Social skills for autonomous people Tumblr blog
The first thing I thought of when I read this post was a speech I heard at an Independent Living Center conference, I don’t know how many years ago. The speaker was talking about how institutional care facilities for the elderly and for people with cognitive impairments were becoming more sophisticated in how they marketed themselves. They had caught on to the fact that people no longer just accept nursing homes and large residential facilities, and are looking for care solutions that feel more “home-like”.
As a result, the lines between true Independent Living and “prettied up" institutional care were being blurred. They still are. And many people with disabilities in need of daily assistance are genuinely confused about what is “independent” and what is “institutional”. The speaker ended her talk with a bullet-point list of questions a person might ask themselves to realize whether or not they are living independently. I don’t remember all or even most of the list, but here are a few I do recall:
"Do you own the utensils you eat with?"
"Do people have to knock and wait for you to answer before coming into your room?"
"Do you have a lock on your residence with a key that you hold and control?"
"Do you choose the people you live with, or whether or not to live with anyone at all?"
"Do you decide what and when to eat?"
"Do you own the sheets and pillows on your bed?"
When I heard these questions, it felt like a bubble popped in my head. All of a sudden I realized that independent living wasn’t about the number of roommates you have, whether you rent or own, or even whether you live on your own or with your parents. It isn’t about doing what you want or some concept of “control”. It’s about ownership, privacy, and personal boundaries. It’s more about “how” and “who" than it is about where. You can't fake these things with extra potted plants or ice cream on Sundays.
If you’ve never even come close to needing extensive daily care, you may not understand how important this is. If you have spent time in an institution, or have come close, I hope this rings true to you.