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    Family members and inaccessible homes

    This is my first post in a really long time, but I have not seen this problem discussed at all, or just haven't found it in hours of searching.

    My husband was injured in a MVA in 1994 T12 incomplete. He is one of five children, the only son. We were both 25 at the time of the accident, but are happy and doing well with an 8 year old daughter and 14 year old son. I know we are very lucky. None of his family members have made their homes accessible, even though in some cases its only a question of two to three steps to get into the house. They claim that our house is accessible, so they come here. I have hosted all Christmas, Easter and summer BBQ's for the last 20 years, but had my hip replacement revised this January (broken in same MVA as husband), and could not host this year's holidays. You would not believe the backlash I have received from all four of his sisters and parents. They believe I am keeping them from their son/brother and that its the least I could do. I have never been particularly close to them, nor has my husband, but I can't help feeling hurt that after over 20 years of hosting them and their families, the one year I cannot do it due to legitimate physical limitations is the cause of all this anger. They have never reciprocated with going out anywhere, it's always here. Not just on holidays, they show up without calling, and I must feed and entertain them. It must be nice to always be a guest. I guess I am looking for a polite way to say that we will continue to do Christmas and Easter, but please don't be offended it we cannot one year or another, there is always a valid reason. This is the first and only year in 23 that I have not been able to do it. I keep hosting holidays for the kids, its wonderful to have a celebration, festivity and party for their fun and enjoyment. You can imagine with 4 sisters, their husbands, kids and now grandkids, its a lot of work. I just wish they wouldn't get so angry and offended if we can't do it one holiday, or if we ask them to call before they just show up. We have asked several times that they give us some notice, and the stock answer is always "We're family, we don't need an invitation". We told them that we would not be able to hold Easter Sunday here this year, so two sisters, their husbands, 3 kids and 2 grandkids showed up on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. so we could "still celebrate". I had no food in the house, no Easter goodies for the littles ones, and the house is less clean than normal since I am still on crutches. I felt so bad! I would have at least tried to have something for the kids and straighten up at least the family room with the TV/video games for the kids, but had no time. My husband firmly told them that it was not a good day, once again, to please call first. They got quite upset, saying "Well, you're home, aren't you? We don't care how the house looks, we just wanted to come for a visit!" They stayed for about an hour, I wanted to order a pizza or chinese food, but my husband said he'd rather "stick pins in his eyes" than feed all these people with no notice or help, and that I should stay out of it. So I did, but I was not comfortable treating guests that way. My husband than said "guests are people we invite". I have not told him I still want to do holidays, but will gently ease into it for the summer bbs. My kids love to see their cousins. How do I say no to them without offending them? Any advice or people in this situation?

    #2
    Sounds like your husband knows how to handle uninvited "guests", so suggest he contact the main troublemakers ahead of time to indicate which holidays you will host and which you will not host. Don't understand why you are concerned about offending "them". (Is all siblings who disrespect your privacy and time, or one person?) Your statement 'I was not comfortable treating guests that way' is strange as they were not "guests".
    I think it is more difficult for persons with a disability to handle "drop-in" visitors. Just getting the home and bathroom presentable can be more work.
    Might be good to call one of the siblings for a heart to heart talk about how difficult this has been for years and that you and hubby need to change things:
    call before visits, and share holiday home visits. This person will no doubt share this conversation with the other siblings.
    We are a two wheeler couple and purchased a folding aluminum ramp to carry in our van for visits. Only one sibling home had a nice ramp. We later bought a second ramp to leave in the garage of one of the siblings so they could carry it to the home that was hosting the holiday. In between holidays we meet at a food court of a local big mall. All accessible there. Keep in mind.....they want to see you. Make it on your terms.

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      #3
      I'd leave this to your husband. Seems like he's got a good grasp of the situation already. Maybe at the next get together, explain how you're all getting older and hosting all the time was becoming too draining? None of my family members have ever had a ramp. 31yrs post. We are not close. At all.
      Roses are red. Tacos are enjoyable. Don't blame immigrants, because you're unemployable.

