TGIF: Lonely in a Crowd

Today, Paula Light talks about loneliness in her TGIF post and I thought I’d follow suit. There is this weird feeling when you feel loneliest when surrounded by a roomful of people. I’ve been feeling this way lately.

It’s not as bad as it was during my high school years, when I felt isolated in the full cafeteria because I knew no-one wanted to talk to me. I mean, back then, especially in the first year, classmates were assigned to guide me through the building and I’d be sitting during lunch break with whoever was my guide for the day. It was very obvious that most if not all classmates didn’t want me there.

The situation is different now. My fellow residents definitely do seem to want me in the living room with them. Several ask when I’m coming to have coffee there again as opposed to in my room. Some specifically come out of their rooms to join me when they hear my voice. In short, it isn’t that I’m unwanted.

And in a sense, it isn’t that I can’t connect either, although that’s probably more where my loneliness is coming from. I struggle to strike up conversations with my fellow clients especially when more than one person is talking at the same time and even more so when the staff are having a separate conversation among themselves. I also get overloaded really easily, but don’t tend to notice until it’s too late. As a result, I struggle with a need for connection but also a need for a sensory-friendly environment and these often clash. Lately, I’ve chosen connection, but I fear this will lead my staff to decide I am ready for less one-on-one support. I don’t want to be seen as too demanding of attention, but when my needs clash, I really do need support to find the right balance.

Gratitude List (October 14, 2022) #TToT

Hi everyone. I’m still struggling a little, but this means it’s all the more important I look at the positives of my life. For this reason, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful for a gratitude list. Here goes.

1. I am grateful my support coordinator is back in the home today after several weeks of being either off work or busy with out-of-the-home duties.

2. I am grateful the staff whom I had a huge issue with last week – the details of which I won’t disclose on the blog -, hasn’t been working here since.

3. I am grateful my support coordinator offered to sit with me and said staff to talk things over so that I can let them go. We aren’t yet sure when this can take place.

4. I am grateful I found out an oven/microwave combo works for polymer clay after all, provided you set it to its oven setting. This means I will most likely be able to use my home’s oven for polymer clay.

5. I am grateful for a nice visit from my mother-in-law on Tuesday. I am also grateful I was able to walk for an hour during said visit.

6. I am grateful for green tea without any additional flavors. That’s my favorite tea, or maybe really it’s the only tea I’ll drink. I am grateful the staff ordered it.

7. I am grateful for relatively nice weather. It’s been raining a bit over the past few days, but not all day, so I have been able to take walks every single day this week.

8. I am grateful for some distraction in the form of a few games of mau-mau, a card game, with my one-on-one. I was even able to teach one of my staff the game and he beat me to it.

9. I am grateful I tried penne carbonara on Tuesday, since it turned out I actually sort of like it.

10. I am grateful I usually get along with all my fellow residents here at the home. Of course, we all have our issues and it’s an intensive support (ie. behavior) home for a reason, but for the most part they’re nice people.

What are you grateful for?

The Wednesday HodgePodge (October 12, 2022)

Hi all. I haven’t been around in a few days and am not too motivated to write. However, I don’t want to abandon this blog altogether, so I’m participating in the Wednesday HodgePodge for today. Here goes.

1. Thursday (Oct 13) is National Train Your Brain Day. What do you do to keep your brain in tip top shape? Is it helping?
Does reading and writing in English, which is my second language, count? Other than that, not very much. I used to love a word game called 7 Little Words, but it’s not as accessible now as it used to be.

Is it helping? I’m afraid not. I feel like I’ve been slowly deteriorating over the past fifteen years.

2. You can sit with anyone in the world and “pick their brain”…whom do you choose? Tell us why?
Anton Došen, a former professor of psychiatry of intellectual disability here in the Netherlands and the first one (if I’m correct) to describe the discrepancy between cognitive and emotional development.

3. What’s something happening in the world (or your corner of it) right now that you have trouble “wrapping your brain around”?
Too many things to count… Politics, the economy, the war in Ukraine, my staff’s expectations of me… God’s love… etc.

4. On a scale of 1-10 where do you fall in the pumpkin fanclub? (1=blech, 10=make it all pumpkin all the time) Tell us something delicious you’ve tasted recently that had some pumpkin in it somewhere.
Hmmm, I don’t really care for pumpkin that much, unless it’s mixed in with other vegetables in some kind of stew or something. I’ve never had pumpkin spiced anything either.

