Caring for a loved one who is advancing in age comes with challenges, but if they are also living with a disability, it can be very taxing. You want them to be comfortable and cared for.
Providing comfort and quality of life is the goal but it is not always an easy one. Depending on the type of disability, your task can be hard but also very rewarding.
Define the Disability
Disabilities come in many forms. Some are very obvious, while others can be hidden very well. Whether your loved one is fighting hard to keep their secret or they are unaware of it will be difficult.
If your loved one is yet to be diagnosed, then you are likely very frustrated and exhausted. Disabilities run the gamut from mental to physical. They may be challenged with mobility issues, sight or hearing, or mental decline.
Once you have a name for their disability, then you can move forward with treatment or care. It could be as simple as them needing a hearing aid, or it can be much deeper.
Even if you are not the main caregiver, it is imperative that you understand as much as you can about what your loved one is going through. If you understand the disability it will make it easier to care for them and ask the right questions.
Ask your doctor and other medical professionals, online research, and you can even take a class or join a support group. People who are going through the same things can be a great resource and comfort.
Communication is Key
Keeping an open dialogue as well as an open mind will make caring for a senior much easier. Show respect and always ask questions, even if it is difficult for you.
Don’t be pushy or make demands. Try to work your questions or concerns into regular conversation. Make a point to plan a weekly or daily activity like arts and crafts or coffee together where you can really talk.
Disabilities affect people differently, so you need to tailor the care to suit them. This means caring for whatever they need with the disability, but also personally.
What do they need to function throughout the day and what makes them happy are where you need to focus. One is just as important, as they may be unhappy with needing help, but very pleased to have the activity afterward.
Just because you are not the primary caregiver doesn’t mean you need to back off. You should be available, within reason, to help out, visit, drive them to the doctor, or just stop by for a chat.
Very often some of the best care is just caring. Pop by and help them around the house, take them out for a coffee or lunch or do a weekly grocery run. However, don’t let them run your life.
It is already difficult to see your loved one struggling, so be kind. Don’t get frustrated and don’t jump in and do it for them. They need to maintain a sense of independence.
It may take a little longer or you may have to repeat yourself a lot of the time, but just let them handle it at their pace. Add a bit more time to your routine so they have time to do it themselves.
It is vital that you take time for yourself. You don’t want to let yourself get rundown or burnt out. If that happens, you are not going to be able to take care of yourself or the rest of your family.
Hire a nurse or caregiver to come in to relieve you. Join a support group to share your worries and situations with people who understand. Book a holiday, take yourself on a date to a movie, or out for lunch about once a week.
You can also get them a medical alert system. If they are on their own this will give you peace of mind. It is the perfect way for them to be sure they are looked after and you will know they are, too.