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Forms, steps and doors

I’ve decided – big gulp – to apply for attendance allowance for My Loved One. That should be “we’ve decided”, of course, but the constant presence of Ms Alzheimer’s means that “our” decisions  these days consist mostly of my explaining what we’re going to do. He then says “OK” and half an hour later he’s forgotten the conversation. I tell myself that we’ve conferred but it’s not exactly collaborative.

I have downloaded and printed the form – the version you can fill in with a pen and then send off. It is, I’m horrified to note, 45 pages long. (Good job I had a new packet of A4 paper handy – alas, poor trees) When I look at it closely I see that the first 16 pages are notes. The form itself is a “mere” 29 sides.

Well I presume people who don’t have someone like me on hand get some sort of official help with filling it in? Otherwise it would be so daunting that I can’t see how most people who are ill and in need would ever manage it. There is no way that MLO – formerly a fine administrator – would, as he is now, be able to fill in this form, for instance.

Even the ballot paper at elections is a struggle and you can’t get a simpler form than that. In the past we’ve been pretty independent (of each other) about voting and I know we’ve sometimes voted differently. Last week, before we went to the polling station, we sat down at home together with the list of candidates on my computer screen and I suggested who we would both vote for. “OK?” I asked. “OK” he said. I then wrote the names on a piece of paper for him. He was a long time in the booth. Goodness knows who actually got his votes. Proof – as if I needed it –  that the complex attendance allowance form is definitely down to me.

Why do we need attendance allowance? Well, of course an additional £57 a week (the lowest level)  would be useful but that’s not critical. More important is that being awarded this allowance seems to be a gateway to other things. Several times recently I’ve been asked by organisations and individuals whether we have it. Then, when I say we don’t, it shuts down the conversation.

Watch this space, then. I’m reasonably confident that I can present the information in such a way that the application will succeed and I shall brandish the Power of Attorney which I’ve had lined up for some time.

Meanwhile, some of the things I shall mention on the form are opening and closing doors and locks and descending steps. I’ve written about both in these blogs before but inevitably it’s all getting worse.

When we got home from the press night of Present Laughter at Chichester a couple of weeks back it was nearly midnight and raining hard. I was a bit weary after the 70 mile drive and in a hurry to get the house open so that MLO could get to the loo. I then locked the car remotely – or thought I did. It simply didn’t occur to me he that had left the passenger door and nearside rear door wide open and I couldn’t see them from the porch because I’d parked the car next to the side wall. In the morning the car was soaked and we were very lucky that no one had been in it. Perhaps even opportunist thieves are put off by heavy rain. It took a lot of ingenuity (hot water bottles on the seats for example) to get the car dry. And I was so horrified that I forgot to be cross.

And as for the steps problem, sod you Ms A. Why did you have to turn my lovely, fit, active man into a shambling geriatric? I try not to dwell too much on how things once were because it’s destructively upsetting but sometimes …

To my surprise MLO decided to come out with me at the weekend when I set off to do the 5.4 mile, Section 11 of South East London’s  Green Chain Walk. I’m trying to cover the whole length during 2018. Sydenham Hill Wood (new to me) is an absolutely glorious nature reserve but there are a lot of steps down to the former railway line and MLO was very wary. I had to help him every time and if I forgot, he’d stand helplessly to say “Can you help me please” and these are, I’m afraid, very well spaced, shallow steps – the sort an able person would hardly notice.

I use the technique I perfected for my elderly infirm mother who died in 2001. I take his left hand firmly in my left hand across my body and tuck our joined hands under my right arm. That way I’m braced to catch him if he slips. It feels hideously familiar. I never thought I’d have to adopt it for MLO. I always assumed we’d grow gently old together. We had to abort the walk half way and get the bus home, by the way. It was, of course, too far for MLO and Ms A.

Now, where’s my pen and that bloody form?

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Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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