Monday 8 July 2013

Dementia and disabilities – awareness has a long way to go!

Now that the weather here in the UK is warm and sunny, I've been able to take Mum (minimal mobility and dementia) out in her wheelchair. The experience, for both of us, has not always been good.

Cars blocking road side pathway drops, forcing the wheelchair user into the road, in order to find a suitable place to remount the path. Fortunately, on one occasion, when we encountered this, there was a very kind and understanding lady who offered to help lift the wheelchair back on to the path. Fortunately, not everyone is inconsiderate.

When pushing the wheelchair towards oncoming pedestrians, they more often than not, move to the inside of the path, forcing the wheelchair closer to the edge. If the path is narrow, this could cause a wheel to slip over the edge, with the added potential of the wheelchair toppling over, and depositing its occupant on the road.

So how do others view an elderly person in a wheelchair?

Some will provide space and allow the wheelchair to pass, others will invariably cause an obstruction. Their impatience results in them rushing towards a bottleneck, in order to get through first, with no consideration for the person in the wheelchair, or indeed their attendant. Forcing them to wait, until the way is clear.

As mentioned before, car drivers appear to be the most inconsiderate. They will park their vehicle and block access points. They will ignore a wheelchair attempting to cross the road. Every driver who has an issue with cyclists, appears to have an even greater issue with wheelchairs. Wheelchairs are a complete inconvenience – let's get past this crossing point before the wheelchair, otherwise we might have to wait a little longer. The wheelchair user, and attendant, is forced to wait for a suitable gap in the traffic, before attempting to cross

I must point out, that where we live, has a higher than average number of wheelchair users. So, in what should be a wheelchair friendly community, these problems still exist.

So called friends

A few months ago, someone I used to work with, and would have considered a friend, came to visit Mum. I think, from her reaction, she was shocked by the fact that Mum was no longer mobile. She'd invited us to a barbecue the previous year when Mum was still mobile. She did say, when visiting, that she'd invite us to her next barbecue. That barbecue happened on the weekend just gone – did we get an invite? No!

Pet hate – disabled access

I find it completely unacceptable that companies and organisations think it right to display, at their front entrance, that disabled access is via another entrance to the building. If able-bodied people can enter through the front door, then this access should be available to wheelchair users. “Disabled access via Car Park” or “Disabled access to the rear” is just not acceptable. This discriminates – and such discrimination should not be allowed.


Not everything encountered is negative, and in fact the positives make the negatives pale into insignificance. A great example was, when in the local supermarket, at the checkout, the woman at the till – who herself has a hearing disability – spoke to Mum, welcomed her, and asked how she was. The following day, when I went shopping on my own, the same woman remembered me and Mum, and asked after her. That's how it should be.

Society clearly has a long way to go before the disabled, elderly and infirm, are treated with the respect they deserve. We're quite happy for them to win golds at the Paralympics, but we're not yet ready for them to be fully integrated into everyday society.

My extended family includes people who have severe learning difficulties, and one with motor neurone disease. My Uncle died as a result of Alzheimer's, and my Mum has vascular dementia.

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