It’s Disability Awareness Month, and we’re reflecting on what it means to live with a disability. Unfortunately, there is a stigma that being disabled means you’re helpless or regarded as less than others.
National Disability Awareness Month is all about increasing awareness about the rights of people with disabilities and honoring their contributions to society. Despite the negative stigma, disabled people are more “abled” than you think!
Today, we’re supporting people caring for disabled adults at home by providing some tips. It takes a truly selfless person to jump into a full-time caregiving role within the family unit. You may not have planned for this, but it’s your reality. It’s time to make the best of the situation and learn how to properly care for your loved one with a disability.
The best way to support a loved one with a disability is to understand what they’re going through as much as possible. Educate yourself on their limitations, abilities, thought processes, energy, etc. Some of this you can learn online, while others you need to take time to learn from your loved one.
You should also understand their medical needs. If they require medication or frequent doctor’s visits, learn their schedule. One of the best things you can take off their plate is managing their schedule. It might seem like reduced freedom for your loved one living with a disability, but it lifts a weight off their shoulder. As always, you can adapt and learn how they appreciate being taken care of.
Another thing to learn is the terminology appropriate for describing disabilities. Of course, you should speak to your loved one as you did before the incident caused their disability unless the communication is impacted. Going along with the stigma is the use of negative language. Here’s a quick chart to help guide your language:
|Say This||Not This|
|Hearing impaired||Deaf / Dumb|
|Physical disability||Crippled / Invalid|
|Someone with an amputation||Amputee|
|Person with a brain injury||Brain damaged|
Many people living with a disability feel their freedom has been taken from them. As a caregiver, do your best to support independence and allow them to do daily activities as much as they safely can. Here are some examples.
Being unable to take care of yourself isn’t something that’s easy to accept. If able, allow your loved one to take part in their hygiene routine. An example is clipping their nails. While traditional nail clippers may be dangerous to someone with a disability, Lil Nipper products are safe to use. Find alternatives that will work for their situation.
Allow them to make decisions around their day, such as:
- What to eat
- Sleeping in
- Taking a walk
- Transportation methods
As simple as this sounds, decisions contribute to who we are as people. Give them the freedom and control to make decisions that affect their daily lives.
Get Involved in the Community
Depending on your loved one’s ability, allow them the freedom to get involved in the community. Supporting a healthy social life is important for anyone, but especially those living with a disability. They may feel closed off from the world or alone in their struggles. Getting them out to meet people and spend time with others is important for their mental health.
It’s no easy task to care for someone with a disability. Depending on the significance of the disability, you may experience unusual and extreme behavior or emotions from your loved one. It’s important to be patient and understand they may not fully be in control of their thoughts and emotions. They are going through something only someone else with a disability understands. Do your best to be supportive and available to help in any way you can.
Also, try to keep an open mind. Many things are changing all at once, and it can be overwhelming. There’s a lot to learn and understand; be prepared to feel frustrated, but patient with yourself as you take it all in. Remain curious and take it slow as you experience new things.
Take Care of Yourself
Don’t forget to take care of yourself! You can’t properly care for someone else if you’re suffering. Take time for yourself to exercise, sleep, read a book, and eat right. You show up as your best self when you’re in the right headspace.
This can also look like going to support groups. It can be mentally, emotionally, and physically draining to care for someone with a disability. There are many local or online support groups to connect with people going through similar experiences. You won’t feel alone in your situation and may even learn from the experiences of others. It’s okay to ask for help.
While the range of disabilities varies greatly, it’s important to follow these tips as you care for your disabled loved one. We hope this helps you or someone you know in caring for disabled adults at home.
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