Caregiver Connection: Willing to Help

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News November 2015

Why is it some people are so willing to help while others are not?

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The world is full of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to help others. Unfortunately, the world also has plenty of people who stand around and do nothing or refuse to be of assistance.
I believe that when asked, most people are more willing to lend a hand than not. Recently, my husband, Steven, and I experienced both sides of that spectrum.

A More Involved Trip

We went to Florida to visit my 98-year-old mother who no longer feels safe flying. It had been about two years since she and Steven had seen each other, and we decided it was time to make the trip together.
I visit my mother multiple times during the year. I stay in her apartment and rent an economy car. However, when traveling with Steven, we have to check into a hotel that has an accessible room with a roll-in shower. We also have to rent an accessible minivan. Needless to say, it’s a more expensive and involved trip.
We made a reservation at a hotel we had stayed in before located about 10 minutes from mom’s apartment. It’s also right on the beach, which provided us a bit of a vacation-like atmosphere.
When we check into a hotel, I always tell the staff that we might need help doing transfers and we always get the same response: “Of course, just call down when you need assistance and we’ll send someone up.”
We’ve always found hotels to be very accommodating and have come to expect it.

Take The Risk

On this trip I knew we would definitely need assistance because I injured my knee in the airport while leaving. By the time we reached Florida I couldn’t walk on my right leg and needed a wheelchair to get to baggage claim. We made quite a sight; Steven was motoring along in his chair and I was being pushed in one by an airport employee. Mom and her aide, Taylor, met us at the hotel and Taylor drove me to the nearest emergency room. X-rays showed no breaks, but I had a bad sprain. I was outfitted with a brace and a walker and sent on my way.
That first night we had no difficulty getting the help we needed at bedtime. I called the front desk and two gentlemen arrived in a couple of minutes and easily helped Steven into bed.
However, it was a different story the next morning. The manager on duty refused my request. “We can’t help you,” she said. “I can’t allow an employee to take the risk of hurting your husband or himself.”
“What do you mean?” I said with a bit of annoyance in my voice. “We received help last night. No hotel has ever refused us before. I want to speak to the general manager.”
The general manager (GM) and the chief engineer came to our room shortly after. Following a brief discussion of what we needed, the GM said to ask for the chief engineer when we needed help and he’ll assist us.
“Great,” I thought. Problem solved. But when I called for help that evening, I was stonewalled once again.
The person at the desk told me they couldn’t help. Neither the GM or the chief engineer were on the property that late in the evening and the desk person said, “I’m sorry, I have my instructions.”

Assistance From Others

We had no recourse but to call the local fire department as we do at home when we find ourselves in a bind.
The fire department sent over some men right away and got Steven into bed and said they would come again if needed. I thanked them profusely, but all the time I was thinking, “This is too weird. We’re in a hotel. I shouldn’t have to call the fire department just to help get Steven into bed.”
The next morning when I called the front desk I got the same response as the night before. This time I didn’t even argue. I went out to the hallway and asked a male housekeeper if he could give me a hand.
“Of course,” he said. “My mom was in a chair and I cared for her for two years.”
A couple of minutes later Steven was in his chair.
At another point that day we needed some assistance and I saw a guest in the hallway and asked if he’d be willing to help.
“Sure, what do you need?” he responded.
Once again, it was no big deal. I showed him how to do a lift and it was done. Boom, zip!
We had planned to stay four nights, but between my knee injury and the humiliating treatment we got we left after two.

Refused To Help

I offered to sign a waiver saying we wouldn’t sue the hotel regardless of what happened, but I couldn’t get the managers on duty to budge.
They just refused to help. The housekeeper and the guest didn’t even hesitate. We were obviously in need of assistance and they were more than willing to provide it.
A call to the hotel’s corporate office when we got home brought many apologies and promises to find solutions the next time we came, but we won’t be going back.


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Caregiver Connection: Willing to Help


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