that more people could be integrated into society with the right support. Then again, I realized within the past several years that just because I and other people would wish for integration within society, doesn’t mean society wants us in it. For example, institution grounds are just much safer to walk on for people who aren’t safe in traffic, and that happens to include me. Just because I wish all drivers would stop their vehicles when they saw me, with or without my white cane, doesn’t mean they do. And it’s not like they can’t tell I’m disabled when I’m not using my white cane.

Also in 2008 or maybe it was 2009, I saw this documentary about a care agency in the southwest of the Netherlands which had completely done away with institution grounds in 1997, even for the most severely disabled clients. The presenter started out by saying that half (I think) of the clients in another province wanted to go back into institutions. The southwestern agency’s director started talking highly of his agency’s approach, where for instance they call their support workers “personal assistants” and where he at first claimed all clients are successfully integrated within the community. The presenter started showing examples of clients who were drowning, figuratively speaking, in the community. The bottom line of the documentary was that the director made up his mind and invited the presenter to come back a year later to hear his revised approach. I am pretty sure I wouldn’t believe the presenter, saying the clients had obviously not received the right amount of support. But if you need a “personal assistant” by your side all the time in the community while you can roam institution grounds freely by yourself, living in the community isn’t necessarily the obvious choice.

#WeekendCoffeeShare (September 3, 2022)

Hi all on this beautiful first Saturday of September. I for whatever reason keep typing “July” rather than “September”. Maybe that’s me wishful thinking. Anyway, here’s my post for this week’s #WeekendCoffeeShare. I just had my afternoon coffee, but the other clients are currently having theirs, so I bet there’s still some left for you. Let’s have a cup of coffee (or another drink, if you so prefer) and let’s catch up.

If we were having coffee, I’d start out by asking about your weather. Ours is beautiful. Today, we’re supposed to get daytime temps of up to 27°C. On Monday, the temperature’s even forecast to rise to 30°C. I guess my husband was wrong a few weeks ago when he predicted that it’d get only colder from that point on.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about all the physical activity I got in this past week. I got in a total of 330 exercise minutes according to my Apple Watch this week so far, exercise being anything at least the intensity of a brisk walk. I guess this means I can up my goal from 20 minutes to at least 30 a day. Then again, I badly want to reach it everyday.

If we were having coffee, I would use the rest of this post to share the details I promised you all in yesterday’s post about the potential new care home. You see, on Thursday at 2PM, the behavior specialist came by my room. The appt had already been planned or so I believe, because of the situation I shared a few weeks ago about an application having been put in for me to live at a senior citizens’ home for the visually impaired, a place I don’t consider suitable. I knew from my care facility’s manager that she understood this place doesn’t sound suitable indeed and also that she had heard that the people at the main institution for my current care agency, with whom I’d met at the end of July, were pretty enthusiastic about me. However, the manager didn’t expect to hear anything from them until next week.

Well, as it turned out, my behavior specialist had planned a meeting with the behavior specialist whom I’d met in July as soon as she could, which was last Thursday. It turns out I am number one on the waiting list for a home at the main institution. The home caters primarily to people with moderate to severe intellectual disability with a need for intensive support due to additional problems such as autism, attachment issues, etc. The level of intellectual disability is significantly less severe than in my current home, so I can actually make smalltalk with the other residents. The staff offer help with activities of daily living (personal care) where needed. Each resident has their own day program. This means that residents aren’t required to go to the day center by default. In fact, some of the residents go some of the time, others ride their bikes around institution grounds, while still others can’t leave the home unsupervised.

I told my husband about this home and he immediately replied that it sounds perfect. Well, I said, that isn’t possible, but it does sound pretty good indeed.

Of course, I am on the wait list, so there currently isn’t an available room, but the behavior specialist said they are working towards finding a new home for one of the current residents. She said it might go quickly but it might still take six months or so. Well, if you ask me, even if it’s going to take six months, that’s still super quickly. That’d honestly mean I’d have found a place within the year from saying I want to find a more suitable home.

I will get an extensive orientation, getting to look around at least twice before I decide whether I want to move to this home. I am both nervous and excited. Mostly quite excited though. I’d read up about this home before and wished I could live here and now my dream might come true.

How have you been?