5. Share a favorite song, book, or movie with an autumn title, setting, or vibe.
I have absolutely no idea.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
I am struggling. For one thing, fall is the hardest season for me. For another, settling into my new home is really difficult. Thankfully, I’m getting to know my staff a little and trying to let them know how I feel. This is hard, as I don’t want to be seen as too demanding. I am pretty sure some staff see me as such anyway.

Gratitude List (October 7, 2022) #Blogtober22

Hi everyone. It’s Friday, which usually means the Ten Things of Thankful linky is live. It isn’t yet as of the time of this writing, but if it will be live tomorrow, I’ll link this post up regardless. After all, I really want to do a gratitude post. It so happens that today’s prompt in #Blogtober22 is gratitude. Let me share.

1. I am grateful I was able to see most of my staff from my old care home and give them something from my shelf of handmade items before I moved here on Wednesday. I left the things that hadn’t been picked yet to be distributed among staff I didn’t get an opportunity to see.

2. I am grateful for delicious French fries on Sunday. Okay, it was my idea and I paid for them, but I am grateful the staff were willing to drive to my favorite snack corner in Raalte to get them.

3. I am grateful that the one client at my old care home who can talk a little, came by my room once it downed upon him that I was leaving. He gave me a candy bar and started to cry a little. I am grateful I was able to comfort him.

4. I am grateful for all the nice goodbye presents I got from the home and day center. I still don’t have pictures, but will show you once I do. Among other things, I got a giraffe soft toy and a framed collage containing photos of me.

5. I am grateful that, on Wednesday, the staff who were going to help me move were in the home early. After all, I woke up at around 7AM and am so glad I could get help then.

6. I am grateful my new staff don’t leave me alone for prolonged periods of time. In my old care home, it had been determined that I could be left alone for up to 45 minutes at a time, and this sometimes got prolonged to several hours if staff just popped their heads around the door when the 45-minute timeframe was up. I indicated pretty early on that, now that I don’t know my way around the home, I think 45 minutes is too long. Thankfully, the staff are able to accommodate me.

7. I am grateful for nice chatter with my fellow residents at the new home. I am also grateful for several clients from other homes who greeted me and started talking to me on my walks.

8. I am grateful my call button works after all. It didn’t work the first day in my new home, but yesterday, it got fixed.

9. I am grateful for home-cooked meals. Even for me, a rather picky eater, I think the staff are able to cook quite good meals, better at least than the meal delivery service ones. On Wednesday, I even at one point wanted to try some mash, which I normally can’t stand. I eventually decided against it though.

10. I am grateful a fellow client at my new home, who is into St. Nicholas, gave me a candy mouse this afternoon. This is a typical St. Nicholas treat. It was such a sweet gesture.

What are you grateful for?

Moving Into the New Care Home

Hi all. I’m departing from the #31Days2022 prompts today, because the prompt for today, “other”, didn’t spark any creative muse in me yet. Instead, for today’s post, I am writing about my move into the new care home. It’s been quite the overloading day, to be honest.

I had set the alarm for 7:30AM, because the moving crew would be in Raalte at eight to collect my desk and chair. The rest of my belongings had been moved to the new home yesterday. Not surprisingly, I woke up before the alarm went off. Thankfully, there already was a staff available for me. When the moving crew had removed my furniture, I had breakfast at another table.

Thankfully, there still was time for a walk before it was time for me to collect the stuff that could go into the staff’s car and to drive off to the new home. This stuff included the soft toy I’d slept with, my clothes from the night before as well as the goodbye presents I’d gotten from the home and day center. One of the day center staff specifically came by to say goodbye to me on her day off.

As we got here to the new home, we were greeted by a man whom I’ve come to assume will be my assigned staff but of which I’m not sure. We were allowed to unpack, which took several hours. I had lunch after everyone else had already had theirs.

My staff from my old care home in Raalte left at around 2PM. From then on, several staff have come and gone into and out of my apartment. I did go for a walk around grounds at around 3:30PM. Several clients from other homes greeted me and my staff and started talking to us. I liked it, but it was a bit overwhelming at the same time.

At around 5PM, I got very irritable. The reason was the fact that my call button doesn’t work as of yet. It looks like it may’ve been set to be received at the night staff’s office in the main building, where during the day there’s no-one. I hope that’s true, as otherwise I won’t be able to reach anyone during the night.

I also found out there’s no handle to lock my room’s door from the inside without a key. I immediately drew the conclusion this means I can be locked into my room. Of course, the staff said they wouldn’t, but the mere fact that they can, causes me intense fear.

