Giving Care: Senior & Disabled Caregiver Resource Blog

The Definitive Guide to Supporting A Senior Loved One With Disability

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Being the caregiver of a loved one with a disability can be a difficult task that can wear you down, especially if your loved one has not yet been diagnosed and is currently living with an unknown condition. As we balance our need to take care of ourselves, so we don’t burn out, we may find it too easy to ignore the burden of caring for an individual with some chronic condition.

What Causes Disability? 

Disabilities vary from person to person and are often caused by environmental conditions, accidents, or previous injuries. Disabled people and their supporters need to work together to identify the root cause of any disability and seek treatment accordingly.

Different Types of Disability:

All disabilities are not created equally, especially for the elderly population. Each individual can choose their level of independence and enjoyment in life. There is no right or wrong way to live with a disability. These are classified accordingly as:

  • Physical Disability: Some disabilities that can be considered physical affect a person’s mobility, agility, respiratory system, or cognitive abilities. These disabilities may cause the person to need additional help to get around and do everyday tasks.
  •  Developmental Disability: Disabilities considered developmental usually only affect an individual’s intellectual abilities. They can be caused by injuries in early childhood or illnesses like cerebral palsy, spina bifida, cerebral arteritis, etc.
  • Behavioral or Emotional Disability: This type of disability usually affects individuals’ mental health, causing them to experience uncontrollable bouts of anger or depression. They may also have difficulty controlling impulsive behavior or showing an inability to communicate their needs or wants.
  • Impaired Sensory Disorders: These disorders usually limit an individual’s ability to hear, smell, taste, see or feel. They may also experience other sensory impairments like extreme pain, blindness, or the inability to walk.

It is essential to know these different types of disabilities so that the caregiver of an individual can recognize the signs and symptoms. If these signs are recognized early enough, treatment can begin before they become more severe.

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How to Support a Senior Loved One with a Disability?

Support for a senior loved one is crucial in improving mental and physical well-being. It can help relieve the tension and stress of caring for someone who has a disability. Here’s a definitive guide to doing that!

1. Communication

One of the most important things a caregiver can do for a senior adult loved one is communicating. We must remember that not all disabilities affect every aspect of an individual’s life, so it is essential to ask questions about their condition to understand where and if extra help is needed.

a. Speak up: 

Many caregivers avoid speaking up or asking questions because they don’t want to upset their loved ones. However, it is essential to do so because it will let your loved one know that you’re there to help. They might even be able to provide information that can help with decreasing their stress or discomfort.

b. Don’t Make Assumptions: 

Just because a person doesn’t look disabled doesn’t mean they aren’t! We must always ask and become familiar with the specific needs and limitations. It is good to keep a list of any significant or minor changes to ensure that your loved one can accept them.

Older women walking into store leaning over a walker.
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2. Assistance

When senior loved ones cannot perform specific tasks independently, it is essential to assist them. Some examples of tasks that need assistance include:

a. Mobility: 

It is possible to lose mobility due to ill-fitting dentures, a broken or fractured hip, or other causes. If these injuries are not appropriately addressed, the person may lose all mobility and even have a hard time eating.

b. Eating: 

Eating is one of the most important things someone can do to sustain their health. However, if a person loses the ability to feed themselves, they may begin to lose weight and have difficulty getting the proper nutrition. This makes it essential for a caregiver to assist them with putting food in their mouth and drinking any liquid.

c. Bathing: Bathing is another integral part of daily living that may be limited or complex for some individuals with disabilities. It is important to know how to bathe them to feel comfortable and secure in the process properly.

d. Grooming: The person who cares for your loved one may need to help with their personal care, including grooming. This task can be very stressful for a caregiver, so it may be best to let professionals take care of this aspect at home or at a daycare facility.

3. Errands

It can sometimes be difficult or just downright impossible to have a disabled loved one do certain errands. It is important to consider what they need and what you can offer them. Some examples include:

a. Grocery Shopping:

When someone has a disability, they may not be able to perform basic tasks such as putting on their shoes or opening the door. These tasks can become very difficult for them, so offering assistance with daily tasks like grocery shopping is essential.

b. Money Matters:

Money management can be difficult for a person who is used to doing everything themselves. It is usually best to limit the amount of money they can spend and what they spend it on. It may also be beneficial to let them put their money into an account that you can administer or even let them pick out a few items they want and give them the option of shopping for themselves.

c. Banking:

Banking can be difficult for anyone. It may even be more difficult for a person who has a disability because of the extra time and effort that goes into the process. You may have to help them by guiding their hand to the way they should sign or putting the money in their account.

It is important to remember that living with a disability can be very stressful and challenging for an individual, so we must do whatever we can to make things easier. Remember that each person is different and will have their care and assistance needs. We must be mindful of this and do what we can to help them.

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