Because I’d Had a Stroke…

I couldn’t possibly be autistic, my psychologist said, because I’d had a stroke as an infant and that somehow precluded a diagnosis of autism. Never mind that autism is genetic and said stroke supposedly didn’t change my genetic makeup to make me neurotypical. I, however, had to be diagnosed with acquired brain injury-related behavior change instead, but then again I couldn’t either, because I was too young when I sustained the stroke for my behavior to be considered as having changed either; after all, a six-week-old infant hardly shows any behaviors that would be considered significant in an adult. For this reason, I ended up with just some regular personality disorders, specifically dependent and borderline PD. Never mind that these have their onset in early adulthood and I’d shown symptoms since childhood. As it later turned out, my psychologist’s reason for changing my diagnosis had nothing to do with logic and everything with her wish to kick me out of care.


This post was written for the Six Sentence Story link-up, for which the prompt word is “stroke”. It isn’t completely factual, in the sense that, though my psychologist kept referring to what happened to me at six weeks of age as a stroke, it was actually a brain bleed. That doesn’t change the rest of the story though.

The Wednesday HodgePodge (May 25, 2022)

Hi everyone. How is it the last Wednesday of May already? I seriously can’t believe it. Anyway, I’m joining in with the Wednesday HoddgePodge again. Here goes.

1. It’s National Wine Day (May 25)…do you like wine? Red or white? Dry or sweet? Do you have a favorite? Have you ever been to California wine country? Or any other wine region? What’s a dish you make that calls for wine?
I can’t stand wine! One day, when one of our staff was retiring and had a little leaving party at my care home, somehow we had white and red wine (don’t ask me how we got it, as normally we aren’t allowed alcohol in the care home). Some staff convinced me to try a little of the white wine. I took a sip and blurted out: “Ew, this is gross.” Then they gave me the red wine. When I took another sip, I yelled: “Yuck, this is even worse!”

I don’t think I’ve ever been to any wine region. Not consciously at least and I don’t care to go there either.

2. What’s something you’ve whined about lately?
The staffing shortage in health care and particularly my care home. Literally half the team left within the past year or so and, this past Monday, the manager informed me that they may need to get temp workers to do my one-on-one shifts too rather than just the general shifts. I know rationally that the manager can’t help the staffing shortage, but emotionally, well, I feel rather overloaded.

3. Last time you were “wined and dined”? Tell us about it.
I honestly can’t remember. My husband and I haven’t been eating out since before COVID, I guess.

4. Three cheers for_____________________.
Care workers, of course. I know the workload is crazy. I can be a pain in the butt at times, but I do appreciate their work.

5. This will be the last Hodgepodge in the month of May. Somehow next Wednesday the calendar rolls into June. Before we go though, sum up your May in twelve words or less.
Eventful, an emotional rollercoaster ride.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
I have been busy with preparations for visiting my sister and her family so I can see my new niece. She was born last Thursday. As regular readers of this blog know, I created a sort of mobile for my baby niece. Here is the picture (I’m holding it in my hand because I had nothing to hang it onto).

I wanted to gift my sister something for her birthday (which was on May 13) too and saw she wanted a membership to a positive parenting website. I am positively surprised (no pun intended) that she’s interested in that approach, as it’s vastly different from our parents’. I didn’t end up buying the membership for her, but hope she does keep this mindset.

I also am happy to share that the handheld drill and drill bits I wanted for drilling holes in my polymer clay pieces for jumprings finally arrived. I had ordered them last Wednesday and the website said handling and shipping would take up to three business days. Apparently they took three business days before they started collecting my order. I need to drill the holes so that I can attach jumprings to pieces in order to make earrings. Since the gift I did buy for my sister, is a pair of earrings, I intend on making her another pair out of polymer clay just for fun.

I also intend on making one more unicorn, because my older niece also deserves a little present when her baby sister and mother both get something.

Making Up My Mind: Why I Want to Live in an Institution

Last week, the behavior specialist for my care home came by for a visit to discuss my housing profile. This is the thing with my wants and needs with respect to a new prospective care home on it. I initially wasn’t too picky, saying for example that I would most like to live on institution grounds but if that isn’t possible, a quiet neighborhood home would do too. Then when I talked to my husband, he said that an integrated neighborhood doesn’t get much quieter than my current neighborhood in Raalte. He also told me I don’t need to make compromises about where I want to live as of yet, since I will be looking to stay in my prospective new home for the rest of my life.

The reason I initially compromised about living on institution grounds, is that my current care agency has only one such institution and that one at least wasn’t admitting new clients back in 2019. I’m not sure about right now or whether not admitting new clients means they aren’t keeping a wait list either. However, I was wary of contacting other agencies due to the bureaucracies involved. Then my husband said though that this shouldn’t be something for me to worry about.

Eventually, after talking about it with my assigned home staff, my husband and my mother-in-law, I decided to make up my mind about my wishes for the housing profile. I said I’d really like to be looking at institutions.

