Fun with Attendants

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about living independently in the community and how that can be facilitated by attendants. These are people whose job is to be your hands and feet, doing things that you cannot do yourself or that would take an unreasonable amount of time or effort to do. In Ontario, some people receive such assistance through agencies, others get direct funding from the Ministry of Health to hire and manage their own staff.

Life with staff can be interesting. Once you learn how to direct you care - in other words, you don't ask somebody to cook you a pork chop, you direct them through each step of the process - it's pretty easy and as long as you and they remember to be polite and interact as decent people, things are relatively painless. Relatively. Because there are snags that come from dealing with people and their individual foibles, snags that come from being pulled into agency/staff politics, snags of a different sort that you may get to experience if you're unlucky. Most abuse of people with disabilities is done by caregivers and as I'm fond of saying, there are two kinds of people who choose this kind of job: those who genuinely want to help and those who like the power.

Today, however, is not a polemic about abuse, because I simply don't have the shoulder power to write that much. Today, I thought I would share a couple of moments from living with attendants.

Moment #1: the attendant and I had been chatting through my shower, because once they become familiar with your routine, you end up talking about other things. This particular day, we talked about religion. Which led to a shining moment of revelation. She very earnestly explained to me that there was a reason I had a disability and when I inquired what other than my RA may have had an impact, she told me that it was because my parents or grandparents had done something bad. Wha??? Oh yes, the Bible said so.

I changed the subject.

Moment #2: I asked how the attendant (someone different than the star of moment #1) was doing and as she says "I'm alive, I'm walking around, I can do things".

As she's unpacking the groceries in my backpack that I cannot put away myself.

I'm still shaking my head over that one.


AlisonH said…
It is telling that that first one entirely forgot Jesus's words. He got asked, "Master, who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?" And the answer he gave was, Neither: it is so that the works of God may be made manifest.

Exactly. The shortcomings of this life give us a chance to serve each other and to learn compassion.
Squirrel said…
Hmm I'm impressed you managed to keep quiet.  Sometimes hell really is other people. 
LynnM said…
As you know I'm not affiliated with any religious organization although I was raised Catholic.  One passage I respect from a volunteer group run by two people from my alma mater is this:
<p>There are certain basic tenants that provide the foundation for all Hands Together volunteer programs.
We believe in a philosophy of service that primarily emphasizes respect and dignity toward the people we serve in Haiti.We believe that serving as a volunteer in Haiti is a privilege.We recognize that volunteering with Hands Together will be physically and emotionally demanding.We embrace a spirituality that emphasizes a belief and trust in a God who loves us all equally (i.e. Americans and Haitians together).ALL LOVED EQUALLY.

fridawrites said…
Shaking my head over those too! I'm sorry your attendants said those things to you. I am interested in finding out more about attendant care since unless things change it will be a necessity for me at some point, and I could use it now, truly, esp. during the school year.  How you handle bathroom needs when you don't have someone on schedule, for example--I have to go unpredictably and often.  How you handle privacy concerns, how to have people work effeciently without being bossy (i.e., I need quantity of tasks done rather than tasks done perfectly.

Please don't tax yourself to write about this now; there's no urgency on my part.  I also don't want to ask you to post more if you'd prefer to keep more of this interaction with employees private.  But I'm interested in learning as much as you want to say about having attendants.
Gaina said…
#1 Did tell the agency not to send her back?

#2 Sounds like she was doing that cack-handed able-bodied thing people do when trying to make disabled people feel better by trying to show us they appreciate being able bodied and all they do is pile on the insulting assumtions that we don't like our lives and ourselves just fine, thus digging themselves a deeper hole!   It's always puzzled me why AB's feel the need to do that. I wonder if it's awkwardness in our presence.  Even if they'd just say 'I have never met a disabled person before and I don't know what to say!' that would be so refreshing.

I love little kids because they just walk up to you and say 'Hello! My name's **** why are you in a wheelchair?'.  LOL
Diane said…
So few people put brain in gear before speaking (and even less before typing).  It's kind of like "kids say the darndest things", but with grown ups.
k said…
Because I have tomorrow off and can afford to be nice; I'm thinking that attendant #2 was talking in rote-speak, speaking in cliches, and yeah, it was dumb-ass, but not a mean-spirited dumb-ass, just that auto-pilot sort of dumb-assery. I am shocked that somewhere later in the day she didn't think "OMG what did I say?!???"
But like I said, I have tomorrow off and can afford to be nice.

(My daughter, what with her Asperger's, speaks in cliches It's part of that "overly formal and pedantic speech'' that is a hallmark. I tend to forgive that a lot.)
Anonymous said…
I have put my foot in my mouth in ways equally stupid to example number 2, so I would tend to be forgiving...just shaking my head, saying, "what was she thinking?"...all the while *knowing* that she simply *wasn't* thinking (I had two things to say, a good one or a funny, but potentially stupid/obnoxious one...guess which I picked, and guess how it turned out???).  

It could also be a good sign, that she's not looking at you as disabled, but simply as a person, even though she's putting away your groceries, because you are just the person she's chatting with.  Putting away the groceries is her job, not your need...

Or maybe she's an idiot...

The first example....well.....I have a standard "the deer in my neighborhood are really smart, look at what this fawn did" story I use to change the subject when necessary.
Lucia said…
Re #1: I've gotten a few of those myself in re my son. We should swap sometime. My favorite: "God must have a very special plan for him." Excuse me, you worship a deity who planned this?

Re #2: I too am inclined to give the benefit of the doubt here, having suffered numerous cases of athlete's uvula myself. Often the realization hits me immediately, sometimes a few hours later, and in either case it causes insomnia for years to come.
Anonymous said…
I am really afraid to talk about religion with anyone, ever, because many otherwise nice friendships have been ruined that way.

As for 2, I liken that saying "see you later " to the vision impaired.  Uhm, oh, right, well, hm.....oops. Whether the idiocy is transient or chronic is for you to judge. There is a weird local radio station, called KPIG out here.  One of the DJs plays a song with a lyric that says 'when I wake up in the morning, I know it will be good, if I stick out my elbows and I don't bump wood..."
Laurie said…
This made me so damn angry. I wanted to coming storming over to your place and yell at that first attendant. Really? She thinks she can SAY that to a client? She believes that the people she works with are in the position they are because their parents did something BAD?
Wow. Just wow. Do you have to deal with her again?
As for the second person - really stupid thing to say. Thoughtless, for sure. And I hope it hit her later exactly what it was she'd said.
Carrie said…
[religion rant deleted, retyped, deleted again]
#1 is why I hate people.
#2 -- I've said similar, though more along the lines of, "well, I'm not dead so it could be worse..."

But still, yeah... hate people.