Hospitals and disability – three things that can improve your stay and recovery

08 March 2018

A recent visit to hospital got Melanie Schlaeger thinking about the things that are important to make sure people with disability are well cared for.

In a medical environment, such as a hospital, we trust and hope that doctors will know how to help us. But it is not possible for doctors and nurses to know a person’s individual idiosyncrasies when they only see a person for a short period of time.

During my recent time in hospital, I learnt that there are a few important things that can make a hospital stay more bearable if you have a disability.

  • First, having a team of people, friends and paid support around you that know you and care about you, so that your support and treatment is done in the way that works for you.
  • Second, having nursing staff and doctors who listen, care and try to understand how things work for you and who make an effort to preserve as much dignity and privacy as possible.
  • Third, advocacy may sometimes be needed in hospital. I have found that it can sometimes be assumed that if you have a disability, you might not know what is best for you. You sometimes have to advocate for yourself to make sure the care you receive is right for you. But your self-advocacy should not be only negative: I found that acknowledging when care was done well improved my relationships with doctors and nurses. A combination of self-advocacy and acknowledging when things are done well improved the quality of my time in hospital, and helped in my recovery.

Disability or not, hospital is not an easy place for anyone to be. But I have found that if you have people around you who can help you advocate for your particular needs, and you have the ability to acknowledge medical staff’s efforts to provide good care, then you are more likely to be able to create a receptive environment in which staff can work with you and your support team to help you get better.

About Melanie

Melanie (‘Mel’) Schlaeger is a workshop facilitator with Council for Intellectual Disability’s My Choice Matters project. Read more about Mel on our recent blog post Nothing about us without us.

We are delighted to say that Mel is recovering well after her hospital visit.


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