This does mean I had to drop my objection against contacting external agencies. I offered two agencies we could contact other than my current one. One has an institution in Apeldoorn, the city I grew up in, and another in a small town elsewhere in Gelderland, about a 45-minute drive from Lobith, where my husband lives. For reference: Raalte is about a 75-minute drive from Lobith and I did agree with my husband that I won’t be looking at care homes that are farther away. The other agency has an institution near Apeldoorn and one near Nijmegen. I’m not sure the one near Nijmegen was acceptable distance-wise to my husband, but the one near Apeldoorn certainly was.

Both agencies are unlikely to refuse to consider me based on my IQ alone, even though both primarily serve people with intellectual disability. The reason I think so is that both also serve other populations and I have some experience with both agencies.

I do feel all kinds of feelings about the fact that I’ve made up my mind. For one thing, I do feel some form of shame about wishing to live on institution grounds. Back in 2006 and 2007, I wrote agitated articles about the fact that deinstitutionalization was said not to be working by some non-disabled advocates for the disabled, claiming it was poor care, not community living, that was at fault. I meant, for example, the fact that people in the community need more support to go outside if, for example, they aren’t safe in traffic, than they would need in institutions. Then, if that support isn’t provided, it’s no wonder they’d rather go back to living in the woods.

Now one of the reasons I want to go into an institution is the fact that I don’t feel safe leaving my home and the only way of preventing me from leaving it anyway is locking me up. Now tell me again you want the least restrictive environment.

Another feeling has to do with the institution in Apeldoorn specifically. My family home was quite close by that institution. So close in fact that I remember one day when I was eighteen, having an encounter with the police and being asked whether I’d run away from there. I know my parents would feel intense shame if I moved there. Then again, they probably feel intense shame at the fact that I live with people with intellectual disabilities already. Besides, who cares what my parents think?

I do have a few things I need to consider when looking at external agencies. For example, my current agency provides free, pretty much unrestricted WiFi in all rooms of all its homes and it’s available to clients if they wish to use it, which I do. I am not sure the other agencies do, but I will inquire about this when the need arises.

What If I Lose My Care?

Today’s prompt for the Weekly Prompts Wednesday Challenge is fear. More specifically, the organizers ask us to consider whether we ever worry about the “what if’s” of a situation without looking at the positive present. Fear, for me, takes many forms, including post-traumatic stress, in which I relive the past. However, it also includes worrying about the future indeed.

Specifically, I worry about losing my support. Of course, this is a realistic worry in a sense, in that my one-on-one support has only been approved until sometime in late 2023. However, right now it’s only May 2022 and a lot could happen between now and then.

This worry also takes unrealistic forms. For example, sometimes I’m convinced that the psychologist from the psychiatric hospital who diagnosed me with dependent personality disorder to “prove” that I was misusing care, will find out that I’m in long-term care and will report me for care fraud. If she does and if the authorities follow along with her allegation, I will not just lose my one-on-one, but all my long-term care and will essentially be required to move back into independent living with my husband.

In a sense, the fact that this “what if” is my worst fear, does prove sort of that I do have dependent traits. However, dependent personality disorder or dependency in general is not the same as misusing care. After all, I never disputed my psychologist’s claim that I wished to be cared for. What I disputed, is her claim that this wish is unfounded, in that I don’t really need this care.

In a similar fashion, recently I’ve had “what if’s” in my head about moving to another care home. What if the staff there expect me to be much more independent than I am right now? In a sense, one reason I want to move to another care home is to have a better quality of life, a broader perspective. This may include greater independence. But I don’t want to be forced into it.

I am reminded of a question on a personality test I had to fill out for my autism re-assessment back in 2017. The agree/disagree statement went something like this: “Being left behind alone is my worst fear.” I didn’t know how to answer it back then, as I thought at the time that being in serious pain would be worse, so I ticked the “Disagree” box. Then again, at the time, I hadn’t experienced significant time being left to my own resources in at least nine years. Now, I would certainly tick the “Agree” box even though I know it was a red flag for dependent personality disorder. I don’t care.

What if I lose all my care and am left to my own resources? During the same assessment, I had to answer a question about how difficult it would be to stay on my own for a couple of days. I ticked the “Very difficult” box, not the “Impossible” box that I would have ticked now. Then again, if my husband had stocked up on food and I had my computer and phone with me, would it literally be impossible? Hmmm, well… emotionally, yes, it would be.