      T-11 Flaccid Paraplegic due to TM July 1985 @ age 12

      Comment


        #4
        Thanks so much for your responses. For years we have asked them to call first, but they feel perfectly entitled to "stop by". I know this is a matter of habit for some, and many have no problem with drop ins, but it is often inconvenient when we have prior plans. My husband has never been close with his sisters or parents, we do not hear from them unless we are inviting them here. They do have get togethers often, but we are not included. 3 of his sisters are the drop in type, the other does not see or contact us unless she and her family are invited here. There is a bit of bad blood between she and my husband when she married at an inaccessible catering hall 10 years ago, so they do not exactly see eye to eye. We have a portable ramp, but they claim they cannot include the entire family (its a large one) due to space or money limitations. It does get crowded and expensive for gatherings, so I can see why they prefer to let someone else do it. I just have terrible guilt at how disgusted I am with them. If they are "close" enough to claim to be really hurt by not seeing us, they can't invite us anywhere? I know some people just don't like to entertain, and that's fine, but then how can you have any expectation of always imposing on someone else? We have suggested bbqs at local parks, meeting at restaurants, even the pavilion at our local beach, but it is too much of a hassle for them to "haul all this crap there" and since my house is big enough for everyone, why not just do it here? His parents also believe that we should host the gatherings because we are "better off" financially than his sisters (which may or may not be true), and it is rude of us to refuse or cancel when the family can only all be together here. We have a portable ramp, but that is moot as they simply do not want to host anything. I'm ok with that, but tired of hosting EVERYTHING ON DEMAND. His family is so different than mine and what I am used to. My parents would have tortured me if I had my wedding at a hall that my sister couldn't get into, to the point where they might have threatened to not attend. They were very quick to put in a ramp and have all the doorways downstairs widened to accommodate his chair, even before he returned from rehab. I don't understand the lack of compassion for their own son and brother, who is an absolutely amazing person. I know I can't fix their dysfunction, which was present long before I came on the scene, but I mainly want my kids to continue to know and enjoy their cousins on that side of family. My husband does not share my opinions on this, and says they'll continue to take advantage as long as I let them. I know he is thinking of me and wants to help, but I don't want to destroy the fragile relationship we already have with his side of the family. I owe his family a great deal for raising such a beautiful man, dysfunction or not, they are still family.

        Lynnifer, thanks so much for your response as well. Were you close to your family before your injury, if you don't mind my asking? My husband's family are not and have never been the "warm and fuzzy" type, I just thought that almost losing him in a horrific car accident might make them see how precious he is. He deserves so much better than the way they have treated him.

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          #5
          All of the family homes we visit we bring our own ramp. My in-laws re-purposed a ramp that we built temporarily for our home. It needs to be replaced but I know they won't make the change. It is something we will have to do and I'm fine with that because they don't have a clue on what is considered safe for a wheelchair.

          It is a lot easier to just bring a ramp than getting our house ready for people. Bonus: When traveling to another home for holidays....you can leave when you want and don't have to wait for everyone to clear out of the house.

          Hope your husband can go to bat for you on this one.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by tgmalz View Post
            Lynnifer, thanks so much for your response as well. Were you close to your family before your injury, if you don't mind my asking? My husband's family are not and have never been the "warm and fuzzy" type, I just thought that almost losing him in a horrific car accident might make them see how precious he is. He deserves so much better than the way they have treated him.
            I was 12 so yes I had to live there six more years. They put on a ramp - we were already in the middle of a renovation. as luck would have it, on the bathroom, kitchen and laundry room. When I left, the ramp stayed until my brother acquired the farm - now he uses it for storage and actually cut part of it off. There's no way I could get in now.

            So as much as a 12yr old is close? I couldn't wait to leave. My father also re-married in an inaccessible church so I didn't go - my sister didn't go out of respect for me (nah I just think she didn't like the way dad handled it) and a brother still throws that in my face at times. We had four days' notice by email.

            ETA: I lost my bedroom as it was upstairs and it was an old country farmhouse. I slept in the dining room with a single bed, night stand and dresser. The only one to do so as everyone else was upstairs.
            Last edited by lynnifer; 14 Apr 2016, 4:00 PM.
            Roses are red. Tacos are enjoyable. Don't blame immigrants, because you're unemployable.

