Matthew generates a lot of waste and there is simply nothing I can do to reduce the amount of waste he generates. He is incontinent and goes through upwards of 7-8 diapers per day, several of them soiled because of his GI issues. After you toss in syringes, oral swabs, feeding tube supplies, medical wrappings, dressings, medical gloves, and so on, Matthew alone creates approximately four bags of garbage a week. During the weeks he is at respite I am often surprised at our lack of garbage at the curb.
We have known for a while that our region was switching to bi-weekly trash collection. The environmentalist in me applauds the move. But the special needs parent in me is torn between angry, and just plain frustrated. There is no doubt that this will create an additional burden in my life, and for the already overextended lives of parents and caregivers like me.
Yes, we will be able to apply for, and obtain, a medical exemption. Yes, there is no doubt we will get it. Today I sent an email to the region asking about the details of that exemption. Despite the fact that is initiative is to start in two months they were not able to provide details. None. They were not able to tell me how I might be able to apply for the exemption and whether I will need some type of medical documentation. They were unable to tell me what that exemption will look like. Will I be allowed to put out the garbage my son actually generates or will there be limits? Sorry, this is not an area where I can reduce, reuse, or recycle.
I was helpfully told that the region has determined there is no hazard to storing soiled diapers for up to two weeks. I get that. During January and February it isn’t likely to be a big deal. But what about the fact that storing up to eight trash bags of soiled diapers in July is likely to annoy most people in my neighbourhood due to the odour. There is no doubt that for most of the summer my house is going to smell unpleasant since trash is stored in the garage. This part really ticks me off. One of the great stigmas for people with severe disabilities, not to mention group/nursing homes, is that they can reek of human waste. We have always been scrupulous about avoiding this, which means Matthew is changed very regularly. Now this strategy will become a liability.
The City also pointed out that we could, free of charge, drop off clear bags of diapers at the dump free of charge. Because that is exactly how every overwhelmed caregiver wants to use their extremely limited free time – running bags of soiled diapers to the dump.
To the City this may seem like a small thing. But what people who are not extreme caregivers don’t get is that these “small” things add up very quickly to become big things. Add them to the already overwhelming burden of caring for an extremely complex child and you create an unsustainable burden for people who care. It is one more thing added to a list that never seems to shrink.
For the average homeowner in Waterloo bi-weekly trash pick-up is probably not a big deal. For me it is a very big deal. If our City were truly compassionate there would be arrangements for a weekly run for people living with significant disabilities.