Thursday, July 16, 2015

Independence is a Myth People Cling To

Rebecca Dutton
Home After a Stroke
July 16, 2015

A stroke forces people to deal with becoming dependent. Having a stroke helped me realize that independence is a myth. For example, do you cut your family's hair and change the oil in your car? When able-bodied people rely on others they call it interdependence. Production companies cash in on the myth that able-bodied people are independent by making reality TV shows about people living in remote parts of Alaska.

TV shows a man eating dinner, but they do not show him buying the bullets that killed the animal, the knife that skinned the animal, and the salt, hot sauce, and cooking oil that made the meal tasty. TV shows a wife standing in her garden talking about putting up vegetables for the winter, but they do not show her taking out dozens of glass jars with twist-on lids and the large pot she needs to heat the jars of food so she does not kill her family with botulism. TV shows people riding on snow mobiles or dog sleds, but they do not show them buying gas, intricate dog harnesses, and nails to make a sled. Then there is the technology that makes living in the wild possible - boots and socks. These people are not living independently. They just shop less than we do.

When I was an OT, one of my goals was to get clients to a 7 on the Functional Independence Measure (FIM). Seven on the FIM = independence minus the skills needed to set up and clean up an ADL task. However, reality TV proves by clever omission that true independence does not exist. Reality TV also shows that contributing everything you can to share the workload makes a difference. Requiring assistance means a stroke survivor still has ways to be helpful. My goal now is to be as independent as I can and graciously accept the kindness of others. Click on the volunteer label below to see posts about my helpful angels.

P.S. Why did the people who created the FIM think omitting set up and clean up for a task was a valid way to define independence?

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1 comment:

  1. Rebecca, your P.S. is right on target. If I need my husband to hang a towel over the shower wall, buy my soap and shampoo, and shave my underarms, in what possible world is that independence? The ADL of showering should include that. Having someone do set-up is like having a sous-chef while making dinner - if I say I can cook dinner, I should be able to chop the vegetables, fill the pot w water, take pans in/out of the oven, etc.

    I agree that we are all interdependent, but use the word "independent" to mean I can "take care" of myself - going out as needed, taking care of my home chores and dog, and so on. I've finally managed to get my electric vacuum cleaner upstairs, so now I have to figure out a way to mop.