I don't own a cheque book. The Senior Cat has one for emergencies.
My friend in hospital does own a cheque book. It is currently locked away - along with her mobile phone, her credit cards and her dignity.
We have long known she is not allowed to use her mobile phone. On the rare occasions she has been permitted to use a phone her calls have been monitored. Yes, quite simply a member of staff stays with her while she makes the call. This is the psychiatric ward and the reasoning is that it stops people making strange and potentially abusive phone calls.
There are no television sets in the rooms. The programmes in the common area are also monitored. There are no newspapers.
As my friend cannot get herself to the common area they permitted her to have a small radio, something the other patients know nothing about. It is, I was told, an indication that they really do not feel she needs to be in the psychiatric ward but there is - for the moment - nowhere else she can go. She needs a level of nursing care that cannot be provided at home but getting a high level care place in a nursing home could be months away.
But, use her cheque book? Yesterday she wanted to write a check so I can pay her health fund bill. This was necessary because the solicitor still has not returned the papers which will allow me to this for her.
My friend thought it was going to be simple. She would just ask the staff to give her the cheque book. She would write the cheque. She would give it to me. I would hand it in to the health fund office today.
No, nothing like as simple as that. She is not allowed to use her cheque book while she is in there.
I had a feeling that might be the case. The fact that it was locked away was not merely about the possibility of it being stolen but it is for her "safety". It is like the phone calls. Her expenditure gets monitored.
I bought toothpaste for her last week. She needs a special brand because the drugs she is on leave her with a very dry mouth - which sometimes make it difficult to speak. We decided the purchase did not need approval - but I was told I should have asked. Yesterday she also needed shampoo - again something suitable for her very dry skin. She asked for that in front of a staff member - and it was noted down. She also asked for more t-shirts. Her hands shake so much at times that she regularly spills food and drink on them. We agreed she needed cheap t-shirts from a well known local chain. (Her sister would buy the expensive brand name sort.) The staff member was there at the time and noted that down too. That particular member of staff is actually very pleasant and we all agreed with a laugh that "showing too much cleavage" might not be the thing. (My friend has virtually nothing in front.)
As I left the staff member told me that there was a note for the social worker who will "counsel" my friend about the need for the cheque before she is permitted to write it. They will, so I am told, let me know when that happens.
Yes, there are people in there who would not be able to write a cheque. There are probably people who would do whatever they were told and others who might simply give money away. I can understand precautions need to be taken.
At the same time it seems to me that common everyday sense needs to prevail. If my friend wants to write a cheque to pay her health fund bill then she should be permitted to do so. If she needs toothpaste then I should not need to ask if she can have it. If she needs more t-shirts then it is my duty to see she has them. And, like the radio they have quietly let her have against the rules, they should acknowledge that she is a rational, intelligent woman who found it incredibly difficult to breathe and, like anyone else would, found it frightening.
It will be interesting to see how soon they let her write that cheque.