Tuesday, June 28, 2016

When Caretakers Write

Caretakers often write about those they care for.  It makes sense; the person needing assistance is a big part of the caretaker's life.  And caring for someone who needs help can be difficult, funny, bittersweet.  Many excellent essays have come from those who are caretakers in their everyday lives.

There are ethical problems with writing a story about someone else but, often, disabled/neurodivergent people's feelings aren't taken into account.  Our embarrassments, problems, and difficulties are exposed by those who care for us without so much as an acknowledgement of how it could affect us.  We become the subject, and not people.

Caretakers need an outlet for dealing with frustration and it can benefit them to write about their hardships.  It can also help other caretakers to read about others' struggles.  But an essay shouldn't be a gripe-filled diatribe against the person needing assistance, nor should it be humiliation of that person brought to light.
If a caretaker needs to let off steam, he/she should join a support group or keep a diary, not seek out a magazine.

Why aren't more caretakers seeking permission from (or at least talking to) the person they're going to write about?  If they would extend that courtesy to a neurotypical/able-bodied person, they can extend it to us!  If the people who help us the most can't see us as worthy of common decency, we're in trouble.
Here's another idea:  Why don't more caretakers write stories with their disabled/neurodivergent person?  It would make a more balanced, illuminating piece.

We need more stories about us, yes, but not if they come at the expense of dignity and are targeted at people who "other" us.  And if the people who care for us really care, they will write with honesty but, also, with an underlying respect.

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