            T-11 Flaccid Paraplegic due to TM July 1985 @ age 12

            Comment


              #7
              My parent's houses aren't accessible, nor is my sisters. Or my best friend's. We go anyway. It's not that big of a deal to get a little help up and down a short entry way staircase, or something like that. I eventually did get a portable ramp so that when I go to my Dad's I can get from the backyard/pool/chilling out zone into the house without bothering anyone, since we are there so frequently. If I were you I'd just let the family know it isn't a big deal their homes aren't 100% accessible. It's not like you're living there! For a visit, a couple times a year, navigating 3 steps just isn't a serious barrier IMO.
              "I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it." - Edgar Allen Poe

              "If you only know your side of an issue, you know nothing." -John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by Oddity View Post
                My parent's houses aren't accessible, nor is my sisters. Or my best friend's. We go anyway. It's not that big of a deal to get a little help up and down a short entry way staircase, or something like that. I eventually did get a portable ramp so that when I go to my Dad's I can get from the backyard/pool/chilling out zone into the house without bothering anyone, since we are there so frequently. If I were you I'd just let the family know it isn't a big deal their homes aren't 100% accessible. It's not like you're living there! For a visit, a couple times a year, navigating 3 steps just isn't a serious barrier IMO.
                For us it used to be a less big issue but now that we are in our 70's it becomes way more of a hassle. My wife's siblings are mostly our age and we no longer want them pulling us up steps. They have too many age related physical issues. This is not a problem on big holidays when the grand kids are at big family dinners. That is why we have siblings and others come here a lot and we have begun meeting siblings at a nearby mall food court where the mall doesn't care if you stay for hours.

                Of course if you are a power chair user it's a whole different issue, one would then wish family would provide a safe ramped entrance when possible.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by ancientgimp View Post
                  For us it used to be a less big issue but now that we are in our 70's it becomes way more of a hassle. My wife's siblings are mostly our age and we no longer want them pulling us up steps. They have too many age related physical issues. This is not a problem on big holidays when the grand kids are at big family dinners. That is why we have siblings and others come here a lot and we have begun meeting siblings at a nearby mall food court where the mall doesn't care if you stay for hours.

                  Of course if you are a power chair user it's a whole different issue, one would then wish family would provide a safe ramped entrance when possible.

                  Age and level are important considerations, to be sure. I suspect as a T12 the OP's husband and her are dealing with the age side of things. I'd probably purchase a temporary portable ramp, and ask them to store it on sight, rather than just wish they'd fix the problem for me. I'd definitely get tired of always hosting events, too!
                  "I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it." - Edgar Allen Poe

                  "If you only know your side of an issue, you know nothing." -John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by Oddity View Post
                    Age and level are important considerations, to be sure. I suspect as a T12 the OP's husband and her are dealing with the age side of things. I'd probably purchase a temporary portable ramp, and ask them to store it on sight, rather than just wish they'd fix the problem for me. I'd definitely get tired of always hosting events, too!
                    My wife's parents never built a ramp after she completed rehab post polio in 1948. She was unable to attend Catholic elementary school after rehab in Detroit. Her 3 sisters attended Catholic elementary and high school, however, due to inaccessibility my wife was told she could only attend public school and this only if she could get on the bus while ambulating, otherwise she would only be able to do home schooling with a tutor. She would use braces to "walk" to her bus, ride for an hour then arrive at school where an attendant would meet her with a wheelchair at Leland Elementary. At high school she attended Cass Tech.

                    I was injured in 1970 and unable to live independently returned to my parent's home post rehab at age 25. My family had completely modified the house, my dad, a plumber, installed a downstairs bathroom. The work they did probably made my post injury life possible.

                    When I first visited Detroit with my now wife I was astonished we had to be hauled up the stairs to get in the house, then we both had to to push up the stairs to the bathroom, transfer to the chair, then to the toilet, back to the chair, into the tub, back to the chair, back to the floor, transfer down all the stairs, back into the chair. On one short visit I acquired a nice bedsore from bumping up and down carpeted stairs. My wife's parents were wonderful people but completely insensitive to her disability.

                    I will always be so thankful my parents, not financially comfortable themselves, made their house accessible so that I could come home from rehab to a house that made me feel able to function in society. They did this with no prior sensitivity training, just a lot of unconditional love.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Thanks again for all the responses! We have several portable ramps, but no one wants to host anything. They claim that since our house is already accessible, why can't we just do it here? For family members who only have a couple of steps, helping him in is problematic because I have had chronic hip problems and now cannot lift anything heavy without the risk of dislocating the implant, and family members do not wish to help because if we "just got together at your house", there would be no problem. I have no problem hosting holidays, but I wish we could meet out somewhere maybe once a year. It would be nice to have my kids see everyone in a different location than just their house. I just don't understand their attitude. I would move heaven and earth to make my family and friends feel comfortable and welcome in my home, and I'm so fortunate that they would do the same for me and my family. Perhaps it is unreasonable to wish they would at least store a ramp for the occasional visit, but even that seems like we are asking for too much. I don't expect them to host any holidays, I just don't understand their anger when we can't do it for whatever reason. They act like we are deliberately ruining the holiday, when for this past year my physical ability to host almost 40 people was just not there. I've been told, and I understand that my mother and father in law are getting older (mid eighties), but I just could not do it on crutches this year, I wish I could have or there would not be this anger and resentment on their part towards me and my husband. I guess maybe a get together over the summer might smooth things over, but I feel bad that they think I just cancelled on a whim, which was NOT the case at all!

