Friday, February 5, 2010

Olympic Impact on Family Care Partners....

For many, the Winter Olympics will bring all the excitement and anticipation of Christmas, birthdays and summer vacations wrapped into one. Even for family care partners, the thought of sharing the winning goal or the longest jump on TV or over the Internet can present a wonderful opportunity to connect with their care recipients and with the wider world - a different focus for a few weeks in an otherwise illness-centered life.

However, loss of money for support programs aside, there are many impacts for the families of those with permanent impairments and serious illnesses - impacts that probably wouldn't cross the radar of most of us who are able bodied.

I remember very clearly what an effort it took for my husband to store enough energy to withstand a trip to the doctor's office or to the lab or to the hospital. It meant curtailing most of the activities that gave his life meaning and pleasure for days prior and, sometimes, for a week after the appointment. No short walks in the fresh air, no TV viewing, no energetic concertos that made his heart beat too quickly, no creative writing, no visits with friends, no long chats on the phone, no intellectual sparring, no reading of evocative literature. Save all your energy for the trip there and the trip back and all that goes on in between.

When I saw the transit information for the Vancouver Olympics, with curb lane closures along major thoroughfares past hospitals and medical buildings, my first thought was, "But how will people ever get to appointments for which they may have been waiting months? How much more time and energy from already foreshortened lives will they have to expend just to get to the office itself. (Sometimes a few extra steps is enough to do one in.) And what about those who depend on services like Handi-dart or Meals on Wheels or Home Care, all services that depend on the mercy of the traffic in order to arrive on time or to arrive at all?

We are not going to be able to stop the Olympics for the needs of these folks and their care partners but those of us who know them might take a moment to call and see whether they will be having particular difficulty during the month of February and to offer a helping hand. Sometimes, as a care partner, it helps just to know that someone understands your predicament, whether you actually need help or not.

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