By Al Etmanski, excerpt from Safe and Secure
There is probably no one who can ever look after your relative with the same persistence, interest, and determination as you do. That’s a fact. However, unless you’ve tapped into the fountain of youth, you won’t be around forever. That’s a fact, too. So what’s the next best thing? The best guarantee of a safe and secure future for a person with a disability is the number of caring and committed friends, family members, acquaintances, and supporters actively involved in their life.
The real strength of these caring relationships comes not just in their connection to the person with a disability but in their connections with each other. Imagine a spider’s web. The strands extend from the centre of the web to the edge. Imagine if there was nothing else holding them together. They would flap in the wind. Their functional value would be minimal. They need to be linked with each other in order to form the web. Otherwise, the spiders would starve. The strength of the web comes when “all components are interconnected.”
It’s the same for our family members. The focus of support for people with disabilities must be placed both on their individual relationships and the relationships among the members of the personal network. These interconnections create the web of support that begins to approximate the thoroughness with which families care for each other. PLAN’s specialty is facilitating these caring relationships for people with disabilities. We call them Personal Networks.
A Personal Network is a team of people who come together for three basic purposes: the safety, health, and well-being of your relative, the person at the centre of the network. A healthy Personal Network is one where all members are in touch with each other, coordinating their involvement, and staying on top of things. They are united by bonds of friendship, love and trust. This is the sum of everything you embody but won’t be able to provide forever.
If you want to learn more about creating your own personal network, you can download or order a copy of the free book Safe and Secure: Seven Steps on the Path to a Good Life for People with Disabilities or take our online course Weaving the Ties That Bind.