I get a lot of feedback from my readers, and although most times it’s from travelers, this week I’ve had a interesting exchange with two different caregivers. Which prompted me to ask the hypothetical question, “Does a caregiver’s attitude play a large role in influencing the perceived abilities of the person in their care?” And furthermore, “Does that perception directly affect the behavior and attitude of that person?”
Caregiver 1 wrote to me to ask about travel possibilities for her son, who is a quad. She stressed that he can’t do anything adventurous like “taking a sightseeing tour in a bus or on a boat, going to the beach, or really doing anything outside.”
Caregiver 2 was the complete opposite. She has been traveling with her 26-year son (also a quad) since he was a toddler, and she wrote to tell me of her latest adventure in Peru. “We had a great time, and I’m so glad we got to experience this amazing country together. Granted there were a few hiccups, but as always we managed to find some work arounds”.
Wow. Talk about two totally different attitudes. And if they hadn’t landed in my in box on the exact same day, I might not have even given them a second thought. But they did.
Now I also have to say that I know caregiving is a tough job, probably one of the toughest around. I am also very privileged to know a good number of people that do a first-rate job of it. And to be honest I’m in total awe of what they do every day. And most of them are like Caregiver 2, and they have ambitious and curious sons, daughters, husbands and wives.
I don’t personally know any people like Caregiver 1, but I have to wonder about how her son feels. Does he want to do something “adventurous”, or does he perhaps not even think he’s capable of it because he’s been told he can’t physically do things like that from day one? With our brief interaction it’s really hard to tell, however it did enlighten me to something that both caregivers and people with disabilities should be aware of.
If you are a caregiver, have an open conversation with the person you are caring for, about the things they really want to do. Granted there may be a lot of adaptations that need to be made in order to reach their goals, but at least give it that old college try. And if things don’t work out, maybe you can regroup and find an acceptable alternative. But don’t just automatically eliminate activities because of the incorrect perception that “people with your level of disability just can’t do that.”
And if you are dependent on a caregiver, think about what you really want to do. Even if you’ve been told that you can’t do this or that, start a dialogue if you’d like to be more active. Granted, you may have to start out small if you really haven’t been out of the house much, but you can expand your world bit by bit.
The bottom line is, you never know what you can do until you give it a try. And sometimes just trying gives you a great sense of accomplishment.