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lessons from the spouse of a handicapped person

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My husband has been handicapped since he fell 8 feet onto a cement floor when the ladder he was on collapsed 2 years ago. He has limited mobility which means he's often in a wheelchair. He also has fought chronic back pain 9 years. I have been his chauffeur and nurse all this time and I've learned a few lessons I'd like to pass on.

1. If you're parking your vehicle next to a vehicle that's in a designated handicapped parking place, pay attention to the parking lines painted on the parking lot. More than once, someone has parked so close to my vehicle, I couldn't bring the wheelchair to my husband's side of vehicle so I had to park the wheelchair behind our vehicle and help him walk to his door. This was not easy for either of us.

2. If you see someone who looks fit drive into a handicapped parking spot, don't be quick to judge that person. I can't tell you how many people have judged me because I look young and healthy enough not to use handicapped parking. I use it because of my passenger, people!!!! It's often the most handicapped who need someone to drive them places.

3. If you see someone struggling to load a wheelchair into the back of a vehicle, offer to help. Don't just watch. More than likely, that person has loaded that wheelchair many times that day and a little compassion could go a long way. I remember going to my niece's graduation party. I pulled up in front of the house, got my husband's wheelchair, loaded him and pushed him as my entire family watched and never even offered to help.

4 If you're visiting someone who has chronic pain issues and you've just popped in without calling first and it's like 9 in the morning, don't call that person lazy if it looks he/she has just gotten out of bed. I would be up sometimes all night with my husband getting heating pads, ice, etc. and sleep wouldn't come until the early morning hours.

5. Be a friend who listens and prays, not one who lectures about not having enough faith. Condemnation is another burden the handicapped don't need. Also, it's good to give handicapped alternatives to healing but don't take it personally if we don't run out and buy every vitamin/herb/other supplement just because you recommend it.

Common sense? Yes, probably, but if I can raise a little awareness here that's a good thing and might help someone else.

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