AWARENESS

“You never truly understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird

Engaging in the disability sector is never easy, especially since you can (almost) never understand completely how they feel and think. Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I had a taste of this when I broke my leg a few months back. With 4 torn ligaments and 2 ruptured tendons, my temporary disability brought me on a journey of self-discovery and slightly better understanding of what it is like to be in the skin of PWDs.

1. A caregiver’s burden

After injuring myself, what I thought was just another sprain turned out to be something much more serious – I had to be undergo an emergency operation the next day after I was admitted. I felt like a burden as every time I stood up, someone would fuss over me to make sure that I am safe, which did not help with my sense of worth and self-esteem.

It was also then when I really started to understand a caregiver’s fatigue, stress and burnout when caring for PWDs. Debra was there at my every step, assisting in every single task and making sure that I was alright and pain-free. An example of this will be pushing me around the whole food court so that I can choose what I would like to have for dinner. Although she kept a smile on her face and reassured that it was alright, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that me being injured was putting more burden on her. This extended to my family members as well, who had to follow me to make sure that I was safe, even around the house.

2. Getting back to work

When I decided to quit bumming around and return to office, Debra had to wake up earlier to take a bus to my house just to fetch me to work. Getting back on the grind proved more difficult than I thought – when I was in a meeting and we were having a discussion, I realized that I was conveniently left out of the circle of discussion despite my best efforts. Perhaps it was the wheelchair, perhaps others thought I needed to ‘take a break’ because of my injury. Nevertheless, I felt like I did not belong with the rest, which affected my level of contribution towards the meeting as well. I could not help but notice how similar my situation was to PWDs when they are conveniently left out of conversations or planning.

3. Gaining independence

The day I gained back my independence was the day my caregiver was predisposed and could not care for me. Defying her instructions to have others assist with my daily activities, I wanted to find out if it was possible to move around by myself. While it was certainly difficult, it proved possible and by the second day, I got the hang of it and was able to be somewhat more independent. This regained autonomy naturally made me more confident of myself.

4. Lessons learnt
Due to our protective nature as caregivers, we tend to underestimate the ability of the care receiver and ‘over care’ despite our best intentions, which can do more damage than good. It was also clearer to me about how society treats PWDs, which was of convenient disregard. This extends to not only conversation, but even the lack of availability of inclusive spaces for PWDs.

While we cannot begin to address all the problems PWDs face at once, we can certainly try tackling them one at a time. To address the issue of limiting spaces for PWDs, Society Staples’ new portal Inclusive Local Guide aims to share about accessible and inclusive spaces, events and activities so that families with PWDs and even the elderly and injured are still able to carry on with their lives with fun and engaging activities.

“You never truly understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird

Engaging in the disability sector is never easy, especially since you can (almost) never understand completely how they feel and think. Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I had a taste of this when I broke my leg a few months back. With 4 torn ligaments and 2 ruptured tendons, my temporary disability brought me on a journey of self-discovery and slightly better understanding of what it is like to be in the skin of PWDs.

1. A caregiver’s burden

After injuring myself, what I thought was just another sprain turned out to be something much more serious – I had to be undergo an emergency operation the next day after I was admitted. I felt like a burden as every time I stood up, someone would fuss over me to make sure that I am safe, which did not help with my sense of worth and self-esteem.

It was also then when I really started to understand a caregiver’s fatigue, stress and burnout when caring for PWDs. Debra was there at my every step, assisting in every single task and making sure that I was alright and pain-free. An example of this will be pushing me around the whole food court so that I can choose what I would like to have for dinner. Although she kept a smile on her face and reassured that it was alright, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that me being injured was putting more burden on her. This extended to my family members as well, who had to follow me to make sure that I was safe, even around the house.

2. Getting back to work

When I decided to quit bumming around and return to office, Debra had to wake up earlier to take a bus to my house just to fetch me to work. Getting back on the grind proved more difficult than I thought – when I was in a meeting and we were having a discussion, I realized that I was conveniently left out of the circle of discussion despite my best efforts. Perhaps it was the wheelchair, perhaps others thought I needed to ‘take a break’ because of my injury. Nevertheless, I felt like I did not belong with the rest, which affected my level of contribution towards the meeting as well. I could not help but notice how similar my situation was to PWDs when they are conveniently left out of conversations or planning.

3. Gaining independence

The day I gained back my independence was the day my caregiver was predisposed and could not care for me. Defying her instructions to have others assist with my daily activities, I wanted to find out if it was possible to move around by myself. While it was certainly difficult, it proved possible and by the second day, I got the hang of it and was able to be somewhat more independent. This regained autonomy naturally made me more confident of myself.

4. Lessons learnt
Due to our protective nature as caregivers, we tend to underestimate the ability of the care receiver and ‘over care’ despite our best intentions, which can do more damage than good. It was also clearer to me about how society treats PWDs, which was of convenient disregard. This extends to not only conversation, but even the lack of availability of inclusive spaces for PWDs.

While we cannot begin to address all the problems PWDs face at once, we can certainly try tackling them one at a time. To address the issue of limiting spaces for PWDs, Society Staples’ new portal Inclusive Local Guide aims to share about accessible and inclusive spaces, events and activities so that families with PWDs and even the elderly and injured are still able to carry on with their lives with fun and engaging activities.