The difference having an advocate made to our lives

I would like to start with some background. My wife has a chronic illness and disability which over the past three and half years has worsened making her mainly bed and housebound.  I myself am her full time carer. I also suffer from mental health problems which make it difficult for myself to talk on the phone and I frequently get over- stressed about situations. Due to both our health problems communicating our needs and gaining the correct support has been very difficult.

When my wife’s condition first began to deteriorate we were living in a privately rented two storey house that was totally unsuitable for someone with such a chronic illness. As my wife’s condition had deteriorated so much she was in a hospital bed in the lounge and I spent a year sleeping on the sofa as she couldn’t be left alone for long.

Our first contact with Advocacy Orkney was when we applied to be re-homed by the council to a suitable disabled property. Advocacy Orkney helped us in the application and communicated with the council for us. Without their input and communication we believe that without their help we would have never got re-homed as quickly to a suitable property. Their understanding of the processes enabled us to communicate our unsuitable housing situation and how it was affecting both our health.

After this I attempted to deal with and get services and help for my wife and myself alone. We tried to communicate our wishes and needs to Health professionals and other organisations but it felt like no one was ever listening and the stress of it was affecting my ability to care for my wife.

Eventually we went back to Advocacy Orkney and requested help. We were assigned an advocate who specialised in helping people with mental health problems. It’s hard to describe the effect that this had on our lives. A weight was lifted and we had someone we could trust who was able to put our views across. It also makes a difference having someone who understands why we act like we do and is happy to communicate in a way we find comfortable.

In a couple of months our advocate managed to help us achieve more and gain more help than a year trying to work with a Social Worker. We have had problems accessing specific medical personnel and services. With help from our advocate we have been able to access these services. This has improved both my own and my wife’s quality of life, and contributed to improvements in our physical and mental health. It can still be a struggle and I still have problems communicating but we know we have an independent person who will put our views across. It gives you great confidence knowing that they won’t impose their ideas upon you and what they are communicating to others are your wishes not what they think you want.

The advocate has done far more than help us communicate on medical matters though. We have had help sorting out general issues that people without mental health problems would find straightforward. We have had help with dealing various bodies from the council to private firms and of course doctors and other medical professionals.

As we have a lot of ongoing issues that we need help with, the help that Advocacy Orkney provides is a service we could not do without. I cannot praise the staff enough and our advocate and the ongoing change that they have helped us achieve in our quality of life.