Reasons I Think I Want to Stay in My Current Care Home

Last week, I was discussing my insecurity about living in my current care home with my assigned home staff. I still keep searching for another place to live, even though staff keep reassuring me that I don’t have to leave. Part of the reason for this is probably habit, in that I feel I ought to be looking for another place because that’s always been the case. However, my assigned staff also challenged me to write down a list of reasons I want to stay in my current care home and a list of reasons I may want to leave. Today, I’m going to share my list of reasons I think I want to stay. I’m pretty sure I won’t be sharing my list of reasons I may want to leave, as these are more like things I am hoping to find a solution to within my current care situation. Anyway, here are the reasons I probably want to stay in my current care home.

1. My one-on-one support. Of course, this is government-funded and may be transferable to another care facility, but I do like the fact that my current care team really think my care is important, in that staff shortages won’t easily mean my care will be cut.

2. The fact that I have gotten to know most of my staff. Of course, no-one can guarantee they’ll remain part of my team for the foreseeable future, but if I leave, the whole team will be new at least at first.

3. The fact that my staff help me with activities of daily living. This is a bit of an uncertain thing, as I sort of feel I ought to be able to do more of them independently.

4. The fact that I get day activities in the home and am the only one who does for now. Even though it may be possible to get day activities in my room at another care facility, I might not be the only one. I like the peace and quiet during the day as it is now.

5. The fact that fellow clients hardly make an appeal on me. Most leave me alone most of the time. This is a good thing, but I did put in my other list that I wish to interact with other clients somewhat more than I currently do.

6. My own room with my private bathroom, kitchenette and balcony. Thankfully, shared rooms are no longer in existence within disability services as far as I’m aware, but shared bathrooms definitely are.

7. The weighted blanket the care facility paid for me to sleep under. I mean, seriously, if I were to transfer to a different care agency, I’d lose that too.

8. The Internet access. Pretty much unrestricted, mind you. At least, I haven’t run into any sites that are blocked by the care facility’s WiFi. At least social media and games are allowed. I’m not particularly interested in anything adult content, so haven’t checked that. I can also use the Internet whenever I please, including at 3AM should I so desire (which I occasionally do). I am pretty sure some other care homes would be more restrictive about this.

Overall, looking over this list, I think that, while things aren’t perfect, my care home is pretty good. Actually, I am quite sure it’s pretty much the best I can get.

loopyloulaura

This Is “Profound Autism”?: Reframing the Discussion Around Complex Care Needs

A few days ago, there was a discussion on the Autism Science Foundation’s Facebook page in which parents of autistic adults with complex care needs were describing their children with the hasthag #ThisIsProfoundAutism. I asked to reframe the discussion to include people with multiple disabilities including autism in general, because it is rarely (but not never!) autism, no matter how severe, alone that causes a person to be completely dependent on caretakers. I then explained that due to the combination of my disabilities, I need 24-hour care, including one-on-one for most of the day.

Not surprisingly, I was quickly met with the question whether I was saying I needed 24-hour help with basic tasks such as eating, bathing, dressing myself, etc. Well, the Autism Science Foundation page is a public Facebook page and I didn’t want the people on my friends list (including immediate family) who don’t know this, to judge me for it, but the short answer is yes. While I, like presumably most “profoundly autistic” people who don’t have physical disabilities, am physically capable of eating and dressing myself for the most part with some difficulty, my executive dysfunction means I still need help with them. As for bathing, well, I basically need someone to wash me, because, while I can physically hold a washcloth in my hand, I don’t have the organizational skills to actually work out the ritual without a ton of supervision and even then it’d lead to a lot of meltdowns.

I did, incidentally, point out that I recognize intellectual disability as a valid additional disability that needs to be taken into account when I asked to reframe the discussion. After all, that’s most likely what’s causing these autistic adults to be unable to understand instruction and to be completely dependent. For me, it’s a combination of executive dysfunction, which is a direct autism symptom, blindness, mild cerebral palsy, and other things.

I also do recognize that the need for support with severe challenging behavior is not the same as the need for help with basic personal care. One does not exclude or necessarily include the other and one is not more valid than the other. I, for one, am somewhat more independent in terms of eating, dressing and bathing than my severely intellectually disabled fellow clients. I am a lot more dependent where it comes to the effects of my challenging behavior.

I also do not mean to say that autism on its own cannot possibly cause a person to need a lot of care. It can. I am reminded of a girl I read about on Dutch social media many years ago, who indeed had hardly any functional communication skills but did have an IQ above 85. She, unlike me, didn’t have any additional disabilities. She was completely left behind in the care system: she was too severely disabled for traditional child and adolescent mental health services, but her IQ was too high for intellectual disability services. Really, I should not have called for reframing the discussion to include those with multiple disabilities, but those with complex care needs in general.

