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Coping Isn’t Living

We got involved with social prescribing a few years ago, just after Covid. My husband suddenly developed several health problems. My own health has never been brilliant. With the condition I have you can get quite tired and there was a lot falling on me. He was in pain, I was having to give him quite a bit of help physically. You know, moving, getting dressed, things like that. It was awful. Everything we needed to do was a problem. I did have some anxiety that it was all going to end with someone in hospital. Things were gradually getting tougher and tougher. Then, towards the end of Covid, things were getting easier, only not for us. I'm quite a social person. I like to go out to classes, and I dance and all sorts of things, and all that had gone. I just felt like the world was closing in. But I didn't know what to do. Both our GPs were saying ‘You need the social prescribing service.’ I had the impression that it was for old people who were lonely at home, and needed help in getting back into society again, perhaps to join a club or something. I remember thinking ‘The last thing I need is to join a club! Just one more thing to do!’ Anyway, eventually things got so tough that I thought, ‘Oh well, try it. I’ll just ring up and see.’ And once that happened, I realised I had been totally wrong about what social prescribers did.  

An awful lot of people don't think help is available to them. They don't put themselves in that category. We didn't. If anybody had asked me at that point, I would have said I was sure we didn't qualify. You know, we're just older, this is what happens when you get older. That's quite sad, isn't it? There must be so many people who never get further than ‘I don't qualify.’ But once we started to talk to Rachel, we realised that this was not the case. She came round and was just asking about our situation. She explained what it really meant, social prescribing, and she told us things that we didn't know, encouraged us to do things like apply for attendance allowance, which we never would have done. I needed somebody to help right the house and undertake some organisational tasks. Somebody who was good at the computer etc, and blow me down, she found someone who ticked all the boxes. It was amazing. That’s how we got our Annie. 

Annie is our helper. She is wonderful. We love her. She used to work as an Agency Carer. But she found the work was based on agency restrictions rather than client needs. She wanted to provide the support to her clients on a longer-term basis, more hours a week whilst building a relationship with individuals. So, we were introduced and she's just absolutely revolutionised us. All those things I mentioned, she'll quite gaily grab the hoover and hoover around, or if I'm having a bad time, she takes us out to go have a cup of tea somewhere. And it’s wonderful. She brings life into us. And I have to give an honourable mention to her little dog Tinker, who is absolutely adorable. She seems to love us, mainly because when she's with us, it tends to be lunchtime. Funny how much food ends up getting dropped on the floor! It really brings life and light in. Annie’ll do what needs doing, but she also realises that a lot of what we need is company and a new person coming in. I've always loved that. 


So it was through Rachel that we found her, and it turns out we both qualified for attendance allowance. And it was Rachel who said we should apply. I didn't see myself that way. I got this condition when I was 23. So it's all I've ever known, really. If you have to live with an ongoing condition, you find your way, whatever that way might be. But I think Rachel, in a very nice way, helped me to see that I might be entitled to help. Which I didn't think, because I cope. At a cost, and probably a greater cost than I would have acknowledged. I worked for 30 years in the NHS, as a counsellor. I'm really proud of that. And I’d often say to clients, ‘If you had a friend in the same position that you're in, what would you say to them?’ And I think I would have said to myself, ‘You are struggling. You could do with some help.’ I think what Rachel did, was she came in with a very clear eye and as we told the story, she would point something out to us. Where I'd said, ‘Unless I'm asleep, I'm in some sort of pain,’ she said to write that down. So I did apply, on her recommendation, and I did get an allowance, which has made such a huge difference. The encouragement from Rachel is always there. If I have a problem, it may be her thing, it may not be her thing, it doesn't matter. I don't have to do it all on my own. We can go to her. 


She’ll sometimes just send me an email asking how it’s going. And if things crop up, I find her very helpful in talking the situation through. My daughter and I want to go up and see the Natural History Museum. But that would mean leaving my husband for a day. I can talk it over with Rachel and Annie, and they would say, ‘Perhaps you could organise it like this.’ So I feel I've thought it through and found a solution. Then there are groups and clubs around that we didn't know of. Rachel, Annie and I, contributed to getting my husband started on a music group that runs online. He gives talks for them, he’s very good, very knowledgeable. And that's been great, because if he’s feeling good, then obviously that’s good for me. Rachel and Annie will often have thoughts like that - things that might be helpful. Rachel has asked me if I am talking with a counsellor. I'm so glad she's in my life. 


You're also talking to someone knowledgeable, who can speak from a position of experience. You know, the family are lovely, and do everything they can, but they're not experienced. I always come away from Rachel, feeling relieved. She has changed our lives, there's no doubt about it. I just can't think where we'd be, if we hadn't gone to her. A really bad place, I think. We both found that our lives improved, physically, socially, everything got better. And Rachel is the centre, the core of that. It all spreads out from there. A safety net just catches you when you fall. But Rachel stops you falling in the first place. It’s so reassuring, it’s incredible. We feel we can cope with stuff, because we know there's someone who can help us. 


I've mentioned it to friends, have they thought about social prescribing? Because usually people haven't. Increasing the awareness of social prescribing is so important. People think of social prescribers as what you would do in an emergency. And that is not true. It's to stop you getting to that emergency. You know, you need the right sort of help at the right sort of time. And that's what Rachel provides. I suppose she makes it not only acceptable, but sensible, to see if we could get help. No one likes to feel burdensome, to see themselves as a poor little creature. But that's not what happens, social prescribing is enabling. A social prescriber enables you to do things and to recognise possibilities. And that gives you confidence. With a little bit of help, I can do things. It's the opposite of lonely. You know, you think getting help would take your pride away, but for heaven's sakes, it gives you pride in your own abilities. So, I would say to people to please give it a try. It's not just for the elderly, it’s for people of all different ages, all different stages of life. It's helping you to live. Not just exist, or just cope. Coping is not living. There we are, that’s your strapline right there – ‘Social prescribing - because coping isn't living.’


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