Caring for a family member with a disability, regardless of if they are a child or an adult, can be taxing, to say the least. Read on to find tips for caregivers of those with disabilities.
Tips When Caring for a Disabled Person
The foundation of a healthy family dynamic can most often be found in a balanced combination of care, information, support, empowerment, and advocacy. These are a few general tips for caregivers, although the list is in no way exhaustive.
Tip 1: Stay Informed
The first tip for caring for someone with a disability is to be informed. The internet is full of information, some accurate, some not, and it can be easy to become overwhelmed. As you gather information regarding your family member's condition be sure to vet the content. Having an array of accurate information can be beneficial when faced with various health decisions. Observing how others care for people with special needs may also be helpful. Not only can you glean tips and encouragement, but it will also help you recognize signs of potential physical, mental, or emotional abuse.
Tip 2: Leverage Your Support Systems
Next, it is vital to get support. Often other family members or friends will want to help, and these people can provide support in several ways. It is beneficial to have a list of tasks that can be delegated, for example, grocery shopping, banking, or coming to stay with the family member so you can take a break.
You can also look for support groups to join. These may be either local or online, but they will allow you to connect with people dealing with similar things. Sharing information and having a safe space for discussion can help combat fear and isolation that may arise when you are caregiving. Some people who may be helpful to connect with include counselors, health care providers, support groups, and community services.
Tip 3: Be an Advocate for Your Loved One
The third tip for caregivers is to be their advocate with their doctor, pharmacist, and even other family members. Another part of being an advocate includes asking questions. If you are going to a location and aren't sure if the accommodations you need are present, ask before you go! Be sure to also inform other caregivers of circumstances or unique situations that might arise.
For example, if you go to a relative's home for dinner and the person you care about has an allergy, remind the chef. It is also critical to document the medical history of the person you are caring for and keep it up to date and accessible. Familiarize yourself with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and other state and national laws.
Tip 4: Empower Your Loved One
Another important tip for caring for a person with disabilities is to be empowering. Make sure that you are focusing on what your family member with a disability CAN do! There will be milestones and celebrations along the way and acknowledging them is wise.
When asked questions about a family member with a disability, allow them to speak for themselves when possible. Speaking for themselves will empower the individual to engage with others in depth. Keeping health and safety in mind, empower your loved one to reach goals within reason.
Tip 5: Don't Forget Self-Care
While caring for another person, don't forget to take care of yourself. Even the strongest caregiver can become worn down. Maintaining your physical, mental, and emotional health is imperative through your personal interests, friendships, and hobbies. Find things that reduce your stress and bring you joy and pursue those.
Breaks can be your best friend! Take a break every now and again, whether short or long. You may find that a walk clears your mind, or dinner with friends can give you space to breathe. During these times, you can delegate caregiving tasks to other people. When you get overwhelmed, you may find that your health starts to take a turn. If you notice signs of illness, seek medical help, as this can affect the person you care for. Eating healthy food and exercising can be great ways of promoting your own health.
Tip 6: Focus on Keeping Balance
Speaking of balance, keeping a balance within your family is essential. A family member's disability might require additional attention and care compared to other family members. Be sure to acknowledge the needs of each family member, yourself included. If needed, respite care can also be employed. This type of temporary care can be utilized for people with disabilities to give their families a break from the day-in and day-out caregiving routine.
The hearts of caregivers are enormous. For this reason, you must care for yourself to best care for others. Be informed, seek support, advocate well, empower others, take care of yourself, and seek balance. These approaches will help you be the best caregiver you can be!
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