Another One Bites the Dust (Trigger Warning)

I find it a bit odd to be writing this post. It isn’t odd that I would write about caregiver abuse, but that I would write about it again so soon on a personal level. I’ve been quiet about it because I didn’t want to spoil the surprise for my not so perfect now ex-caregiver K. Remember when I posted that the Honeymoon was over? I didn’t talk about the whole there, nor did I mention that K was going to be fired from that moment, as soon as I could find a replacement.

K was not as bad as the other abusive caregivers I have dealt with, but, she was worse in some ways. She was abusive to my neighbors, not just me. No one should be abused but I have always felt it should just be me, if anyone at all. Not heroically but I don’t want anyone else to hurt. I also was a bit unaware of some of the abuse, still in survival mode. It all hit me at once the other day, but a couple of days ago (That’d be a Monday) things exploded.

Before going into that I want to list all the ways K was abusive that I can think of, partly because I still feel this little niggling doubt, these caregivers can’t be all bad right? This is a symptom of abuse itself. It springs from that old addage, that if the problem keeps reoccuring it must be you. I realize that there may be truth there, but, with abuse it is not the fault of the victim, no matter who they are.

K’s Ways of Abuse:
Tardiness. The instant she was aware that I couldn’t just fire her, she became so unreliable I spent the next few months literally just waiting for her. This meant no appointments unless I wanted to risk punishment, this meant missing religious activities, personal activities, and put me back into that pocket of isolation that I had fought so hard to get out of. This meant also that I couldn’t schedule appointments with other caregivers to interview them.

Offering the Forbidden Foods. Forbidden foods do not just include allergens, which she filled my new kitchen with as she put her own food in my fridge and freezer. This includes offering me food that I specified triggered a PTSD response. Turkey and Quesadillas both to me are the worst food in the world. It’s a bit ironic on that last one but, it is no longer one of my favorite things. I told her clearly when I hired her that these foods were not welcome in my home. If I pissed her off, she would offer it to me, then mock me for being upset if I showed it.

Emotional Abuse. This is a bit of a borad umbrella, springing off of the specified torment above, she’d ask if that was Paul outside, she’d mention how hard it would be for me to escape in this apartment with there being a limited number of exits, she made sure to tell my mother I think she’s a bad mother, she did a dozen little things JUST to hurt me. This included losing things, hiding things, and accessibility challenges though that over laps into…

Physical Abuse. Being denied the ability to bathe, clean clothes, food, etc is physical abuse. So is spiking the heater up to 90 on a heat sensitive person, when they are asleep it is more dangerous. Putting piles of boxes infront of the refridgerator and then not showing up for a few days is also abuse. Making the home in accessible by arguing about where things go and then just putting it where you feel like is abuse. Throwing things, is abuse. Burning food to punish someone for not letting you make up hours you missed by being a lazy (censored) is abuse.

K I sure as hell hope you read this, because I never got to explain to you why what you did was wrong, and your mommy sure as hell never will. It’s also wrong for you to not buckle your child and enforce her seat belt time. If she dies you are liable for her death as Murder. It’s a cold hard fact, and one I hope you never face but, with the way your kid runs around a  moving vehicle and distracts the driver, her danger increases. Oh and that warrant for your arrest? Who will take care of her if you never resolve that….

Snarly side note aside the abuse list is a lot longer but it’s hard. I feel like I lost momentum in my writing. So, since I can’t list every abuse let me tell you why she wasn’t given a nice ejection. The last day with K.

It started out on a somewhat cloudy day, I took the weekend to myself, because the endless waiting has left me a very angry client and Friday she was so late that after asking me to get up early so she could come in and have the afternoon off, I said screw it and locked up then went to sleep. I told her I was doing so. I worked it out with the people who are helping me change agencies, the original plan to ditch the pain in the butt, and they agreed with my choice so I gave K the weekend off. She always complains about how hard the work is, how we never have fun etc, so it seemed like a good idea. Side note here, you can’t have fun if you are late and MISS the fun.

So, Monday comes, I slept a bit late, took my time getting ready, I didn’t know if she would show or not. I unlocked the door, go to the bathroom, and the banging starts. An Unlocked Door is impossible to open you see. So I finish my business and go to open the door. She is HOLDING the knob so I can’t help her. I have to work hard to not show my disgust at this and I go and sit down. First things first I give her a chore, the litterbox. Not to punish her but because after five days it is rank. Five Days. She didn’t do it when she was told to the last time.

Then, I decide to ask for food. This is where it all starts to go wrong, apparently my wanting her to do her job is a bad thing. I bought pizza recently, and decided to eat it. So I ask her to put pepperonis on the pizza and use the oven. She supposedly cleaned this oven but I always put my pizza on a sheet and insisted. Now I am glad I insisted on that because with in minutes the oven, which she supposedly cleaned, was on fire. She set my kitchen on fire.

