I have found that, in my work as an advocate, some of the life issues I support people around are very tricky. Now some issues are straightforward but others can be very serious and challenging. Some topics are quite obvious and others are downright sensitive and personal. The reason why I love the work I do is that, regardless of the issue, it never plays out the same way twice. Each person and situation is unique. But I’ll admit it isn’t always easy. Advocating for other people is not a guessing game – it actually takes work, patience and understanding. When coming into another self-advocate’s ‘world’ you have to go at their pace – let them lead the path.
Often, support workers or other professionals are rushed and therefore don’t take the time to understand all the fine points. When it comes to providing personal supports for people we have to put a lot more effort into thinking about how “to do things right” for that individual. Just because your last client was supported in a certain way around personal care does not mean that your next client will want to be supported in the exact same way. It should be up to the individual on how to be supported. For example – you might be able to transfer the person on your own but the person might feel more comfortable either using a two-person transfer or a sling. You have to remember that this is about “personal care” and it should always be about personal preference and comfort.
As a self- advocate liaison for a local society I have found myself having to advocate for people on a variety of personal topics. These topics have ranged from worries about pregnancy to having a bad experience in the washroom at the hands of insensitive caregivers. Sometimes a supervisor will handle that. Other times I have had to organize conversations with members of a care team to hear an individual’s concerns, or suggest that this issue be revisited during staff meetings. I think a lot of issues come up because of the fact that personal care often changes over time. It might change due to an illness, or a complication, or a physical or past injury. We forget that personal care for an individual needs to be regularly revisited as needed to make sure it is still working for that person – better to get to it before it changes from a problem to a hazard.
How do you know something is wrong, if an individual can’t tell you directly? Well – when a trip to bathroom doesn’t go quite as smoothly as it did before, that might be a good starting point. It might all lead to, well, a more…comfortable ending for all concerned… if you take the time to evaluate the situation.
It is very important to carry on this conversation. Compassion about personal care issues will go a long way to improving a person’s quality of life.