In for the Long Haul - How Caregivers Made My Journey Easier

When I became paralyzed almost 16 years ago, I knew I was in for the long haul of needing assistance from the people around me. 

The first year was tremendously difficult. From being independent to being totally dependent, even for basic activities of daily life was a huge transition. An ordinary task of getting dressed which normally took less than 5 minutes suddenly required assistance and could take up to half an hour. The other struggle I had was transfers. I never imagined moving only three inches from a bed to a chair being such a huge feat. But I was blessed to have my family around to help me. They supported me in every way possible - physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically and spiritually. 

On top of accepting I have a disability and that the course of my life had changed, what scared me the most was the thought that I might outlive the people supporting me, particularly my mom. I was scared no one will take care of me to the end.

Having that foresight, I vowed to do my best to recover physically, defy what doctors told me was impossible, and believe that miracles happen when you believe in God and in yourself. With that, my rehabilitation journey began. 

During the first few weeks, I worked really hard. It was hard, considering the severity of my injury. I used to describe myself as a jellyfish - no spine. Can't sit, can’t stand, no balance, no strength, totally useless. But I pressed on, and it got better. I got better. Today, with minimal assistance, I can stand with the help of leg braces, dress myself, and take care of myself.

Next, I went back to work, co-founded a not-for-profit organization to help others with spinal cord injuries, travelled across Asia, found my true love, got married, moved to Canada and became the mom of two beautiful boys. 

Moving to Canada meant leaving my mom, who'd been my main support, behind in the Philippines. My husband became my main support, but I still needed help when he was at work. Fortunately, his employer is quite flexible, and depending on the province, the government provided a personal support worker to assist in my personal care.

This is how I met Lesya, a wonderful support person for over three years. She helped me for a couple of hours, 2 to 3 times a week. Right from the beginning, we developed a very good friendship. We became more like sisters, spending weekends with our families, even celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners together.

When I gave birth to my first child, drew Lesya and I closer as she extended her nurturing support not only to me but to my son as well. As my son grew, I eventually had to hire part-time nannies and caregivers to help on Lesya's days off. My son soon began crawling, standing and walking, and I needed someone to help make sure he had his developmental needs met, but didn't get into any trouble in the process. Thus, my family of support people came to grow and to this day, most remain good friends.

Then, I became pregnant with my second child. This time, my husband and I decided to move so that the kids can be closer to family. This was another transition because it meant leaving all of my support people and finding new ones.

Moving to Vancouver, we decided to hire a full-time, live-in nanny. My pregnancy was progressing, my first born kept growing, making things even more challenging. Finding a nanny on our own was a matter of trial and error. We made plenty of mistakes. Some gave us good impressions but failed to deliver when they actually worked with us, and we had to start over.

It was only when we finally hired an agency, who pre-screened candidates for us, and helped us find a suitable match, that we chose the right one. There's a big difference between working with support workers and part-time nannies compared to a live-in nanny. The advantages heavily outweigh the disadvantages. We found someone who offers a helping hand around the house when we need it and we are comforted by the fact that we can trust and rely on her.

As a person with special needs, being a mom and a wife makes life easier when you have that extra hand. Whether support workers, caregivers and nannies chose this path because they have a passion for caring for others, or because it's a stepping stone towards something better, doesn't really matter. Having the support of a live-in caregiver made things easier for me, and hiring an agency made it easy for us both. 

I am grateful to all the support people who supported my journey of living my life to the fullest, and creating VanCity Caregivers is my way of supporting others in living theirs.

Do you have an experience with a caregiver, or as a caregiver, you'd like to share? Comment below - I'd love to hear it.