Instead of turning off the oven, opening windows etc, she runs outside for five minutes. I am stuck in smoke. So I start trying to get the window open, because I cannot go outside without my chair. She comes in and yells at me to sit down, so I do. I am not going to waste energy arguing. She then proceeds to leave the door open, to which I ask her to close it and lock the cats up THEN open it. I don’t know why this is a bad thing, I want to protect my cats. They take care of me. She replies with, and I quote because it pissed me off, “You don’t care about my feelings!” Her feelings? I didn’t think before I spoke, “Not right now, no. Now close the cats up.” I am choking on smoke, she keeps going outside to escape it, and then says that crap? Really? She follows this up with a, “After all I’ve done for you.” I let go. I have kept my anger on a short leash, and this is the first time I have yelled. She;’s already screaming at me, and I am not going to have this dumb (censored) in my (censored) house. I cursed too. “Get the (censored the F word) out! You are FIRED!” Somehow, I managed to double yell Fired.

She kind of stood there for a minute, so I got up. I am half expecting her to hurt me, because with everything else? Why wouldn’t she? So she storms out after I grab my grabber, which is metal and solid. Yes, I armed myself just to feel safe. Also I was wobbling badly so I used it to balance and moved forward. She moved back and then threw my keys at me. Then Her keys. Then she stormed out the gate and I locked up. My neighbors and caseworker showed. Kat my caseworker, I haven’t told you about her yet but she’s fantastic even if we get the name giggles, was already there with another client and came immediately. My neighbors all checked in on me and have been regularly when Keera doesn’t show. Since she abused them too, I don’t blame them for staying away when she is here.

I have been alone for two days, and I have been great. I get quiet time, instead of incessant texts that show her illiteracy, not just text speak but gibberish to those who KNOW text speak, chain letters etc. Now, she did steal from me, and that last day took some of my morphine. She also happens to owe me money. Will I ever get paid back? I will sue her if I have to, because she signed an IOU for the money. I decided it was worth it. I even put in an addendum that states that if she doesn’t pay by a certain amount of time, then there is interest added on. She signed it and we each have a copy.

I win. I am good right now, and I also know that I really do win. How can I not when I am strong enough to make my way out. I can’t share everything with this space because I mean it when I say there is going to be legal action. I can handle it. She probably can’t. I (censored) Win.!

The Antidote for Discrimination Is…

I have felt the urge to blog repeatedly, but until now I have not given in. Blogging can be as personal as writing. I have spent the last week in preparation mode skimming the internet reading other blogs, seeing what I liked, what I didn’t like, and the power behind the words. Some of these bloggers brought me to tears, and that is no small feat. Others made me laugh, some caused me to feel sorrow, and a few gave me the chance to feel angry.

I wasn’t sure how to start my first post, but, since I am an advocate for all disabled, all women, all men, all people in need I will start there. The topic nearest and dearest to my heart is Service Animal Law. Some of you who read this might think you know about service animals, and you might be right. Others will presume that a service animal is only for a blind person. You are not correct. A service animal, by the federal definition, is any animal trained to assist a disabled person with a task. This does mean that if you have a seizure alert dog, it has to do more than that. The law even gives behavioral guidelines.

I have a service cat. She is trained to do things including retrieval, seeking assistance from specific humans in the case of an emergency, medication reminders, object retrieval, and she has also been trained to help me balance. A lot of these tactics came out of her instinctual responses, but those needed to be honed. She also had to be trained to handle a crowded mall. Now she handles it better than I do. People often ask me why a cat, and my response is simple. I am not allergic to cats, most of the time but I am allergic to dogs. I also trust cats, and I haven’t trusted many dogs in my life. I have to trust my service animal partner.

I have faced some serious discrimination because of being disabled. When I was still walking most of the time, it was harder because I was in extra agony since forcing myself to walk through a store took all of my energy. The more tired I am, the more pain I feel. There have been times when I have had shopping carts jerked out of my hands, causing me to either fall or nearly fall. I have been denied the right to buy groceries, and recently I have been illegally denied medical care.

I am perusing legal action but I am well aware that other people might not know how. Today, one of the blogs I read, reminded me that not every person is trained in how to handle discrimination. When you are disabled, you might feel more vulnerable to attack, and when people threaten to take away your service animal or refuse access, it can be terrifying. I feel often as if I am going to be hit if I push forward. I was an abuse victim for most of my life, but, adulthood came and I found a way to break free. Not everyone is that lucky.

