Leuchie House offers invaluable respite, says Mhairi McCran
I am one of the 400,000 people in the UK affected by a long-term condition and for me, my husband Mark and our two teenage children, Leuchie House is a lifeline – the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
Leuchie House offers respite breaks for people with long-term conditions such as multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease, stroke or spinal injury. With all these conditions, people lose so much as their independence is taken away. They simply can’t function without families or carers providing the most basic of personal care.
Many people are diagnosed in their thirties and forties and the symptoms of these conditions – such as loss of balance and mobility, muscle weakness and spasms, swallowing difficulties and pain – can be cruel.
I’m forty-something and I have been coming to Leuchie for regular respite for two years. I have to use a wheelchair now as I struggle to walk any great distance. One minute I’m OK and the next I can’t keep my eyes open. Other times, I feel this immense tightness around my chest and feel like I can’t breathe. And then there’s the constant pain, the fatigue and … what’s the other one?
Oh yes, my memory! Sometimes you just forget recent events or simply don’t remember to do things. It’s not great feeling: you don’t have a grip on things you used to do quite easily and it just makes day-to-day life really difficult.
It took me and the family a while to admit that we needed respite. At first, we thought the only options were a hospital bed or care of the elderly home, neither of which appealed. Would you choose to do that? I felt everyone would be twice my age. Leuchie is different and offers a complete break for everyone.
Isolation is a huge challenge for people like me. Before I came to Leuchie, I wasn’t getting out much at all, but now I have much more confidence and look forward to the trips that are organised. It’s also a chance to do things I wouldn’t usually try and a time to make new friends – and meet some old ones!
I go to Leuchie every Thursday for day respite as well as longer breaks through the year. It’s great just to feel normal – to be able to have fun and feel engaged. That’s one of the great things about Leuchie – they see you as the person, not the chair or the condition.
More importantly, I know when I’m there my family can have a bit of normality. The kids can see their friends without having to check I’m OK. Mark can get some time to himself rather than having to get me up and organised. When I’m at home, Mark has to keep in touch constantly to remind me to do things most people would take for granted – like eat! That’s a strain on him, so Leuchie gives him and the kids a break from having to keep an eye on me all the time.
Safe and fun environment
It provides respite breaks in a safe and fun environment that promotes independence and gives people back their quality of life. With the 24-hour nursing care and support and the stimulating, enjoyable, activity-based setting, it isn’t something you get anywhere else in Scotland.
It’s a proper break when I go there, for me and my family. It gives us all the time we need to recharge and relax. Quite simply, it means we can keep going. Mark says the difference in me when I come back from Leuchie is instantly recognisable. We simply couldn’t cope without it.
I know that people are inundated with requests from charities at this time of year – and there are so many deserving causes out there – but I feel the only way I can give back anything to Leuchie for all the care and support I have received is by telling people about the service they provide in the hope that as many people as possible will be able to benefit from this unique place.
To do this, Leuchie House has to raise over £1,000 every single day just to stay open. I really hope that some people reading this will feel able to donate at www.leuchiehouse.org.uk to make sure the lifeline I enjoy can be extended to all others who need it. A heartfelt personal thanks to all who donate.