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I hear you.

                        But you have made it too easy for them. So now they are lazy. Time to cut back. Let your husband mange the discussions with the family. They will recover, and will adjust. Give it time.

                        And you should not be managing the ramps alone. There must be some strong young individuals who will help.

                        Most people are not evil.... But sometimes you have to just say no, and it sounds like that just isn't in your nature. Maybe something to work on?

                        Comment


                          #13
                          I don't think it is unreasonable AT ALL to expect someone to store a ramp at their place. That is just common courtesy, IMO. A frank conversation seems in order. Might ruffle a feather or two, but they'll get over it. That's part of being "family".
                          "I have great faith in fools; self-confidence my friends call it." - Edgar Allen Poe

                          "If you only know your side of an issue, you know nothing." -John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

                          Comment


                            #14
                            I'm very fortunate that my wife's family has been so accommodating. One brother-in-law built a portable ramp so I could get into their house. It is only two steps up and our portable ramp would work just fine, but he wanted to make his own. It is much wider and longer so it's a little easier for someone to push me up it. My other brother-in-law's house sits pretty high up. When they put a deck around their pool they included a ramp for me to get into their house. This ramp does have to go back and forth because of how high up the door is from the ground. I'd say it's at least 8 feet high. I'm sure it was at least an extra $1,000 or more to do this. What's even more impressive is they built it mainly for me and we only visit them once or twice a year. Every other family member we visited we've been able to use our portable ramps. We have a fairly short one, about 3 ft. long and the a much longer one, probably 8 feet long and in 2 sections.

                            We've typically hosted a large chunk of the family gatherings even before my accident because we have an open floor plan with plenty of room. After my accident our house was modified for me and we had an addition put on so I could sleep in a bedroom instead of the living room. From the outside one would never know that a person with a wheelchair lives there. Instead of putting ramps every where we had them put sidewalks up to the two front doors at the proper ADA slope. They the pour the concrete so that it was level with the bottom of the doors.

                            All of our modifications now make our house an even better gathering place since my mother-in-law now uses a walker and has difficulty getting around. As one of my neighbors said, "They should build all homes handicapped accessible from the start because at some point you'll need those features since we all are going to just get older. You don't even need to be in a wheelchair to make use of the modifications. Just think what you might need if you broke a hip?" I couldn't agree with him more.
                            DaDutchman
                            C5/C6 since 2007 due to car accident

                            Comment


                              #15
                              When we host family holidays, NL is very good as "assigning" attendees jobs. She writes up a menu and circulates it via email to those who will at the celebration. Usually, she is very open ended and makes suggestions about what types of food would go well with the main course. After she get feedback as to what people would like to bring, she sends another email, something like this:

                              Christmas Dinner
                              NL: Roast Turkey and Gravy
                              Aunt Sally: Stuffing
                              Cousin Jean: Mashed Potatoes
                              Christa: Brussels Sprouts Casserole
                              Malcolm: Appetizers
                              Carolyn: Dessert
                              Vicky: Dessert
                              Jason: Wine
                              Bill: Beer and drinks for the kids

                              Sometimes the dishes are prepared and brought to the party and reheated or NL invites family members to use her kitchen to make the last minutes kinds of foods.

                              NL usually leaves table setting to the kids under the guidance of an adult. Most of the time she has the younger ones making/coloring and cutting out place cards for the diners.

                              When there are times you can't do the heavy lifting, ask for help with cleaning, shopping, and cooking of the main course. I remember one year, NL just had knee surgery and was on crutches. She called on family members to rally to her aid. She organized the entire Thanksgiving weekend by computer and had "volunteers" shopping, cleaning, ironing table cloths, and preparing food. She "supervised" from a chair, leg propped up and a glass of champagne nearby. HA! She's great!

                              All the best,
                              GJ

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