I am trying to stay as calm as possible as I write on my blog now that I’m alone. Thankfully, I can tell time – the staff verified this, which may seem stupid to those reading my blog but was actually validating to me. Now that they know I can tell time, they can tell me when they will be back. This does help me.

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.

Coffee, Beer, Night Staff, Etc.: Questions I Asked My New Care Home #31Days2022

Hi everyone. Today’s optional prompt for #31Days2022 is “coffee”. I was immediately reminded of one of the E-mails I sent to my assigned staff in preparation for my orientation visit at the care home I’ll be moving to on Wednesday.

One of the less important questions I asked was whether they have set coffee times and, if so, whether they brew regular coffee or “decaf shit”. I did point out, with a winking emoji, that it wasn’t like I didn’t want to live there if they served decaf all day, but that this’d mean I’d need to ask my husband to give me my Senseo back (if he even still has it) As it turns out, they serve regular coffee at least in the afternoon.

I asked some other questions too. Most of the first ones I E-mailed, were worded rather formally. Some of the other less important questions were about groceries. I asked whether the home contracts with a local supermarket or with a nationwide healthcare-specific superstore (the latter), whether they did chips and soda or (alcohol-free) beer on weekends and, if so, whether clients had to pay for those treats themselves. It turns out they offer these treats on Saturdays and clients don’t need to pay for that, but each client does have an account with the superstore in order to get extras, which they do need to pay for.

I also asked what my mailing address would be, since the home has a fake within-institution mailing address. Mail should be sent to the institution’s main address, with the fake address as an additional address line (I’m not yet sure how mail delivery people aren’t going to get confused).

More important questions had to do with the availability of staff. As it turned out, the early shift starts at 7AM and the late shift ends at 10PM, except on Saturdays and Sundays and every other Friday, when it’s 7:30AM and 10:30PM. That had me a little concerned at first, because I was worried I might not be able to get the right support at night.

Another important question was about the night shift. I knew that the institution night staff operate from a central office in the main building, but I wondered whether one night staff would be allocated to my home (and a few others) or whoever received my call, would come or send someone. It turned out whoever was in charge of receiving calls at that point, would send someone who was close by.

Thankfully, at my second orientation visit, I found out the door to the home is locked at night, so I cannot leave the home then. This is good in light of the 30 minutes or so between the late shift leaving and the night shift being able to fully step in. I am not in a medically fragile state, so it’s not likely I would die of a seizure or something within those 30 minutes. However, if I could leave the home on my own, it would’ve been quite possible that I’d wander around grounds all night. I am happy I will be as safe as possible in my new home.

Finding My Way #31Days2022

Hi everyone. The first optional prompt for #31Days2022 is “way”. I thought of several titles for this blog post, but ultimately decided on this one. The rest just randomly flowed out of my fingers.

Only four days before I move to the new care home. I told my mother about it on Tuesday. Somewhat surprisingly, she didn’t react weird to the fact that I’m going to live on institution grounds. Not surprisingly, she did start talking to me about how I might be able to walk around grounds independently then.

I did, indeed, mention to the support coordinator and behavior specialist for the new home, when they came to assess my suitability for the home, that I may want to learn to take a little walk myself on institution grounds someday. Afterwards, my current assigned staff cautioned them against too high expectations. After all, I want to be “normal” pretty badly, but I still remain multiply-disabled in some significant ways.

I know that people who are “just” blind can learn to find their way around institution grounds quite easily. But I’m not “just” blind. For one thing, I am not even sure I could use my white cane in a manner that would allow me to detect obstacles safely, given my mild mobility impairment due to cerebral palsy. For another, due to autism-related executive dysfunction and other factors, my energy level varies greatly from one day to the next. So does my capacity to handle sensory stimuli. Consequently, I may be able to find my way for a short walk around grounds pretty easily one day and get hopelessly lost and frustrated the next.

I remember back when I was in the psych hospital, I voiced a similar wish to learn to take a quick walk around the building. An orientation and mobility instructor from the blindness agency came by, taught me a few times with very limited success. Before she was even finished teaching me, the staff decided it was my responsibility, so no matter my mental state, if I left the ward (even in a meltdown), no staff would come after me. I was then supposed to take my little walk, despite the fact that, in a meltdown, I wouldn’t remember where to go at all.

I know at least here in the Netherlands staff can’t legally restrain you once you’ve left an open ward, but that wasn’t the point, since I didn’t need restraining. Their point was that I was now somehow capable enough to find my way by myself and, if I wasn’t, it wasn’t their problem. This at one point led to my husband needing to drive over from the next town to take me back to the ward.

