Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know

Featured article - 23 June 2020
By Dianna Stirling, Partnership Manager for Scotland and Northern Ireland, Disabled Living Foundation

Dianna Stirling

It was Father’s Day in the UK on Sunday, a happy time to spend time with your dad for many and celebrate that special bond between a father and child. For some us who have lost our fathers it can be a bittersweet day to remember them, not the declining years, but when they were a benevolent giant in a child’s eyes.

My father died in 2008 of oesophageal cancer after breathing in asbestos in the Clyde shipyards. It is with great sadness I remember caring for him, or trying my best to care, when I lived over 100 miles away and worked full-time with a child still at school. I wished I had known then what I know now about all the equipment, advice and products that I could have accessed to make his life and mine easier and the whole long drawn out caring process more manageable. But sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know and at the time I didn’t know about the advice services that the DLF provides and never thought to research the information available from Carers UK.

I had never heard of the DLF, I only learned about the AskSARA self-assessment tool after I had accepted this job and started to understand what the DLF does. I had heard about mobility equipment but had no knowledge of anything that could have helped us manage other than the totally unsuitable disability scooter my dad had bought himself to cope after his two hip replacements. He did not think about maintenance, storage or getting it on the bus. Subsequently he rewired it and set the wiring on fire, found that he had to leave it at the bus stop and generally ended up pushing it home many times when it broke down. If only I’d know about how to identify the correct equipment, help him make a better purchase choice to meet his needs and seen the products that could have helped him sit in his chair, go to the loo and have a bath safely without the struggle it became. The range of assistive technology to monitor him remotely was not on my radar and knowledge of where to find information or purchase such things not something I even considered.

The DLF and Carers UK have released a new interactive online tool for unpaid carers. The new Carers UK AskSARA provides free, impartial guidance about aids and adaptation for independent living. If only I had known when caring for my dad what I know now how different our experiences would have been.

Impartial information

Many people, like myself, struggle to understand where to get trusted impartial information. Recent surveys show that almost two-thirds of users of AskSARA are looking on behalf of those they care for such as adult children looking for aids to support their elderly parents.

Carers can choose from a range of over ninety topics about daily living, answer some questions and get a tailored report suggesting equipment-based solutions. AskSARA is a self-assessment tool that includes links to over ten thousand products from almost a thousand retailers, many of the products listed can then be purchased from online retailers and delivered to people at home. The guidance and questions are written by occupational therapists and reports can be easily shared.

I am proud to be part of the work of the DLF and privileged to tell everyone about the new Carers UK version of AskSARA. On Father’s Day, as I remembered my Daddy I wish that someone had told me what I didn’t know and pointed me in the direction of all the help, advice and impartial information on equipment and aids that could have supported my dad in living independently for longer. Today I can be that carer and that someone.

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