Saturday, January 02, 2010

An Open Letter to Care Givers

As some who needs help with some of life’s most basic, and personal, tasks -- like bathing and getting dressed -- I want to thank you for providing me with the assistance I need to get these things done. For most able-bodied people, those are mundane activities, but to me, they would be impossible to accomplish without your help. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you are here to help me accomplish the things I’d ordinarily do for myself.

That said, we need to talk.

Just because I am no longer able to do these things myself does not mean that I have forfeited the right to decide how they will be done. When it comes to anything that involves my body, I’m in charge. You may be the one who is performing the task, but that doesn’t mean you get to decide how that task is carried out.

It doesn’t matter if you understand why I want or need you to do things a certain way. I have very specific preferences about how things are to be done. My way may not make sense to you, but you know what? I doesn’t have to in order for you to get the job done the way I like it. It’s not important why I want you to open up the wash cloth and hold in in a certain way instead of crumpling it into a ball when you wash my neck -- what’s important is that you do it they way I want.

Yes, I realize that you may have always done it your way, that your way seems easier, and/or that your way may even work just as well as mine. But the fact of the matter is that this isn’t about you. It’s about me -- my health, my safety, my well-being, my comfort, my happiness. I don’t care if you think my requests seem strange, or that you think your way is better. This is not about you.

I realize you’re not a mindless automaton without valuable experience or knowledge of your own. Feel free to suggest other options, but don’t give me attitude if I reject your ideas. You’re also free to ask me questions about why I’m asking you to do things a certain way, but don’t get frustrated or angry if my answers don’t make sense. That kind of negative reaction makes for good sitcom material (the Archie Bunker-Mike Stivik “sock and a sock and a shoe and shoe” bit is one of my favorite television moments ever), but there’s no place for it in real life. I should not be made to feel bad about wanting things done the way I like, nor should I be asked to defend my preferences just because I need help doing them.

When it comes to the type of activities you help me with, there is no right way or wrong way to get them done. So when you assist me with anything I‘d normally do for myself -- whether you’re doing it because it’s your job or as an act of love -- show me the respect I deserve by doing it my way.

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