Here is love

Here is love
For He has heard my cry, night after night,
Here is hope
For He has heard my cry, day after day.
Here is peace,
For He has heard my cry, week after week.
Here is grace,
For He has heard my cry, month after month.
Here is forgiveness,
For He has heard my cry, year after year.

Here is love,
For He has heard my cry, and He has come.

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Changed and changing.

I’ve spent the evening reflecting. Reflecting on the last week, the last month. The last few years. Reflecting on life in general. Where it has been, where it now, and where it is going/could go.

So much change. Last night a friend and I were chatting about the change, over the years.

He used this analogy – ‘you were like an uncontrolled forest fire, now your like a gas hob. Lots of fire but under control’.

I had no come back to that. Which is how I know actually, he is right.

I’ve had some spectacular arguments with people, both online and offline. I would often end up getting into a war of words with someone I disagreed with, or with someone being disrespectful toward me or something I believed in or am passionate about. Or with someone judging me. Or street preachers who pick on vulnerable people … or or or, the list is endless. I’ve had a lot of arguments/rows over the years. And given a lot of people ‘what for’.

I am still fiesty. I am still fiery. But I am learning to pick the battles I fight more wisely. And I am learning how to fight them more wisely too. I am trying to learn a better way. I AM learning a better way.

A way that is more grace, kindness and love.

Which is what a lot of people have and are showing me, over the last few years, and at the moment.

Grace, kindness and love.

This morning, someone very quietly and very gently came and stood by my side, during church when I had become a bit tearful (I’ve never attended a church before where tissues just appear so effortless and quickly!). They gave me a hug, and then simply stood/sat by my side. It was powerful. Because sometimes there are just no words to say. And sometimes knowing that someone knows that and does not try, but just offers solidarity means a lot.

This morning was grace, kindness and love.

The last month or so has been immense. Some really big changes. Some really big stuff happening. Some really big stuff to have to process, think about, reflect on, and move on with … without adding anything else to the mix, moving on from ‘Fragz’ has been incredibly freeing, but, and I had not expected this, emotional, and hard work too …

The very last line of the very last blog I wrote on fragmentz.org –  was this:

‘You’ve all known me as Fragmentz. But actually my name is Helen. And thats who I’m claiming back’

And that is what I am claiming back. Who I am claiming back. God has called me again. By name. And I am striving to move on in this new journey of claiming back who I am … and who I am meant to be.

But this new journey is not without its tough. Change is not without tough. Well it never has been so far, for me, and I’m not expecting it to be any different this time …

The challenges thrown at me over the last 6 weeks have been huge.

Just 10 days after sensing God calling my name once again, I found myself fighting for my life one Thursday/Thurs eve due to an asthma attack that they were unable to control. When the conversation turns to moving to intensive care and being ventilated, you know its pretty serious … The impact of that has been massive. The battle with my immune system and issues revolving that is also raging. Having bloods done tomorrow and the likely hood is I will start either immunosupressant drug treatment or low dose chemo drugs next week. So, my quest for better health at present is failing. Dramatically. When I made a pact with God on the 20th October to roll with change, this wasn’t what I was expecting.

The other incredibly difficult and painful, but significant thing to happen was that I  experienced a ‘flash back’. Something I am not ‘prone’ to as regularly as the nightmares. The nightmares have become/are a part of life, which at times is more difficult than others depending on how many nights in a row I’ve had them. But flash backs are an infrequent event. To the point of, if you were to ask me to think of as many things I could that could possibly get in the way of this new journey, that could possibly cause me stumble and falter, I’d never in a million years have come up with flash backs.

But they have appeared. Again. Most disturbingly, the first one I’ve had in a long long time, a few weeks back was while I was in church. During a worship encounter. During a time where I had closed my eyes and tried to focus on God. Tried to worship. And all I could see flash before me every time I closed my eyes were the nightmares. And then 20 minutes into the evening, did the flashback wave over me. People experience flashbacks in many many different ways – for me, I’ve been known to lose control once or twice during one, hitting someone once. But for the most part, I’m still. And they don’t last very long. The thing with a flash back, or my experience of them anyway, is that, for that time, for that moment you are living whatever it is your mind has taken you back to. Whatever event it is you manage to mostly live life on from, whatever event you manage to put at the back of our head. A trauma event. You are living that trauma again. Reliving it. As if its real. And its disturbing. It made me spend days and the following week feeling as though the event the flashback had taken me back to had just happened. I felt re-violated. And the challenge has been to battle through the feeling and emotion that has bought with it – its meant making myself go back to church. Because the temptation has been/was to think ‘is this mistake/has this been a mistake’. All this change, all this striving, all this seeking after God again, really, is this the right thing to be doing? This ‘safe’ space I was/am starting to feel loved and accepted in, had become/has become a place where my mind was/is taking me to violation. That is not safe.

