Enabling Series. Part II
Meena Dhanjal Outlaw
I’m sure at some point you have hired a service to your home. It could be to mow your lawn or clean your house. If it’s a maid they perform a deep cleaning or a regular cleaning. You pay them and then they leave. Then, on closer inspection, you realize they have missed a spot or even an entire room. You might even suspect something is missing, but have no proof.
Now, what happens if you are disabled? You have found a person who you can actually afford and you agree they clean your home once a week. Or, you have a home health aid, nurse or a care attendant who comes in every day. This person assists in getting you showered and dressed. Alternatively, maybe your care attendant is a family member.
As they are taking care of you, they say something. In fact, what they have said is demeaning or belittling. Maybe as they get you dressed they are being a little aggressive, or they are touching you a little too long.
What if you stay in a hospital and an attendant seems too friendly in assisting?
I believe that one of the hardest realizations of living with a mental or physical disability is when you have to give a part of your self up to the assistance of another to care for you.
When I had my spinal cord injury, I felt I had lost a part of my self-dignity. What once was private wouldn’t be.
Shortly after I returned home from the rehabilitation hospital I hired a home health aid for the first six months. She came highly recommended by a friend. She willingly trained under the direction of a professional at the rehabilitation hospital. Everything seemed to go well, but as she helped me in the mornings she preached the bible and would say what happened to me is because of a spiritual warfare. There were times while assisting me in the bathroom I would feel my spirit dip with some of the things she let slip out of her mouth.
I was only two months post injury at this time. I was still in shock. My mind was playing catch up and my spirit was fragile. I had lost my independence. Eventually, I spoke up to my mother about what was happening and she took over. My mother still needed the aid’s help in lifting, turning, or dressing me, but I was never alone with the nurse again.
After a year my mother returned home and I was able to take care of myself. Before she left, we interviewed nannies to help with the children. The nanny would live with us and also fulfill light housekeeping tasks.
Before I finally I settled on one nanny that became a part of my children’s life, I had gone through a total of six nannies, three of which were abusive to me. One pushed me out of my chair, another wouldn’t let me hold my baby, and the last one quite literally came at me with an open handed slap to my face.
I had to toughen up and really learn what it means to be my own protector and advocate. I could no longer be quiet Meena. Instead, I found my voice and made sure it was loud when I needed.
It was after that I began to make sure that my children and I were safe with whoever entered the sanctity of our home. I refused to listen to those who felt I was being unreasonable. One thing I knew was wrong from right and I wasn’t going to risk the safety of my children or me. In addition, not all family members were supportive.
Abuse can happen verbally, psychologically, and physically. Any form of abuse is unacceptable behavior and you must know that you cannot accept this is a part of your fate for living with a disability and requiring help.
As I learned, just as there are bad caregivers and nannies there are also very good ones. I just had to be brave enough to speak up so that I could find the good ones that I still am in contact with even though I don’t require their help anymore.
Before I hire someone I conduct a thorough background check.
This is how I can control who I wish to give me loving, faithful and safe care.
For further information on caregivers contact Texas Department of Aging and Disability Service. www.dads.state.tx.us/services/crs/abuse.html. Phone number for abuse victims (800) 458-9588.