“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Friday, September 01, 2006

Assisting to gain independence

I have a friend experiencing a severe physical disability. He became disabled later in his life. He was already established with a job, family, etc. Most of those aspects of his life have been lost or significantly changed as a result of his disability. However, there are are positives and negatives in those changes he himself has reported to me.

As he has recovered somewhat from the original insult which caused his disabling condition, it has been interesting to see the interaction between him and his family. They have done just about everything for him for several years, and have mostly done those things joyfully. Interesting, however, that as he begins to get some of his abilities back (taking care of his own toileting needs, making various decisions about his life, etc.) there seems to be an almost resentment and resistance on the part of his family towards those changes. They are used to him being dependent upon them and as he gains in independence, they kind of resent it. I would have thought they might welcome the independence as it would free them up somewhat, and they could celebrate the growth he is showing.

It reminded me of the parent who struggles with their teen who chafes against the restrictions of the household. I have never really had experience in this area with my own grown up children. We have always gotten along famously. I have been blessed in that I can't even remember a real argument with either of them. But is it still somewhat disorienting for them to become as independent as they are. As a parent you live your life caring for the little ones you love so very dearly, and because you have done a good job in their upbringing, they become self-confident and independent, heading off to live their lives. But because independence is all so new to you as a parent(even though you see it coming) it does kind of disorient you.

It is my prayer that my friend's family will see my friend's growth as an occasion of celebration and joy, and will increasingly turn over the decisions of his life to him. I hope this not only for my friend, but also for the family.



Anonymous said...

Mr. McNair, I have a similar friend! His disabling event happened only 6 months ago though and He and his young family are still adjusting to what life is. I am very happy to say, in light of your concerns on the part of churches and the disabled, that my church rallied to the support of this family and they express that they would not have come as far as they have, in terms of recovery and adjustment, without our church family. I am sure that, at this point, this family longs for the day that thier father and husband will regain more of his independance.

Anonymous said...

In 1987 I fell 17 feet to a concrete floor on a construction site. In the hospital I was told my pelvis had 13 major breaks, there had been major trauma to my spinal cord and that I had almost lost my lower right arm from the compound fracture at the elbow. It was three days before there was enough feeling back in my legs so the doctor could get a reflex response up the bottom of a foot. It only took about 4 months till all the temporary hardware they used to hold me together was out and I was up on crutches. But it sounds like your friend was not as lucky as I was, still I can testify that living through an experience like that humbles a person, makes you wonder what God is saving you for, not that any of us will know for sure all of God’s plan till after he calls each of us the final time.

I only mention my history to present what qualification I have to comment on your observations about the changes to the relationships your friend has with his family and friends as he regains some of his former independence. I would like to suggest that perhaps what you are seeing in the friends and family might be expressions of feelings of rejection and uncertainty more than resentment and resistance.

I know that in my own recovery it became very important to me that I do every little thing that I could for myself. I would more than snap at loved ones trying to help, when I found I could again do something that they had been helping with. And worse I was terribly inconstant; I would tire so quickly and again need the kind assistance I had just rejected.

In the end all I am saying is don’t be so hard on the family, even if your friend's situation is nothing like what I experienced, and that his family does feel resentment and resistance to his recovery; to even respond so negatively, they first have to care.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who is deaf, and I have seen the opposite in his family. He tries to rely on his family to interpret for him everywhere he goes, but his mother in particular encourages him to try to be independent.

Anonymous said...

I find it strange that your friend's family does not seem too happy with his progress toward being independent again. I do not know your friend's situation prior to being disabled but perhaps he was someone who did not spend much time with his family. Maybe his family missed him being at home and wanted to spend some quality time with him. He could have been someone who traveled a lot or maybe a workaholic. In that case, his disability gave his family an opportunity to spend time with him. They enjoyed having him around and being needed. I am sure that they are happy that he is getting better but they just like having him around. Just a thought....

Anonymous said...

After reading “The ‘embarrassment’ of disability,” I was amazed at how these doctors would say to abort these children. Each child is precious no matter what the disability they have. If the child was to live only for an hour or so, I think the mother should still have the child and give it a name. The story of Elizabeth Schiltz shows how some people are rude or insensitive, by making dirty looks or comments, about raising a child with Down Syndrome. This woman shows courage by not allowing people to get to her about keeping the child and raising them.
As a Christian, I believe that we should treat any child the same no matter what the disability. It is not right to embarrass a family for choosing to raise a child with a disability. To say that you would pray for them is just condescending. Any child is a gift from God. Reading of how many people abort children with having Down syndrome is just sad. Aborting any child is not right. People who reject parents of people with disabilities for choosing life should be ashamed. They should not look down on them for not aborting a child that God gave them. I will say it again that each child is special and unique as a creation of God.