A few weeks ago I tweeted asking people for some help to write a new ‘twitter bio’ and a new ‘about me’ page. Changing from Fragmentz has involved many challenges, including learning to write more positively when describing myself. I was overwhelmed by the responses – so thank you! But one response was from my church Pastor. And its become one of my ‘tag lines’. Its become important. It is important. To me. It was this :

‘ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, changed and changing, blessed and blessing’

All of it is important, but right now, tonight as I write this, and as I reflect back, and start thinking forwards again, the ‘changed and changing’ line is significant.

However tough this season of change gets/is, and it is tough, and is not instantly going to stop being tough, I’m clinging on to the fact that God called my name again, and I am claiming that back.

I’m holding on through the health battles, through the flashback and nightmare battle, through the other challenges that are thrown out in the way to the fact that I am changed. Changed from years ago, and changed just in the last few months, and continuing to change. I have no idea how that change is going to look, but its going to be change none the less.

I really believe that this is signifant. In my ‘Good bye to Fragz’ blogs, I referred to a phrase a few times, and the sense of ‘now is the time’. And I still feel that. Still sense it.

Now is the time. Now, tomorrow, next week and the months to come. And 2014. For change. Significant change.

I am changed. And changing.

‘You make beautiful things …’

I’ve been rediscovering some Christian music the last week or so. Some old stuff I knew but had forgotten. But also lots and lots of stuff I had no idea existed.

My most favourite discovery has been ‘Gungor’.

‘Beautiful things’ is really moving, for me.  I’m a big believer in other peoples beauty and ability to rise from ashes. I’m now trying to believe it about myself. This song feels quite affirming and that slowly life is being found in chaos. And that one day something about myself and my story will be made beautiful.

‘All this pain, I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth, Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come up from this ground at all?
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us’

“All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

-Gungor ‘Beautiful Things’

some thoughts on a Senior Care Assistant job offer, £6.80 p/hour and worth

In June 2012 I wrote this over on the old blog space – not just a care assistant

It may not have been one of the most grammatically correct or coherent pieces of writing I’ve ever written. However it was written from the heart and born from a genuine sadness that I was feeling for the lack of value and worth I was hearing all around me, about people who work as Care Assistants, in nursing and residential homes. Including from those people who work in those roles themselves.

Because being a Care Assistant in the eyes of many is not worth very much. And in the eyes of the people who set the pay scales it would appear it does not mean very much either.  A Care Assistant is lucky if they earn any more than the basic minimum wage. I know they don’t in the area I live and work in.

Which is why I wrote the above blog. To express to anyone feeling that they might ‘just be a carer’ that they were/are not ‘just’ anything. That they work and do one of the most valuable jobs that is going. They care. For the vulnerable, the sick, the elderly, the dying. How can that not be worth anything?

As you may have worked out, my name is Helen, and I have an NVQ Level 3 in Childcare and an NVQ Level 3 in General Health and Social Care. Just under a year ago I left working for the private care for profit nursing/residential home business to work for a charity, still supporting people but in a different field. I have spent the last 11 years out of 13 working within the ‘care’ industry in some shape or form.

Obviously I am not considered an expert. In fact, mostly I am not considered as someone with an opinion worth listening to at all in this area.

What I do consider myself as, however, is someone who is passionate about other people, especially the vulnerable and protecting their rights. In this case, the rights of people in homes to be cared for well and compassionately.

The thing is, there is a problem. A big problem.

You simply cannot recruit and retain staff on the wages that the private nursing/residential care home industry offer. In my area, Care Assistants are lucky to earn above the National Min Wage, currently set at 6.31 p/hour and Seniors being offered just a few pennies more.  Even the most competent, compassionate and dedicated of staff and those who feel its a ‘vocation’ cannot be recruited and retained on such low wages.

Which leads me to why I started writing this evening.

Last night I was offered a job. Over casual conversation and although it was easy to brush it over, it was clear that the offer was serious, and would be something I could take up/seriously look into taking if I wanted to.

The job was to be a Senior Carer, for a 40/42 bed residential home. Having worked a similar job previously for quite a few years, I didn’t need to really ask much on the details of what the actual job would entail. What I did need to ask, however was ‘how much do you pay?’.

(There are some people who go along the train of thought that ‘money isn’t important’ and that if its a ‘vocation’ then you don’t do it for the love of money. For sure. You definitely do not work in this sector for the money. BUT in this day and age, when the economic situation is as tough as it is, and the prices of everything is rising constantly, it IS important. Money and what you can earn IS important. For me, as a single person, bringing in one wage only, what I earn IS important. I have to be able to earn enough to money to pay rent, bills, phone, car, food, and live (I was only able to afford to manage before on a min wage job by getting into a lot of debt, and then having to give up my flat and house share). )

Anyway, so I asked ‘how much do you pay’.

The reply – £6.80 per hour.

