Sharon Kempton

Sharon Kempton

I would like you to lose your job, your RRSPs, your retirement funds, your health. Within the next 6 months.

Then apply for Social Assistance. Try to get a Handicap Card. Get set up for the Handybus. Live.

It’s like walking through a minefield. I have something that is called “Roaming Arthritis”. Not sure when it will hit, but when it does my feet swell up and its extremely painful. Or my ankles. Or my knees. So walking, is impossible at times.

I have crutches and canes for those terrible times. This year it seemed to come more than once, after a week or couple of days respite. Then I can’t get to the bus! Or go anywhere!

When feeling better, then I can walk downtown with the aide of trekking poles, which are more supportive than canes for uneven surfaces and no sidewalks.

I had to pay for the trekking poles myself, after struggling to bus, struggling to buy poles for $26 at Canadian Tire, going back to bus, going to Doctor’s office to ask for a prescription for this item to be covered by HSS under Medical Expenses. Then, taking this prescription to Adult Services, only to have it refused a second time. The first was when I received Household Expenses funding,
but the poles were not accepted in this category. Each time a visit to AS is required.

Then I still had to get to a bus stop! Oh, right. I had to get a voucher from AS, and then struggle over to City Hall to get the bus pass itself, go to a bus stop, get on and off the bus, and walk home from there. Oh, and then the one snotty bus driver on my route thinks I can leap up and down six inches when I am in this condition and refuses to “kneel” the bus all the way, even when I ask.

And the Doctors haven’t communicated yet with each other about the Handicap Card, ‘cause they’re busy. Two months later and I’m still waiting for them to fax each other or pick up the phone.

Oh, and one really isn’t always given funding for a phone. One has to wait at least six months before this is even considered. So if I couldn’t walk, couldn’t call my daughter or 911, what would happen. Does it matter? To me it does!

My issue: I never saw this coming. I never realized the enormity of the lack of compassion from professionals who are in the work of helping others. Some are wonderful. A few are not. The few that are not make my life extremely difficult and unwieldy, when I need it the most. And a lot of the systems in place need to be streamlined and respectful of needs and choices. We are adults. Vitamins as well as drugs should be supported. Trekking poles as well as canes. etc.

But wait! I haven’t talked about getting to the bank when I need to cash my HSS funding so I can pay my bills etc. How I get around to buy food, or Food Bank and get it home, go to part time work. Some bills are done by SA, which is extremely helpful. Others are not. Instant banking and a phone call to let a client know it is in the bank is efficient.

Oh, and I can’t get funding to “maintain” my Toyo heater before the winter as it is not considered a “repair”, but what will happen if the oil can’t get through the dirty filter. Right! I pay it back through HSS funding, which is very limited and does not meet all my needs as is.

I think that it would be great to incorporate the Guaranteed Annual Income that has been tossed around for ever. It would reduce the necessary Social Worker overload which is now occurring, and the financial costs this incurs.

Also, easier access to bus passes, handicapped cards, better functioning Handibus services (did you know that you have to request a ride two weeks in advance and it may take all day to do one appointment?) I have heard horror stories about the system now, and its only going to get worse as “boomers” age.

What I feel is needed in the support systems in place, is respect. I gratefully appreciate all the help that has been given to me, truly, but systems need to be upgraded so that things are not so unwieldy when the going gets tough. We don’t always know when that will be.

This sure has given me a greater appreciation for what others have to go through, and possibly have been going through for years. I have heard Supported Independent Living workers, and others working in the helping profession, say that their clients and them spend half of their time trying to get everything in place. And they are exhausted doing it. I am also when in the mid range of Arthritis, when I can get around, but just barely.

But, I am very lucky to have a wonderful daughter who loves me, my dogs who adore me, a leaky roofed home of my own, with a Permaculture garden, and more health than others-when not having inflammatory issues.