Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Taking things for granted - life is a gift

We are given life and for most people how they deal with it and live their lives is pretty much in their own hands. Others face life differently with more complex decisions to make or are made for them.

Because some people are dealt a different hand doesn't mean their lives are any less important or they have less to offer. Their contributions are vital not only to the quality of their lives but to many others as well. I know people who, despite a disability, have gone to university, have found employment and live very productive lives in the community and in their chosen careers. Being disabled should never restrict the ambitions of anyone, in fact they should be encouraged to aim as high as possible.

People who come to disability later in life have huge decisions and choices to make. Depending on the severity of their disability carrying on in employment is the largest decision they have to make. If not being able to continue in their current employment there is the possibility of changing careers with assistance and guidance from advisors and family. Workplaces make adaptations and try as much as possible to enable everyone to be as productive as possible whilst using their skills as part of the workforce.

At home I try very hard to take an active part in running the home, with the help of my husband. Whilst having chores that I can manage there are others that I find difficult and some totally impossible. This is the same in workplaces as everyone has their talents, skills and abilities.

I can chop vegetables and fruit after my husband peels them, I make bread with a bread maker and pastry using a food mixer. I make cakes to the point of asking my husband to pour the mixture in to the tin and put it in the oven. Meals we make together sharing the tasks but I have played a part. I use adaptations to make my part as productive as his. When following recipes I take the lead as explain what is needed and how it should be done so I can take a 'managerial' role.

However, I have to let him sweep the floor and wash it, he hoovers the carpets, does the washing and washing up, cleans the bathroom and the kitchen. I go shopping making a list with him but he sorts out the money as I can't do that. He does the gardening but is getting my gardening equipment sorted out - slowly.

If you aren't disabled think about the things you do everyday. How easy is it for you to sweep the floor and pick up the dust? Can you push that broom and get down to pick up what you have swept up? Can you lift a bucket of water, then mop the floor and lift that bucket to empty it? Can you get out the hoover, move furniture to clean the carpets and then empty the bag? How do you manage in collecting the washing, putting it in the machine, taking it out and hanging it out to dry? Clean the bathroom and the kitchen? Do the gardening? For you perhaps these are not a challenge but if it were different for you how would you cope?

If you couldn't see what was on the floor to sweep or hoover, how would you feel? Could you tell where you dropped that glass could you tell where all the pieces were to clean up? If you were deaf how would you feel not hearing the running water into the bowl or bucket? If you were wheelchair bound how would it be not being able to feel the broom or mop handle? Not being able to lift that bucket or hang out the clothes? What would it be like not to be able to move the furniture and clean the carpets properly? How does it feel not to be able to dust the surfaces or get rid of the cobwebs? Would you be happy not to peel vegetables, make a cake, cook a meal, make a pot of tea? Could you really be happy not contributing to family life or take care of yourself? Would you feel a valuable member of society if you couldn't work, participate in social or leisure activities or provide for your family?

Everything is taken for granted but for people who cannot see themselves as fully paid up members of society because their disability stops them from being useful contributors it is extremely hard. Society marks them as scroungers and cheats. People who 'play' on the pain, discomfort, disease or illness they are suffering. Suffering is the right word because to be in the position where you cannot do basic everyday chores makes you suffer under the onslaught of abuse and ridicule of people who have no idea what you are going through.

There are dedicated people who spend valuable time helping disabled people come to terms with their disability and the problems that come with it, not least of all what is perceived as the stigma foisted on them by ignorant individuals. Professionals also help with the depression that can come with aquiring a disability later in life. This is due in best part to having to change professions or give up work totally. Those who have families to provide for are hardest hit as the threat of losing homes looms high if mortgages cannot be met.

I can empathise with this group of people as I was late to disability. I had worked and had a very active life. Depression is very high amongst disabled people and I was no exception. Add to that guilt and frustration life becomes very difficult. Suicide is high amongst disabled people who come late to disability. They find change almost impossible and for a great part feel isolated.

Deafness in later life is unbearable my father told me. He had poor eyesight all his life due to him being an albino but he also had hearing problems especially in later life. He had a hearing aid but didn't like it as he was unable to cope with the sudden, to him, noises of town centre life. His eye problems meant he wasn't a great reader and had found school work troublesome as a child. The television gave him all the information he felt he needed regarding the news but the sound was so high I am sure all the neighbours could hear it too.

As my father worked from the day he left school until he had his stroke the very thought of not being able to work was extremely difficult for him to accept. Being paralysed upset him greatly and at first he refused to accept that he would never walk again; this I believe made him give up.

His story is just one of many similar ones that arise every day. I have spent a few years refusing to accept changes but I must and so this blog was born. I want to share my life with Fred but I also want those who are not disabled to see what life on the other side of the fence is like.

There are degrees of disability but the areas of sensual disability - sight, hearing, feeling, decision making - are the toughest areas to come to terms with. When you go out clubbing are listen to the music, lift that pint, decide what money you are handing over or chose from a menu, look at your loved ones' faces, lift your child, kneel on the floor or run for the bus, remember there are people who will never get the chance to do some of those things.

So, never take anything for granted accept that what you have is a gift of life so live it to the full and don't waste it.

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