Our own dog performs no assistance role, she is solely a loved family member. I have often said that she could open the fridge door and make a ham sandwich but only if it was for her own consumption! That’s her level of self interest. We call our dog ‘Beastie’ as she has a shaggy coat that along with her large size gives the appearance of being truely unruly. She is in fact a sweetheart but quite beyond training to assist anyone. I mention Beastie because she is my point of reference, she highlights to me the skills and obedience required to be an assistance dog. Assistance dogs are really rather special at what they do which is why I’m so supportive of this organisation.
Australian Support Dogs ASDOG is a not for profit organisation that raises, trains and places accredited assistance dogs with people with disabilities. Assistance Dogs learn an array of skilled tasks to give their recipients the remarkable gift of greater independence and enhanced quality of life.
I have met several assistance dogs alongside their owners and they make remarkable teams. With an assistance dog the owner can achieve a task or chore that eludes the individual alone. Task attempts and achievements all need a doggie treat but that’s a fair reward!
The support dog recipients that I have met have also commented on the companionship the dog offers as well as its task orientated skills. A dog is widely known as man’s best friend, an assistance dog becomes a working best friend as we succumb to their hairy charm.
Australian Support Dogs – What they do
ASDOG provides professionally trained assistance dogs to people with disabilities free of charge. Each puppy progresses through a 2 year training program to prepare them for their future role as an assistance dog. Beginning in the home of a volunteer puppy raiser, the assistance dog journey is founded on a happy home environment and an abundance of social opportunities! Dogs in training then participate in a 12 month advanced program of intensive obedience, skilled tasks and public access training before being matched with a recipient and undergoing the team training required for a proficient working partnership.
Australian Support Dogs – How they do it
ASDOG was established with the generosity of public donation and a compassionate and dedicated volunteer base. Today they continue their proud history of giving back to the community that supports them. ASDOG sincerely thanks its supporters on their website, supporters who give the puppies the rewarding opportunity of growing up to be accredited assistance dogs.
ASDOG could not raise and train assistance dogs without the support of the general public. With no government funding, community support forms the foundation of the organisation. Donations make it possible for them to continue this service provision for people with disabilities. Please donate here.
The accident, that rendered Emily quadriplegic, changed our lives forever but her paralysis hasn’t had an impact on her fun personality, drive and ambition or life goals. When catastrophe occurs we commonly seek to return to our normal. Striving for normality implies that only normalcy delivers a good life which isn’t the case. Being differently-abled in society is normal which leads me to consider what is normal ?
I am not Forrest Gump and my mother never told me “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Although I do follow the fictitious Mrs Gump’s advise: “You have to do the best with what God gave you.”
My life is not a box of chocolates; I seem to have been given a selection of root vegetables and rather like a Masterchef challenge my success is all about what I do with them. Given my basic ingredients what will I make – coleslaw or an Asian salad? Resilience is about not giving up when you don’t see dinner – it’s all about going to find a recipe and enjoying the meal created!
I have always had, valid or invalid, faith in myself that I would be able to cope with life’s twists and turns. I am downright practical coupled with being physically strong but it’s the mental strain that takes a toll when addressing disability in the family. So it is mental resilience that needs nurturing to ensure my ability to cope. Over the last two years I have overcome issues not because I am the ultimate successor but because I have adjusted my aspirations, adjusted goals, tweaked and worked a route around problems. It is the ability to morph and change that saves the day. The ability to modify at a moments notice, to alter plans or arrangements and on occasions let there be free-flowing order; being able to release control if there can be no control. Go with the flow!
A tangent example of my point is Masterchef as it gripped us this week on TV with the competition contestants selected by taste test , then the limited time cooking under pressure test with surprise ingredients. The amateur competitors were challenged by professional chefs to recreate their restaurant signature dishes which all involve intricate cooking or baking techniques. I feel there is a loose parallel interpretation between Masterchef and coping with a life trauma. I have been challenged to manage under stress, I have to deal with new situations daily with new drugs or care demands. I grapple with doctors, rehabilitation, funding and access. I could align myself to a successful chef, we both manage what we are given and hopefully enjoy the process. Yes, enjoy the proceedings as if you don’t relax into the journey, loosen up, unwind while travelling the course of the day, week, month; life can be overwhelming.
I hold on to my resilient attitude in all I do, I’m not the best at anything but I hope I bring a lively bounce to all my daily interactions and activities. I was resilient prior to Emily’s accident and now draw on this trait as I aspire to be a role model for all my children. From day one I hoped things would be better and life has surpassed my expectations. Am I easily pleased or realistic? Does my resilience lie in my acceptance of life’s deal to me and my ability to see root vegetables as coleslaw? I work hard to enjoy what I got dealt, that’s resilience.
I read an article which I wanted to share with you. It focused on depression, it’s the most common mental illness. Carers must take care to battle any blues, read more to help yourself….
Depression is twice as common in women as men according to the World Health Organisation. Most everyday carers are female so it’s obvious that attention needs to be taken to enlighten carers, ensuring carers keep healthy; mentally and physically.
