A Year On… Part Two: Home

On November 1st 2018 I was admitted to hospital and would never return to my flat. On November 1st 2019 I moved in to a home of my own again.

I was medically fit to leave hospital after three weeks but stayed for two months while a social worker looked for suitable housing for me.

I was moved to a nursing home where I remained for 10 months, stuck until my flat sold and a suitable home was found for me.

My housing officer did his best to help but was very limited in what he could do while I still owned my flat He was looking into share to buy schemes but there weren’t any adapted flats and I was still stuck until I had sold.

I hit that headlines The Mail on Sunday and beyond…. and lots of kind strangers got in touch with me. One guy told me of a place in central Brighton; a block of 10 flats adapted for people in wheelchairs. His cousin lives there and he was aware of there being an empty flat.

I told my housing officer straight away but received very little response from him. Finally, my flat sold. My disdain for estate agents is considerable and I hope I never have to deal with them again. However, it was done and the money was irrelevant anyway. A Year On…Part One: Money.

This was late August/early September. My housing officer continued to struggle to find anything for me. There is simply very little adapted housing available.

Then, late September my social worker got in touch and told me about a flat in central Brighton that was available. The same one that kindly stranger had told me about months earlier.

It turns out my social worker wasn’t even aware that I had been told about the flat. When she heard about it she felt I was an ideal candidate. All the media coverage had raised my profile within Adult Social Care in Brighton and I definitely think that helped.

I went to visit it and was overwhelmed. A large, top (second) floor flat in the middle of Brighton. The whole building and the flat were wheelchair friendly. The bathroom alone was the same size as my room in the nursing home. When I looked down the road from the bedroom window, as there were no leaves on the trees, I could see the sea.

It was then I realised how institutionalised I had become and was actually fearful of living alone. I would have to arrange a care package but had got used to having 24 hour care available in hospital and the nursing home. It made it very difficult for me to judge whether the flat was going to be suitable for me.

It is a social housing flat owned by the Guinness Partnership and the woman showing me around told me they would need a decision in a day or so. It gave me no time to think or worry so I said yes and thank goodness I did. I had the keys to my own home!

I was told I was able to do whatever I wanted to the flat decor wise so, as I had to give a month’s notice to the nursing home, I took the opportunity to have the wood effect vinyl flooring replaced with carpet.

My friends gathered my belongings that they had been storing for me in their homes and the few bits I had at the nursing home and on November 1st 2019 I said my sad yet happy goodbyes to the wonderful staff and arrived in my new home

I had arranged a care package, so two carers were waiting for me in the flat. The occupational therapist had organised a manual hoist and hospital style bed for me.

I don’t remember much about that first day, but for a while I had been feeling nervous about being left alone for the night for the first time in over a year . However, when the front door shut and it was just me and my flat I felt nothing but pure joy. I still get that feeling whenever my carers leave in the evening. It is my favourite part of the day.

The next few days and weeks were spent ordering furniture (I had to spend my money before the council got their hands on it!) and my carers and friends put together chairs, tables, a wardrobe, cabinets, a sofa, hung lampshades and pictures – with their help my flat became my home.

It was wonderful starting from scratch and knowing I was the only person living in the flat so I could buy whatever I wanted for it. Previously, when moving, I had always had my partner’s taste to consider. I knew what I wanted and I bought it. It was also lovely to be able to unpack the few belongings I still had from my previous life. I had a beautiful home of my own.

The difficult part was getting used to my new care package and it is still an ongoing process. The OT had arranged a reclining chair for me, but because I have to be hoisted from bed to powered chair to reclining chair and so on I needed two carers. So, although I had my new flat there were always two carers in it with me. There is plenty of space but I was always conscious of their presence.

My OT was doing everything she could to get a ceiling hoist fitted, which only requires one carer. It was a complicated process because of the ceilings in my flat and took some time to organise but we got there in the end and just having one carer with me makes a difference.

The cousin of the man that got in touch with me in the first place about the building introduced himself very quickly and he is such a nice guy. He arranged for me to go around and meet all the other residents. We range in age with a wide variety of disabilities and it is such a friendly place to live.

Lockdown meant I got to know four of the residents much better as we would hang out in the small garden when the sun was out (all two metres apart of course). It also meant I got in the habit of sending my carer home for the afternoon as there was nowhere to go and nothing to do so I had much more time to myself.

I have spent 2020 feeling so lucky not only to have such a beautiful flat but also thinking how it would have been were I still in the nursing home. I can’t imagine how difficult things must be for them and I am so grateful that I am no longer there.

Friends would meet me for walks along the seafront during lockdown and on one such walk a friend showed me the wallpaper she was putting up in her bedroom. I loved it and it sparked the start of the redecoration of my flat. I had permission to copy her good taste, took a deep breath about the flamingos (Flamingos), was recommended a decorator by one of my carers and the transformation began.

I hadn’t considered wallpaper before and was now obsessed with it. The website selling the wallpaper is called World of Wallpaper and that is now what I call my flat.

It is truly mine and I absolutely love it. Every room makes me happy and I feel so lucky to have such a beautiful home 10 minutes away from the sea, the town centre and parks.

It was a long and distressing journey to get here but it’s most definitely worth the wait. However, I have not forgotten that the journey should have been neither long nor distressing and that other people are going through the process I had to go through to get here.

I want to campaign about it with the powers that be but I’m still fighting my own battles. I dream of being left alone and wandering from room to room around my flat even if it were for just one day. A Year On: Part Three will be about my life so far since I’ve moved here. That’s going to be a harder one to write, but I’ll get there. In the meantime I have some beautiful wallpaper to look at.

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