Caring for a loved one with a disability can be one of the toughest jobs around. Non-stop, physical, mentally and emotionally exhausting; adjusting your life to accommodate someone who is living with an intellectual or physical disability can be a daunting challenge. Though, by implementing these three simple concepts into your approach to daily care management, you can take steps towards removing some of the stresses that may be affecting both you and your loved one.
Make Sure You Communicate
Though a person with a disability may employ a different mode of communication than what you are used to, that doesn’t mean they haven’t found a way to communicate what they need. Take the time to learn about your loved one’s individual communication style so you can best address their personal needs.
Remember that DISability doesn’t mean the same as INability. Identify which self-care options or personal tasks they can accomplish on their own and empower the individual to take agency over those activities. Increasing personal independence is just as important (if not more so) as delivering effective care. Make sure to strike a healthy balance between independence and assisted care so it doesn’t feel like you have to take on everything yourself. Sitting down and communicating with your charge is the best first step to finding a situation that works well for you both.
Don’t Isolate. Integrate!
Community. Community. Community. People with disabilities are people first and the best way, as it is with anyone, to ensure your loved one is living a full and active lifestyle is to provide them with as many opportunities to integrate within the community as possible. Help them find a job, go on social outings, or maybe take a class. The world is changing and has become more accessible than it ever has been in the past. Work with your loved one to find out what interests them and identify what local resources are available to help them to engage with the community.
This is where Easter Seals can help! We offer a number of different avenues to improve the quality of life of someone in need. This includes employment, wellness, and day programs, as well as social activities that help integrate our participants into the world around them. These offerings can help reduce the workload and foster a positive relationship between both you and your loved one.
In particular, finding a job and earning a pay check can be one of the most satisfying achievements when you’re a person with special needs who traditionally has had trouble getting or maintaining employment. Here are some employment tips to help you get your loved one started on a path to independence.
Also, don’t be afraid to travel! Taking a vacation can be an exciting opportunity for your loved one to see parts of the world they may not otherwise have a chance experience. While traveling with someone with special needs can be complicated, there are a number of different travel agencies that work with special needs individuals to help them travel safely. So long as you are prepared, the world is your oyster.
While the care of your loved one is probably at the forefront of your mind, don’t forget that you also need some “me time” as well. Self-care is just as important as taking care of someone else, so don’t be afraid to take the time to take care of yourself. If you’re not feeling well, it reduces your capability to best assist your charge. Whether it’s keeping up on your regular doctor’s appointments, setting aside time for exercise and proper rest, or simply taking a few hours to read a book or watch a movie, giving yourself a little time can go a long way in helping to prevent burning yourself out.
Also, do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it. There are a number of programs in place to help take care of you as a caretaker. One of the most important advocates for you and your loved one can be a support coordinator from the Department of Human Services. Your support coordinator is an expert in working with people with special needs and can make sure they have access to all the support systems within the state that are designed to help those who are in need. No two support coordinators are the same, so make sure you use our guide to help find the one that’s right for you.
If you feel like you are starting to get depressed or need a break to recoup and recover, don’t ignore these feelings. Make sure you stay healthy and happy so you can give your loved one the attention they need.
We are here to help. You never need to struggle alone.
- Take Care
Caring for your loved one can be a challenge, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. Be sure to make the most of it.