I succinctly edited the article’s information, advice and recommendations:
Exercise is recommended as an antidepressant. 2-3 hours a week is suggested by University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre in the USA. There must be time in the week for a good walk?
Eating a diet rich in veggie, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish , and healthy fats like olive oil may improve blood flow, fight inflammation and repair any cell damage so says a study published in General Psychiatry. Always good to eat healthy foods, eat fresh and remember portion size.
In a Harvard School of Public Health Study it was shown that women who drank four cups of coffee a day were less likely to fall into a funk! So coffee is good although four cups a day is quite a lot even for me! A recent US National Institutes of Health Study stating people who drank four cups of soft drink were more likely to develop depression than those that didn’t, so restrict soft drinks.
The average time people take to seek help with their depression is 5 years according to a Singapore Mental Health Study. It’s time to visit the doctor if you suffer from persistent feelings of sadness, loss of appetite, insomnia, lethargy or feelings of worthlessness.
Your health is at risk if you are depressed as depression triggers inflammation leading to heart disease according to a study from Loyola University Medical Centre,USA. Carers have responsibilities to others so carers health is imperative, prioritize and maintain your health.
A new study in the Molecular Psychiatry Journal showed depression added 4-6 years to your actual age. I don’t need to wear that on my face!
In a 2013 survey by www.everydayhealth.com it was revealed 53% of seriously depressed people improved their outlook by kind deeds. A strong argument for contributing to our communities, organisations, local clubs and improving your well-being.
As a carer I maybe at increased risk of clinical depression but with a good diet, a minimum of 2-3 hours exercise a week, some coffee (enjoyed with friends) and actively contributing to my community I am less likely to become seriously affected with depression. If I do feel shaky mentally or physically then a visit to my GP can remedy my psyche in a timely manner.
Carers need to be fit to care and above all else I don’t want to walk around with 6 additional years of worry, distress and wrinkles on my coping face. I actually want to enjoy life and wear a smile. Just be aware and take care of yourself.
Statistics taken from Depression by the Numbers www.shape.com.sg
“I dislike deep dark holes” sounds random but let me explain. There have been instances when issues drop into my lap, problems which I don’t have any answers to. Being a good listener maybe all that is required, yet I can be subtlety drawn towards the dark, swirling maelstrom, that spirals out of control to a deep hole that traps us at the bottom where we can get stuck trying to figure out how to address the issue. I prefer not to participate in any mental surfing that ruminates on problems in a brooding fashion. I prefer to stay firmly above ground in the sunlight and have a ladder or rope ready for any hole dwelling, mulling, contemplative individuals. I can put the kettle on and call with words of encouragement, I can listen for as long as it takes but I resist the temptation to fall into the whirlpool of circling thoughts and issues. This theory works both ways as when I feel rotten and can’t see the wood for the trees I talk to my family and friends and there is always someone with a verbal, not literal, ladder to help me out of my hole.
Sometimes issues can be resolved by simply remembering: the past cannot be changed, and doesn’t change the more anyone talks about it, so best to accept it as it is. The future is unknown so no point mulling endlessly about what could happen in a million different imagined scenarios. The key is to be in the present, address just what is in front of you today. I have for some time now been practising living here and now, being responsive rather than reactive. I endeavour to drop any bias that entrenches or prejudices my interpretation. My aim is to see life just as it is. If I observe life with this attitude life is usually simple and accommodating.
Emily’s spinal cord injury has lead to some deep thoughts revolving around the unanswerable “WHY?”. It is best not to get drawn into that debate because it just simply is. There is no answer to “WHY?” “IF ONLY” “WHAT IF” . If I do try to process these questions I’ll just end up with an ulcer. However many times I revisit the past the outcome never alters. I can not anticipate the future as too many variables and unknowns so the best place to be is here, right now, enjoying the day in front of me. It would be a shame to miss today as missing today means I’m missing the point.
If I find myself in a deep musing hole I pop my head over the rim and look around as answers are rarely to be found in rumination pits. Answers may never come to me but living in reflective depression asking tough soul searching questions of life is no way to spend my time so I chose to stare each day in the face and make the most of it. The best approach for me is to accept I’ll make mistakes but if I care and hold on to my core values with integrity, if I always treat others as I would have them treat me, then maybe clarity will come to all my questions and enlightenment will show me a clear path forward, no dark melancholy holes involved.
Yesterday I did something spontaneous, it worked successfully and instilled confidence in both Emily and me. It made me re-address how living with a disabled person imposes care routines and schedules that without attention become accepted, fixed and rigid. A change in routine is cathartic, it releases the mind and body from stagnation and infuses excitement back into the day.
As a carer I naturally worry, there are many issues that need my attention and I can even imagine I’m indispensable. How can I readjust my thoughts so that I am calm, focused on the important stuff and open to spontaneous worry-free adventures.
My New Year resolution is to not make any, to just roll with the year and whatever presents itself – I’ll manage, cope and conquer! I did swiftly proceed to call a family meeting to plan some holiday times intersected into work and University schedules. Last year’s down time was critical but it was reactive rather than researched and proactive.