That being said, I strongly disagree with those people who say that just because I can write, means I should have ignored the conversation, since it clearly wasn’t meant for me. The fact that I can write, does not make me not dependent on care providers and does not mean policy or lack thereof won’t affect me. I am autistic and that, along with my blindness and other disabilities, causes me to need the extensive care I get now.

The Best Decision of My Life

I really want to write, but, as usual when I’m like this, so much is spinning through my mind that I cannot ultimately get anything out of my fingertips. To get myself started, I decided to look at the book Journaling with Lisa Shea and picked one of the journaling prompts on gratitude. It asks us what the best decision of our life was. Was it an easy decision or a hard one? I’m pretty sure I already covered this topic several years ago, but the answer may be different now.

After all, up till quite recently, I would have said the best decision I ever made was to consent to being admitted to the psychiatric hospital in 2007. That, after all, set in motion the wwheels that ultimately got me into the care system. However, looking back, I could just as easily have selected my choice to go to the blindness rehabilitation center in 2005 rather than to university. After all, that was what led me to the training home and to my autism diagnosis.

I honestly don’t want to give the psychiatric hospital people, particularly my last treatment team, the credit they get if I say that getting admitted was my best decision ever. After all, like I have said before, I didn’t make much progress in those 9 1/2 years in the hospital. Worse yet, the only difference between my care arrangement before the hospital and after it, was that my husband was now in my life. My husband deserves the kudos for that, not any mental health professional.

Instead, the best decision I ever made, I made rather offhandly on September 20, 2018. This was the decision to allow my support coordinator to schedule an appointment with her regional care consultant on getting me into long-term care. The appointment itself took place on October 4.

I say I made the decision rather offhandly, in that we were discussingn living options and I eventually said, sort of half-heartedly: “Okay, you can ask your care consultant to come.” In truth, the decision was a really hard one.

Even though I had planned on going into supported housing ever since my initial psych hospital admission in 2007, it felt kind of like I was betraying my husband, my parents, my former treatment team and everyone else by admitting this is what I needed. For this reason, my husband’s first words when I said my support coordinator had scheduled the appt with her care consultant, were very comforting: “You know I support you, right?”

Why I’m Content in My Current Care Facility #31Days2021 #Blogtober21

Last Thursday, like I mentioned before, I had my care plan review here at the long-term care facility. It was my first one, even though I’ve been living here for two years, because last year’s got canceled due to COVID. As we were discussing my progress over the past two years and my wishes for the future, I said that I’m about 95% sure I want to stay here. That’s huge for me, as I’ve been constantly on the lookout for another place to move to particularly over the past year.

This brings me to today’s prompt in the 31-day writing challenge: content. I at first wasn’t sure what to write about on this word. I mean, I wanted to write why I’m content living here, but somehow it felt kind of off. Then I read Lesley’s contribution to the challenge, Contentment Without Complacency, and realized that being content where you are doesn’t mean there’s no ground for improvement. So, with no further ado, I’m going to share why I’m content living in my current care facility.

First of all, I love the way my staff support me. As regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve had quite the journey through the care system. I resided in a mental hospital for 9 1/2 years, where there was constant pressure on meeting goals and getting better. Before that, I lived on my own and, before that, in a training home. As the name suggests, it was heavily focused on independence training.

For those not aware, my current care facility primarily caters to people with an intellectual disability. All other clients in my specific home have severe to profound intellectual disabilities. For this reason, my staff are used to helping them with everyday activities such as mealtimes, personal care, etc.

They are also used to clients needing staff to realize that correcting challenging behavior will not be effective. Whereas in the mental hospital, I used to be often left to my own resources if I’d done something self-destructive, now my staff provide me with affectionate care. This might be seen as reinforcing the behavior, but in my experience, quite the opposite is true.

In addition to liking my staff’s care approach, I like my fellow clients’ lack of social expectations of me. One of my fellow clients will occasionally come to my room asking me to wish him goodnight, but other than that, the clients hardly interact with me. One wish for the future that I voiced at my care plan review, is more interaction with other people, particularly those of higher intellectual level. I do have a couple of friends in other care homes that are part of the complex, whom I talk to when going to the day center or when outside. I however am grateful that I don’t live with these people 24/7.

I also like my room. Some staff call it an apartment, since I have my own bathroom and small kitchenette. I also have my own balcony. I honestly haven’t had a better room in any of my previous places in the healthcare system.

Overall, the reason I’m not 100% sure I want to stay here, doesn’t seem to have to do with my facility itself. It is rather related to my own anxieties and insecurities. Of course, things could always be better, but that doesn’t mean I’m not content exactly where I am right now.