Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Misconceptions - Support Systems

I originally posted this on my previous blog, on October 23, 2007:

Some folks assume that if one is disabled, there is a safety net that automatically deploys. Not true. If there was not a support system of family and friends as a safety net prior to becoming disabled, a safety net does not miraculously appear upon becoming disabled. Life is tough for anyone lacking a circle of supportive friends and family. Life can be
devastating for a disabled person without a circle of supportive friends and family.

Isolation can be difficult for anyone to deal with. Loneliness, boredom, feeling unfulfilled, and depression can be experienced by any isolated person. For disabled folks, add frustration, and fear.

A disabled person without a support system can be frustrated because the simplest tasks can be a challenge. The simple task of taking the trash to the curb can be more than a 15 second chore for the mobility impaired. In my case, I have a walker and a sharply sloping, uneven driveway. I have to mentally prepare myself because I know that I'm going to be in more than the usual amount of pain when I'm done; and make sure I take my emergency cell phone to call for help in case I fall. Getting groceries can be frustrating. For the mobility impaired, getting a few, light weight items can be relatively easy. However, add milk, or washing powder, or any heavy weight item to the grocery list, and it can take a lot of creativity to figure out how to get that item home. Without a support system, a seemingly simple task can become a challenge; a source of frustration for someone already dealing with a mountain of frustration.

Some situations induce fear in anyone. Natural disasters, or home break-ins. When it happens, you run, so you can get away. Unless, you are mobility impaired and you can't run. Being disabled, and without a support system, means that some part of you is always aware that if something catastrophic happens, you may not have a way to get out of the situation. Since I've been disabled, someone broke into my home, while I was there. Before being disabled, if a thief broke into my home while I was there, I would have gone out of the nearest door or window and run. I couldn't run when that thief broke into my house, though. Fortunately for me, I had a very loud alarm system and had picked up a very sharp knife from the kitchen. More fortunate - the thief was not interested in hand to hand combat with me, and ran off. Running away from danger is imprinted on the core level of the human animal. Not being able to run when necessary; hoping that someone will stop and help you when necessary - these are the everyday, fear inducing truths for the disabled person without a support system.

Taking on the responsibility for the well-being of another person is a huge undertaking. I'm not asking anyone to do that. But, knowing that your neighbor has difficulty getting their trash to the curb, so you take it for them, and bring the trash container back up, is manageable. Knowing that your neighbor has difficulty getting heavy grocery items, so occasionally you offer them a ride to the grocery store, and carry the heavy items indoors for them, is manageable. Knowing that your neighbor is alone, so every now and again, you call or stop by just to make certain they are all right, is manageable. Letting your neighbor, who is alone, know that there is a space in your car if there is ever a need to evacuate the area is manageable. Any of these things may seem like no big deal to you, but they can mean the world to your neighbor, whether that neighbor is disabled or not, because then your neighbor knows that they are not fully alone.



  1. If i had to count on any nearby neighbors i would be in trouble. People do not help people here. If i where there where you lived, i sure as heck would help you. :)

  2. We would be great neighbors, Ella. We could help each other. I think my neighbors might help me, but I'm not sure. Fortunately, an emergency situation hasn't come up to put that to the test. It would be nice to wake up and find my trash taken to the curb, but I accept the challenge of getting the trash to the curb myself. I live near downtown, and sometimes homeless folks drift through my neighborhood. Homeless folks who see me doing something always offer to help. They don't ask for money, or anything. They just ask if I need some help.