So, here it is, my guide for other disabled people with any LEGAL service animal on how to advocate their rights. A side not before I begin, if you do not need a service animal, do not lie. We will catch you eventually, and the crime has a punishment. Depriving people of their rights through your shallow behavior is the worst thing you could possibly do, and, whether you believe in Karma, Hell, or just recriminations in this life from other people, you will pay for it. The law will get you, Advocates will get you, and if Karma gets you, it will be worse than anything I could dream up.

The Guide– Dedicated to Renne, Helen, Aimi and Snow, but especially Bree. (All Links will open in a new window/tab.)

Step 1. Stay Calm. This is for me the hardest part of advocating for your rights. Sometimes I want to run, other times I want to scream and cuss. Neither tactic is helpful. As hard as it is, you have to be the bigger person, and stay nice. You can have anger in your voice, do not deny the emotion but do not let the emotions over ride your goal.

Step 2. Calmly as you can, state that they are breaking the Federal Law. This is what I have practiced saying in the Mirror daily for the last two years. “You are violating the Federal Law. The Americans With Disabilities act provides protection for my use of my service animal.” When I say this I hand them a copy of the law. You can get a copy of the service animal laws from the ADA.  I  have the business brief printed with my state law on the reverse side. You can obtain access to your local service animal laws at http://www.animallaw.info/ I carry  my print out in aUSB case on my scooter keys. You can also buy laminated cards from various businesses with the law on it that explain your rights. For some people this is easier. Those cards are usually kept on your animal’s harness.

Step 3. Explain the law in simple terms and how they are violating it. This does mean you need to know the law. Not only does knowing the law protect you from discrimination, but, it lets you educate people. The biggest cause of discrimination in my experience is a lack of knowledge. If someone isn’t willing to learn, or admits they know, then you have a larger problem. One of the main causes of confusion with service animal awareness is that few businesses train their employees. It is illegal to require a service animal to wear a vest or show an ID tag. When someone asks me for this for my cat, I show them the law and educate them. Often, they will try and state she cannot enter because she is not a dog. My local laws state only dogs can be service animals. The laws are written so that the stronger law prevails. This means that if the Federal law says I can have any animal, that is trainable and meets the standards and the local law does not, we refer to the federal law. However if you live in a state like California that requires ID tags for all service animals, then, the law requires you have an ID tag. This is another source of confusion, but, it is an attempt at increasing the rights of many.

Usually by this point I am either in the building or they are just going to break the law anyway. If you have reached this point, it is time for Step 4.

Step 4. Take a very deep breath, and remember Step 1. Then ask to speak to their supervisor. If they refuse or are the supervisor you can try explaining the laws again, or calling another advocate to try and help. I keep the number handy to the local advocacy organization, and they have helped me countless times. Even knowing I can call day or night, is helpful because I do not feel alone. At this time I have no national links, but if you are in New Mexico, contact Service Animals and the Law. (Link forthcoming). If you have links nationally to websites that can help, post them in a comment. I want this page to be a resource for any person in need.

At this point you should be through the trying time, most managerial staff listen well and correct their employees. Recently I had to fight my way into an apartment complex using this tactic for three months. Even when I had food poisoning I had to try and follow my rules, but, eventually I prevailed. Advocating for yourself is the hardest part of having a service animal.

Not every person responds to this and if you still cannot get through to them, you need to contact the ADA. You can email them a detailed complaint, include names, addresses, contact information for both parties, and send it to ada.complaint@usdoj.gov . If you would rather call you can contact the ADA via their hotline using these numbers: 800-514-0301 (TTY-800-0363).

Remember, you are strong, you are beautiful inside and out, and you are not alone.

Other posts in this series: What is a Service Animal?

Additional Resources will be added as I find them:

Information:
http://www.assistancedogsinternational.org/
http://www.deltasociety.org
http://www.ada.gov/svcanimb.htm
http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm
http://www.equipforequality.org/resourcecenter/ada_serviceanimals.pdf

http://www.animallaw.info/
Service Dog Vests and Supplies:
http://www.pettop.com/
http://www.raspberryfield.com/
http://www.activedogs.com/servicetherapyvestharness.html?gclid=CI-6iKm7rpgCFQEpGgod3QL9Ug
http://www.ldsleather.com/patches.html
http://www.petjoyonline.com/ADA_Federal_Law_Information_Card_for_Service_Dog_p/svd-0054.htm The Law Info Cards
Scholarships
http://www.assistancedogunitedcampaign.org/scholarship.html
http://www.keystonehumanservices.org/ssd/ssd.php
Blogs:
http://www.servicedogblog.com/

  • Polls

  • Ye Olde Archives of Fury

  • Top Rated

  • Top Clicks

    • None