As a 57-year-old mother of my handsome 28-year-old son, I reflect on the journey we’ve travelled together. When David, was young and faced physical challenges, I gladly lifted him wherever needed. Bending my back during dressing, bath time, all the different types of physical therapy, occupational therapy, hydrotherapy, horse-riding, and even playing. And may I say glad to do it.
You know yourself as you are probably doing the same thing now or have done in the past. Lifting wheelchairs, walkers in and out of the car seemed a small price to pay for his happiness and inclusion in his childhood activities.
I sought the best advice for David, ensuring he was offered as much as possible for his optimal posture and ongoing support. Of course, I never sought advice for myself.
As David’s primary caregiver, I often push him in his manual wheelchair (as his left hand is affected more by Cerebral Palsy than his right), mindful that my car couldn’t accommodate the size or weight of an electronic wheelchair, and I couldn’t afford a car that would accommodate an electric wheelchair.
With years of experience, I now reflect on valuable insights I wish I had known earlier.
If given the chance to turn back time, here are some lessons I would share with my younger self:
Learning the correct techniques for lifting, manoeuvring, showering, and handling the wheelchair can prevent long-term physical strain. You may think at 30 you can do all these things without any bother at all, but remember, we are in it for the long term.
I don’t think I would have avoided all the issues that came my way, but I certainly could have slowed down the damage to my body.
I always encourage younger parents not to shy away from seeking assistance. Seeking advice and help, whether it’s through home assistance or respite care, is not a sign of weakness but a proactive approach to long-term health and well-being.
In an ideal world, I would use a lottery win to create free courses for parents of children with additional needs. These courses would cover essential topics, such as proper lifting techniques, emotional well-being, and holistic family support. My wish is for parents to recognise the significance of their own well-being and seek the necessary help to maintain physical and mental resilience for the years ahead.
I wish someone had given me this advice and that I had acted on it. But knowing my younger self, I probably wouldn’t have listened, thinking, “It was no bother to me.”