The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about one in four American adults lives with a disability. And, a disability can be seen, or unseen… Living with disabled people requires caring for them as much as possible to improve their quality of life. However, the caregiver role demands a lot of effort and responsibility and can be challenging for many. Nevertheless, you can improve the level of care you offer your disabled loved ones by following some reliable tips. Here are some things you should do to better care for loved ones with disabilities.
Educate yourself: Many health experts recommend educating yourself as much as possible if you are caring for a disabled loved one, so keep this in mind. Gathering as much information about your loved one’s condition can give you more insights on being a more efficient caregiver. To understand their current situation and what to expect in the future, you can learn how the disability affects them physically, psychologically, emotionally, and behaviorally. Furthermore, being informed can help you make more knowledgeable health decisions on their behalf. Educating yourself can even help you live with them better and improve their quality of life. For instance, learning some helpful communication tips can help you interact with a loved one experiencing hearing impairment better. Thankfully, you can obtain knowledge from multiple sources like health professionals and the internet in today’s information age.
Remember self-care: It is no secret that caregiving can be rewarding but also pretty rough. Therefore, it is vital to take care of yourself and your loved one so the toll of caregiving doesn’t eventually weigh you down. And yes, you can make time for self-care in many ways, including exercising, eating right, and spending time with your friends and family. You can also set time for yourself to take walks, read a book, or watch some television. In addition, prioritize getting enough sleep and take scheduled breaks or vacations to refresh yourself and become a better caregiver.
Reach out to other caregivers: Research reveals that 40% to 70% of family caregivers experience symptoms of depression caused by feelings of loneliness and isolation inherent in the caregiving experience. Indeed, caregiving demands a lot of time and effort on your part, reducing the number of hours you have to spend elsewhere. Therefore, it would be best to connect to your local caregiving community since this is often a vital support system. You can share and learn a lot of caregiving tips from this community, benefitting from the collective wisdom of all other members. Attending support group meetings in person can genuinely alleviate the isolation that comes with the caregiving task. However, online support groups can also be helpful, so you can virtually attend if being there in person is impossible.
Be an advocate: It is critical to note that your loved one with a disability will require an advocate to ensure that they receive the best education, service, support, and care they need. Circumstances can easily make you the top candidate for this role, tasked with speaking out on their behalf and asking all the difficult questions. As such, hone your advocacy skills to represent your loved one’s interest in all dealings well. For instance, keep documents of their medical history for appointments. Additionally, meet with an attorney knowledgeable in probate, estate planning, and possibly public benefits planning to get your loved one’s affairs in order. Also, pay attention to issues like financing their long-term care, getting the authority for surrogate decision making, and end-of-life decision making.
Empower them: The role of caregiver may mean making decisions for people who once decided for you. Consequently, the trick here is to balance the competing need for control by empowering them. As such, always respect the wishes and rights of your loved one to make choices. Deciding things gives people a feeling of control over their lives, so give your loved one room to choose as much as possible. You can empower them through choice by allowing them to decide on simple things, like their TV programming, daily wardrobe, or meal options.
Ask for help: It isn’t uncommon to become so accustomed to caring for your loved one that you become hesitant to ask for help when you need it. However, health experts recommend asking for all the help you can get as a caregiver to ease your burden and help you function better in your role. Your children, spouse, and siblings can do a lot to lessen your caregiving burden. Therefore, always admit when you are past your limits and tell others what they can and should do to help you.
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