It has been almost one year since I last wrote an article for this series From Stairs To Ramps. Maybe I have been incredibly distracted or maybe it has just been the enormous amount of self-doubt that has been eclipsing my life the last couple of months. All it took to get me back on track was my editor sharing a post I had written last year about people including their disabled friends and relatives in fun activities during the festivities. I read that post as an outsider sampling another person’s work. I felt like the words were important and that they needed to be said because that kind of work is educational, it is representational.
A good place to pick things up is now, right at the end of November, which is caregivers’ awareness and appreciation month. Being disabled for the last seven years, you can say that I know one or two things about caregivers. Though I can’t truly speak for them because I haven’t given care before, I can speak from the perspective of a person who benefits from their warmth and kindness.
A caregiver is basically anyone who provides care to an individual who can’t do certain basic activities on their own. Dependency on a caregiver can be due to age, illness or in my case, disability. Different people have unique needs depending on how severe their affliction might be. I know people who require constant care and observation whereas there are those who need very minimal help. For instance, my friend Gladys who is an amputee only needs help when she is buttoning her shirt otherwise, she is completely independent.
Whether you need minimal or constant care, one thing is for sure, the presence of caregivers in the lives of people like us is invaluable. There are different types of caregivers, family, friends, paid caregivers and spouses. The type of caregiver depends on the environment and situation at hand. In the end, it is up to the one receiving care and those close to them who arrive at the best option. A married couple might decide to hire a professional caregiver or family member to help. Some may decide to take on the responsibilities themselves as spouse caregivers. Where we go wrong as society is giving commentary to such intricate issues that often don’t involve us. It is up to the family and only them, to decide how they want to handle the situation.
Speaking to my personal experience, I would like to celebrate my parents who have been my primary caregivers in the entirety of my journey so far. We had tried to seek outside help at some point but hired caregivers are relatively expensive so the decision to keep it in the family was made. I have progressed over the years and my independence has gone up. I only need assistance during my morning and evening routines. I require help bathing, dressing and transferring from the bed to the chair vice-versa. Once on the chair, I am independent for the rest of the day, which is an immense improvement.
A caregiver becomes an extension of who we are. They see parts of yourself that no one will probably ever see, including yourself. They are present during the good days when you reach milestones, and they are also there when your world is crumbling down. Paid or not, there is something special about a person who dedicates their life towards giving someone the gift of experiencing life. Without my parents’ care, I would probably never leave my bed, I wouldn’t know half the people I know now. The world would look very different from what I now know it to be. They are our legs, our hands and our hearts. We love and celebrate all the wonderful caregivers this November and all the other months.