Taking on the role of caregiver for a disabled family member is both rewarding and taxing. Whether you are the caregiver for a disabled spouse or for another family member, the days can be long and stressful. Depending on the loved one’s health condition, family members may be called on to perform tasks they may feel unqualified for or uncomfortable with.
We have a few suggestions to help you juggle all of the demands of caring for a loved one with a disability while also protecting your own health.
How to Become a Caregiver for a Disabled Family Member
1. Educate yourself on their condition.
The first step is to learn as much about your loved one’s disability as you can. Knowing what to expect now and in the future can help you spot potential problems, as well as plan for the future.
Many nonprofit agencies are dedicated to research and treatment of specific diseases and disabilities. Their websites are usually rich with information and resources. The Michael J. Fox Foundation and the Parkinson’s Foundation, for example, are both great sites for adults with Parkinson’s and their families. The National Stroke Association has helpful resources for stroke survivors and their family caregivers. Spending time researching your family member’s condition can help you feel more empowered and prepared.
2. Advocate for your family member.
When you are a caregiver for a disabled family member, you might feel like their needs aren’t being heard. In a busy physician’s office, for example, families sometimes feel like no one is taking time to listen. At times, changes in a loved one’s medical condition may be attributed to the disease without considering other causes.
You probably know the person better than most others. Once you are educated on their condition and what to expect, you may be a more effective advocate for them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in a polite manner or to respectfully ask for a second opinion.
3. Connect with fellow disability caregivers.
Another suggestion for caregivers of disabled family members is to connect with your peers. Support groups for caregivers of disabled people provide a safe, supportive environment. You can share your fears, frustrations, and struggles without feeling judged. Besides the emotional support these groups provide, you may also find solutions.
For example, if you are struggling to find ways to keep your family member safe while you are working, a fellow support group member might know of options. They may have used a local home care agency that offers companion care. Your loved one would have the support they require, while you have the peace of mind you need to get through the workday.
4. Take care of yourself.
This is something many caregivers for disabled persons aren’t very good about doing. It often helps to look at self-care as another responsibility of caregiving. Remember that if you experience a health crisis of your own, finding someone to look after your loved one might be challenging.
Good nutrition, sleep, and exercise are important, as is finding ways to manage stress, such as yoga or meditation. While they may seem like luxuries you don’t have time for, staying healthy is vital when you are caregiver for a person with a disability.
Professional Support for Adults with Disabilities
Griswold Home Care has experience caring for adults with disabilities. Our caregivers can help with everything from personal care to meal preparation and light housekeeping. Having assistance a few hours a day or week is beneficial to the older adult and the family caregiver. Call us at 1-800-474-7965 to learn more today!