‘ Not relying on others for support, care, or funds; self-supporting’. This is the dictionary definition of independence, in the term that I want to talk about today.
I was prompted to write this post when I saw an older gentleman in a wheelchair, being accompanied to hospital, by his two adult daughters. They were organising his appointments, sitting with him while he waited for the doctor, then taking him along for his tests and then going to collect his medication.
One of the daughters was telling me that he kept talking about his life before his illness which meant he had to go into a wheel chair. She said to me, ” Do you know what he misses most”? I said, “I do, it’s his independence! ” She laughed, as she didn’t expect me to know.
I told her, to try and imagine what he was going through mentally. Life was tough for them all, as the daughters were now carers, but what was going on in that mans head must be torture. Apparently he was a big strong man, who loved his food and women. By all accounts, he was a bit of a lad, and led his life to the full. As he got older, bit by bit, his normal life was being taken from him, until he can’t even go anywhere without the support of his family. He relies on doctors to keep him alive and his family to look after him. Almost everything left in his life, he has to ask someone else to do for him. Wow!! Can you imagine how that feels?
Some of us are more independent than others, but it is one of the things that I miss most about what has happened to me. Firstly, I am reliant on the medical team that look after me, and I take my life instructions from them. Secondly I am no longer financially independent.I am unable to work and therefore rely on financial support. Thirdly there are many physical jobs that I am no longer able to do, so I have to ask my wife, sons, friends, or worse, have to pay someone to come and do them!
Most people that have a serious long term condition, will rely on support, in one form or another. We are lucky, that we are living in a country where generally, if you need help, you can get the support that you are entitled to. But the biggest thing for me, and most patients that I know, is needing it, in the first place!
How difficult, do we find it, to ask someone to help us? Do we consider it a sign of weakness, I don’t know? I can give you a silly personal example. In my first house, there was a lot of building work that needed doing, and although I knew an electrician, I didn’t want to bother him, so I did what I thought was right, but ended up cutting through a major LIVE cable, and nearly killed myself!
We all need money, and one of the joys of earning it, is that if there is any left after paying the bills, then we can choose how we spend it. New cars, new clothes, dinners out etc. We can spoil ourselves. That enjoyment disappears too, when you are on some form of financial support.
With constant hospital visits, our time is being eroded, and if we need regular treatment, we become dependent on the nurses and drugs to keep us going. As we get older and less physically able, maybe we are less able to drive ourselves around. Maybe our condition means that we are not allowed to drive, at all.Then we are reliant on other people to help us get about.
The physical issues themselves, are tough enough to deal with, but if you add in the psychological and emotional problems you might face, you can see how tough, living a normal life can become.
Personally, I am a very obstinate man, and asking for help of any description, is very difficult for me. I am a very good giver, but poor taker! But since my illness, I have had to have help to do some of the most basic tasks in life, particularly when I have been in hospital. When I was in isolation I had to pull a cord for a nurse to come in to help me even to wash, and use the bathroom!
I am still clinging on to the hope that one day I will be independent again. Do you sometimes feel some of the emotions I do?
Can you seek help easily? How has your independence been affected?