I headed back to Leeds a little earlier than usual this week. Mum’s husband was having laser eye surgery, so I went to spend some time with her while he recovered.
It was nice to feel so helpful. Often when I visit we will go out and spend time together, time precious to us all, but I can do very little to help my sister and Tim in caring for her. So spending a few weekdays with her allowed me to do some cleaning, cooking and ironing for her – all those tasks that she struggles with now.
We spent time together too, reading our books (she’s reading Eddie Izzard’s autobiography and finding it hilarious) and watching the Pet Shop Boys live in concert.
Being home during the week also allowed me to meet some of the medical staff who help look after her – specifically, one of the occupational therapists. After Mum’s falls last week, it was important to have her assessed and see what further support Mum could do with, to make her life easier. What surprised me the most, was the immense feeling of hope this gave me.
We are so lucky to live at a time when there are constant innovations that help disabled people live as independently as possible.
Obviously, we would all rather nobody need things like bed rails to help you get out of bed in a morning, or raised toilet seats, or zimmer frames. Watching Mum struggle to walk with her new zimmer frame is sad to watch, and I wholeheartedly wish I could stop it from happening, that she could stand tall (well, as tall as a 5ft woman can) and step forward without having to think about it. Accepting that this isn’t going to happen is hard, but I also know that without the equipment, she wouldn’t be able to walk at all. Next week, a new zimmer frame will arrive, which is better for her tiny stature, and with wheels on the front to make the task of walking even easier. How can I not be grateful?
The occupational therapist is providing handrails, a raised toilet seat and a new zimmer frame. They have already provided her with walking sticks, supports, and a commode. They have offered hoists for when she will need them (thankfully, not yet) and are looking into whether her funding covers a raising chair that will help her stand up. All of this is free.
We also know that, if it hadn’t been for the kind gift we received, they would have also provided an electric wheelchair, the greatest gift of independence anyone has been able to offer.
I’m not going to get into my opinions of the NHS, as it’s too highly a politicised issue, and I don’t want to detract from the focus of my blog, but it is impossible not to be thankful for the equipment that we could otherwise not afford.
Every new bit of equipment restores some independence and gives us hope that her quality of life will be better than it would be otherwise. Even down to the small – this week I bought Mum a sock aid and long shoe horn, allowing her to put on her own socks and shoes, despite the fact she can’t bend down that far, and has weakness in both her arms and both her legs. It might seem trivial, but it means that now she can start her day with something she can do, rather than something she can’t. It’s set her up for a better day.
Life with any kind of disability is hard, especially when there is no hope of getting better. Your options are to despair, or to adapt, to fight and to find hope. We choose the latter. And part of that is being grateful for all the help we can receive.