Special Needs Families: Love Lift Us Up

Sarah Meyers by Sarah Meyers Additional Needs

Sarah Meyers

Sarah Meyers

I'm the mum of two beautiful, vibrant, opinionated girls, one of whom has a complex, life-limiting condition. Living in Australia (a place I'd neve...

The only problem is – as parents with a child in a wheelchair know – you can’t rely on love alone to lift you up where you belong.

Love doesn’t protect you from slipped discs, pulled muscles or lower back pain.

We know. We have been carrying Miss Z up and down stairs in our house for years, and the wear and tear is beginning to show.

Miss Z is now 5 1/2 years old and weighs 23kg (50lbs) and no matter how much we love her, it is getting harder and harder to carry her up and down the stairs.

And it is becoming less and less safe for everyone.

This is not a new issue for us. We live in a two-story house, with most of the living space located upstairs.

We’ve known for a while that there will come a time when we can no longer carry Miss Z up and down the stairs.

However, finding a solution has been a long and difficult struggle.

Initially, we thought that we could build a ramp up the side of the house (which is on the side of a hill).

Unfortunately, it turned out that the incline was too steep to safely push a wheelchair up and down.

Still hoping we wouldn’t have to make major renovations, we looked into the option of a stairlift.

However, it quickly became clear that wasn’t a good option. Miss Z can’t sit independently, so would need extra support and a harness to keep her safely on the chair.

She is also unable to stand, so we would eventually need hoists at the top and bottom of the stairs to get her in and out.

Not to mention a stairlift on our not-very-wide stairs would make it difficult for the rest of us to get up and down.

We were also advised – by a number of people – that we should simply move to a new house.

As if it was that easy!

But that wasn’t a good option for anyone in the family. Not only would a move be expensive, but it would also likely take us out of the area that we have lived in for years.

In fact, it made me a bit angry that it was suggested so glibly, seemingly without regard to important issues that would affect the whole family’s quality of life, like having to change schools and doctors and having longer commutes and less access to public transport.

After a lot of discussion (some of it quite emotional), some invaluable advice from occupational therapists, builders and equipment providers, and a lot of planning, we decided to install a small lift (elevator for those of you in the US) in our house.

It will run from the garage into what is currently the walk-in wardrobe in our spare bedroom – which will be converted into Miss Z’s new bedroom.

Work on the lift begins… tomorrow!

And it is both terrifying and exciting. Terrifying because is it very expensive.

There is very little funding available for home accessibility modifications for children with disabilities here in Brisbane, so we are paying a lot of the costs out of our own pocket. So the pressure is on to get it right and installed on budget.

But it is also exciting because it will transform the way Miss Z accesses the house.

She will be much more mobile, since she will be entering the house in her wheelchair – instead of being carried.

And all our other home modifications hinge on the lift being installed.

Once we can get her safely up and down, we can focus on making other areas, such as the bathroom, her bedroom and the family room, more accessible for her, too.

These changes will make her life easier and help her to engage with everyone.

Love may not be able to lift Miss Z, but Miss Z is going to love being lifted up where she belongs – with her family.


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