This is an article about the experiences of a carer going on holiday with a disabled person.
I am hesitant writing about this subject because different people will have different experiences. No part of this is meant to be offensive in any way. It is purely based on my own personal experience, some of which you may agree with, some which you may not.
So getting that bit out of the way, I want to share my thoughts and experiences as a carer taking holidays with a disabled person.
When life deals you these cards, you have two options: either run away and hide, or man-up and get on with things. I chose the latter. And it was to me the straightforward, obvious choice.
But to the topic in hand, part of getting on with life is taking holidays every now and then. There are two types of holiday you can go on. A special retreat-type location, geared up specifically for a disabled person going on holiday, or what I would call ‘normal’ holidays (city breaks, beach holidays, etc), the types of holiday you might have went on before your life changed. So to be clear, I am talking in this article about experiences of a carer and a disabled person going on these ‘normal’ type of holidays.
Having done this several times, I can say that I have complete and utmost respect for carers who choose to do this. Because it’s not easy. It’s really not easy. It’s hard.
And it’s not really a holiday for these carers. The carer still has all the normal caring work to do for the disabled person, but much more as well.
If it’s a city break, they may have to negotiate pushing a wheelchair around unfamiliar locations. And possibly over uneven surfaces like rough or cobbled streets to get to see what everyone else is seeing.
They have to deal with hotels, train stations, etc which although they try, are perhaps not as accessible as they could be.
On the beach, I see carers struggling trying to pull a wheelchair over the sand so that the two of them can get to experience being on the beach, just like everyone else. They drag and pull as the wheels sink into the soft sand but they struggle on. And my heart goes out to them.
Ask one of these carers and they will probably say they sleep like a log at night. But it’s not because they are super-relaxed on holiday. It’s because they are physically and mentally exhausted.
And things can inevitably go wrong. I’ve had two cases while pushing the wheelchair where the rubber or plastic tyres come off their rims of the front wheels of the wheelchair. And both times this happened was on holiday. If you have experienced this, you will know just how hard it is to get those hard rubber or plastic tyres back on to their rims. It’s near impossible, especially as you are on holiday and don’t have a box full of tools to help you.
The first time it happened was in New York. We were crossing the street and as we rejoined the pavement/sidewalk, there was a hole in the tarmac that bumped the tyre off the rim. It was raining heavily. With some effort, we pulled into a small Chinese restaurant on a side street, ordered something small to eat and then used a couple of pieces of their cutlery to try to prise the tyre back on to the rim. Nearly an hour later it was done.
The second time was on another holiday, on a piece of rough ground that we had to cross. Fortunately I had a couple of tools in the bag and I managed to get it back on within half an hour.
I know these and other things can happen or go wrong. But it only adds to the stress levels and hard work of the holiday. And all while this is happening, the disabled person that you are caring for is potentially getting distressed about the hassle and inconvenience they think they are causing.
The holiday is hard work but hopefully, ultimately rewarding for the disabled person. But please bear a thought for the carers. This is probably not really a holiday for them. Some people handle it better than others. But some of them will be stressed to breaking point and moments away from tears.
So if you see a carer of a disabled person struggling with something, please offer your help, even if it’s only holding open a door. Your small act of kindness could be the brightest point in their whole day.