woman in a wheelchair disappears due to parkinsons and feeling invisible

An Unwanted Superpower

When did I become invisible?

Over the last several months I have had multiple doctor and clinic appointments. One glaring thing I have noticed repeatedly is that because I am in a wheelchair, when I check in at the reception desk, the receptionist tends to address all questions to my husband.

I know that their desks tend to be high and have plexiglass shields. I use a transport wheelchair designed for a smaller person. However, I am visible. My chair is bright red and I decorate it for holidays. I have even been known to tie a balloon to the back.

This doesn’t seem to change how they request information. I do not have visible symptoms of Parkinson's disease (PD), like tremors or voice issues. I simply cannot use my rollator to navigate the long distance through the corridors at most facilities. I generally will interrupt my husband and answer for myself, but I find this treatment to be very demeaning.

Impatient office staff

A member of one of my support groups has difficult voice issues. Not only does she have problems with volume and a pronounced stutter, but she also suffers from dementia and often struggles to find the right word. These issues are more apparent when stressed.

She shared that when checking in for an appointment she was having trouble making herself understood especially since she was dealing with anxiety regarding her upcoming procedure. The receptionist became extremely impatient and frustrated raising his voice and told her to speak up, and that he couldn’t understand a word she said.

Obviously this increased her anxiety and caused her tremors to start. Rather than try to take the time and try asking questions that could have been more easily understood, he called on her caregiver and did not speak to her directly again. This whole situation could have easily been avoided.

Customer service training

I do not mean to imply that all healthcare workers are insensitive or rude as most are kind and compassionate and understand the struggles many patients experience especially in anxious situations.

However as a former Customer Service Manager for a direct marketing company whose primary customer base was the elderly, there are tips to ensure a positive interaction.

If someone is having difficulty understanding try using other words or leave more space between them. Listen carefully and always acknowledge the person you should be addressing. It will make all the difference.

The superpowers I want

After giving it a lot of thought I would love the ability to fly. Just think of being able to get from place with no walking aids to always have to bring along. Never having to fear falling or having your gait freeze, not having to be concerned about finding handicapped facilities. Being able to go anywhere would be a true gift. Being somewhat clumsy, my only worry would be to avoid walls!

Although not necessarily a superpower, the decision to always choose kindness is the power I covet most. As the Dalai Lama said "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."

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