In a sense, I should know the new care home isn’t like the psych hospital, but I keep getting flashbacks. All I can hope for is that my current staff will do a proper handover.

Gratitude List (September 30, 2022) #TToT

Good morning everyone! I was up at 7AM today and am ready to blog. Today, I am writing a gratitude list. As usual, I’m joining in with Ten Things of Thankful (#TToT). Here goes.

1. I am grateful I was able to break the cycle of compulsive exercising before it got too bad. Last Saturday, I didn’t meet my exercise goal on my Apple Watch and, now that I didn’t have a perfect month anyway, I was able to let go of the need to meet all my goals everyday and just do what feels good.

2. I am grateful for my health. I’ve been having a sore throat for a week or so. It isn’t bad, just slightly annoying. In this regard, I am grateful I don’t have COVID. And yes, even though I don’t have any other symptoms, I took a test on Sunday just in case.

3. I am grateful for a comforting talk with the manager for my current care home. She was able to answer some of my more important questions about the new care home.

4. I am grateful my husband was content with the new care home and quite happy to see me move in there. In his own words, it is a “significant improvement” over my current care home.

5. I am grateful for muesli rolls. On Tuesday, we couldn’t find anything to eat for lunch that I like, so my staff offered to drive to the supermarket. I chose muesli rolls, which aren’t what I usually have. I am grateful my staff felt that these were within reason so the care facility would pay for them.

6. I am grateful for blueberries. On the same trip to the supermarket, we bought blueberries too. They were still reasonably priced even though I think blueberry season is over here.

7. I am grateful for the support of my staff as I navigate the stress of transferring to the new care home. I still had some worries on Wednesday and even on Thursday after I’d made my decision, but my staff are able to support me through them. So is the behavior specialist.

8. I am grateful my sister reacted positively to me moving to the main institution. She, in fact, said she will now be able to visit more often, as the main institution is close to Apeldoorn, where her in-laws live. She enthusiastically planned a first visit for October 8, the Saturday after I move in.

9. I am grateful for a somewhat relaxed text convo with my mother. I informed her that I’m moving, to which surprisingly she reacted pretty supportively. She did put in a few comments about the possibility that I could learn to walk around grounds on my own (which I might at some point, but it isn’t a given) and that I could help prepare food, but oh well. Both of these comments wouldn’t have bothered me had they not come from her, actually.

10. I am grateful for some weight loss when I stepped onto the scales today. I lost 0.3kg compared to last week, which is pretty much what I’d expected.

What are you grateful for?

My Bedtime Routine

Hi everyone. I’m feeling a little stressed out and, as it is past 9PM as I’m starting to write this post, I thought I’d share about my bedtime routine in order to get myself comfy and relaxed for bed.

Usually, the staff come by my room at around 9:45PM to help me get ready for bed, like get into my pajamas and brush my teeth. I usually leave my socks on, as I’ll often want to stay up a little longer. The evening shift here at my current care home ends at 10:30PM, so the staff usually say goodbye then too and turn off my light. In the care home I may move to on October 5, the evening shift ends at 10PM, so I may want to move my bedtime back a little.

I can go into bed by myself, but sometimes I want the staff to stand by while I go into bed. I will pull off my socks. Then, I’ll grab my iPhone if it’s sufficiently charged and select a Spotify playlist to play on my music pillow. The music pillow is connected to my iPhone via its lightning port (and a lightning-to-audio converter). I love the Harp Lullabies playlist, the Guitar Lullabies playlist or some albums by Robbins Island Music Group or Dan Gibson’s Solitudes. I most commonly set the sleep timer for an hour.

I sometimes will have an essential oil blend in my diffuser too. Some aren’t very suited to sleeping, but I know of a number of relaxing essential oil blends, four of which I shared before.

I have a weighted blanket, which I pull up over me almost till my chin. I also will grab ahold of one of my soft toys. Sometimes, I’ll lay the tail of the lemur over my chest, while at other times, I’ll hold the dolphin or unicorn.

Sometimes, I need to shift my sleeping position. I can sleep in every position except on my right side, but my preference will vary. Once I’ve found a comfortable position, I’ll likely doze off pretty quickly.

The night staff does come by at around 11:30PM to check on me. This is mostly to prevent me sitting up all night without anyone noticing. I can also press the call button if I can’t sleep, but of course other than try to comfort me, there is little the night staff can do. That being said, I sleep a lot better now that I have the weighted blanket, music pillow and essential oil diffuser than before I had all these.

loopyloulaura