MS woman's carer anguish

A MULTIPLE Sclerosis sufferer and her 15-year-old daughter have today told of their anger at finding out they are going to lose the team of carers who have helped them for six years.

A MULTIPLE Sclerosis sufferer and her 15-year-old daughter have today told of their anger at finding out they are going to lose the team of carers who have helped them for six years.

Cheryl Court and her daughter Hannah will have a new team to replace them but Mrs Court says the prospect of having to teach people how to care for her all over again has left her tearful and depressed.

The family is typical of hundreds of families across Suffolk who are having their care arrangements changed as the county council switches its resources towards its Home First service which cares for people who have just come out of hospital.

Mrs Court said: “I just don't think I've got the energy in me to start all over again.

“The people that come in at the moment know exactly how to move me and I'm going to have to teach people from scratch.

“If I have a bad day and don't feel up to talking and making conversation I don't have to, but with new people it's going to be a huge effort every day.”

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The family's current carers are provided by the council, but their new carers will be from a private agency, funded by the council.

Single mum Mrs Court said the stress of the situation has caused her condition to worsen, which has meant her daughter has been taking time off school as she is so worried about her.

She said: “I feel extremely vulnerable and very depressed. I've lost my appetite and I don't sleep at night. I just can't stop thinking about all these new people coming in here and having to retrain them.”

Hannah, 15, said: “I don't feel like I can go to school and leave mum when she is like this and even if I do I can't concentrate. I'm thinking about her all the time.”

Mrs Court, 40, of Inverness Road, is unable to walk and has been in a wheelchair for ten years.

She suffers from severe muscle spasms and chronic pain in her legs and hips. She is also gradually losing the movement in her arms and hands.

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As Primary Care Trusts struggle to pay back their debts they are increasing the emphasis on people being cared for in their own homes instead of in hospital, which means they need more help from the county council's care services.

All of the County Council's carers will be placed in new Home First teams, while private care agencies will be brought in to help families like the Courts who need long-term care.

The Home First service is designed to provide support and help to people who are just out of hospital or who are at risk of going into hospital if they have do not have some extra help. The service lasts for up to 12 weeks and is designed specifically to help people get back on their feet.

Graham Gatehouse, director of Suffolk County Council's Adult Care and Community Services, said: "Over the last few months we have been reviewing the care that Suffolk County Council currently provides.

“Under arrangements agreed early last year, all long-term care needs will come from a private provider arranged by the county council, with county council care management focusing on short-term assessment and rehabilitation.

“This will mean a change for existing long-term home care users like Cheryl Court in terms of who helps, but not what help is actually provided."

It is not an immediate response to the recent moves to close community hospitals and has been in the process of being set up since early 2005.

The county council is currently having to shave £14m from its Adult Care and Community Services budget but a spokesman said this should not affect the plan to introduce private providers for long term care.

8am-9am: Carers arrive and help Mrs Court get out of bed and get washed and dressed. They then lift her in to her wheelchair.

11.30am: Carers come in to help with physiotherapy and a series of lifting and stretching exercises, ensuring that Mrs Court's muscles are used.

They prepare lunch and lift Mrs Court in to a comfortable, reclining chair.

5pm: Two people come in to help Mrs Court get back in to her wheelchair. All the lifting has to be done with a hoist.

They prepare dinner and help her eat it.

8pm: Carers come back to get Mrs Court washed and ready for bed.

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