For that £6.80 per hour, as a Senior Care Assistant of a residential home you are expected to be in charge of the building and everything in it, including the 40 or so residents, ALL the staff incl carers, domestics, cleaners, maintenance and so on … So the list of what you are expected to do in given day is not exhaustive and could go on forever. It includes:

  • being
  •  responsible for any emergencies that may occur, be it with a resident’s health, staff, or general such as fire alarms etc
  • being responsible for the general health and safety of the building, the residents and staff.
  • taking the lead/run ‘the shift’ from start to end
  • making sure the shift is staffed, if not covering shifts if people have called in sick
  • being responsible for the ‘medication rounds’ which generally are twice during each day time shift and involves administering medications to all residents who require them following strict policies and procedures ensuring everyone gets the corrects medications, at the correct times, in the correct way and so on …
  • being responsible for organising appointments for residents/ensuring they attend etc
  • ensuring Dr’s are called when required or other interventions as necessary.
  • ensuring daily paper work including daily notes for each residents are completed and up to date
  • ensuring all personal care plans for residents are up to date, and being adhered to
  • ensuring staff are following correct policies and procedures, and providing the best possible care
  • being responsible for staff’s health and well being
  • liaising with management about issues that occur
  • being expected to ‘work the floor’ and be caring as a care assistant when and if there is time
  • liaising with and dealing with families at any given time
  • answering the phone/doors and dealing with whatever that call etc may need at any given time.
  • trouble shooting any issues that may arise at any given time during any given day
  • being responsible for and having to monthly audits of paperwork
  • being responsible for monthly orders of medications, chasing them up, checking them in, signing them/in/out and so on
  • at times, assessing people to come in to the home
  • at times assessing people and helping them to settle in when they arrive at the home, in order for care plans to be devised, and for staff to know about the person and how best to care for them …
  • arriving early to catch up on what needs doing and going home 4 hours late because something cropped up
  • turning in on your day off to cover a shift/catch up/work extra to get on top of jobs not done the day before
  • dealing with other outside agencies such as social workers/district nurses et al

Are you getting a good picture? As I said, the list is endless. It cannot be exhausted. I could sit and write all night about the various jobs I have had to do in the past as a Senior Care Assistant, for £6.80 (although I actually got paid £6.60 two years ago as a Senior). There are no ‘benefits’. There is no ‘sick pay’ (except for SSP). There is no Christmas bonus (in fact the company I worked for changed hands and we went from a bottle of wine to nothing, not even a christmas card to the home). There is no annual pay rise (unless the min wage increases). There is no pension. No healthcare.

So, I’m considered unqualified, I’m considered a lowly carer by many, without an opinion.

But yet I am capable of doing all of those roles and jobs above, and much more.  And I did. Senior Carers do.

When you need your loved one looking after, because they are not safe and cannot cope at home any more, it will be me or my colleagues who earn between £6.31 and £6.80 per hour, looking after them. And you.

I listened to the Stephen Nolan show, on 5 Live a few weeks ago, in which Charlie Woolf and Andrew Graystone were discussing worth and wage. Charlie Woolf was very adamant that wage equalled worth, and that if you were earning the minimum wage it was because you were not ‘worth’ any more.

I cannot express how angry I was hearing this. And how much I beg to differ.

Being a care assistant/Senior Carer and working within this industry, providing care to some of the most vulnerable in society is a job that is worthy and IS worth so so much more that it currently gets/is seen as.

It is worth being recognised as a job that is kind, compassion, love. It is worth being recognised as a job not everyone can and would roll their sleeves up and do. It is a job worth being paid a decent wage, so people who do these roles can earn enough to live comfortably without having to work 60/70 hour weeks, or have two jobs, or rely on credit cards.

Despite what you read and hear on the news and the odd TV programme that turns up to highlight poor practice, the vast majority of staff I have had the privilege of working with and alongside have been the most beautifully dedicated, committed, kind, loving, compassionate and caring people you could meet. And devoted. Devoted to those they are caring for, be the elderly, the dying, the sick or people with different needs such as people with Learning Disabilities.

And worth so much more than what society currently thinks of them.

Worth so much more than what their pay currently reflects.

Somewhere along the line, in the future, there needs to be change. Staff, good staff, are leaving in droves and people wonder why the private care home industry is starting to/has started to fall to pieces …

I truly admire and respect people who work as Care Assistants/Seniors within the system for so little.

They are worth much more than is ever realised.

Hello and Welcome (again)

Hello, again …

So its taken a few weeks longer than I’d expected, and lots of erm’ing and ahh’ing in terms of how to lay out this writing space, what pages to add, how to write my ‘about me’ section and so on … I’ve ended up going with simple and basic 🙂

Grateful to those who’ve helped – I’m pretty bad at writing affirmatives about myself, but its been really moving to have people contribute some lovely stuff to add – and some really personal words too that I’ve posted too to keep hold of as a reminder of where I’ve been, where I am at now, and where this journey is going.

🙂

Hello and welcome!

Hello, and welcome to the start of  a new writing space.

Many of you may have known me before as ‘Fragmentz’ but actually my name is Helen and that is the name and identity I am claiming back. Hence ‘www.helenblogs.com’.

Looking forwards to sharing the next part of the journey with you 🙂