Saturday, November 29, 2008

Families with Special Needs: Caregiving Tips

Whether your family member with special needs is a child or an adult, integrating personal and caregiving needs into everyday life can be challenging. Below are general caregiving tips and links to information on specific health topics to help you and those you care for stay safe and healthy.

Caregiving Tips

Be informed.
Take the time to learn about your family member’s condition and special need requirements from a variety of reliable sources, including health care providers and other health professionals that work with families with special needs.

Know the needs of you and your family, and work together to make good choices about housing, insurance, schools, health services, care, and more. If you have employee benefits and insurance policies, assess them to ensure you are covered for your unique circumstances. If you don’t have them, determine what local, state, and other benefits are available.


Get support.
Family members and friends can provide support in a variety of ways and oftentimes want to help. Determine if there are big or small things they can do to assist you and your family.
Join a support group. A support group can give you the chance to share information and connect with people who are going through similar experiences. A support group may help combat the isolation and fear you may experience as a caregiver.

Don’t limit your involvement to support groups and associations that focus on a particular need or disability. There are also local and national groups that provide services, recreation, and information for families with special needs.

Find out what services are available in your area through government agencies, public and private community organizations, and schools.


Be an advocate.
Be an advocate for your family member with special needs. Caregivers who are effective advocates may be more successful at getting better service.
Ask questions. For example, if your family member with special needs uses a wheelchair and you want to plan a beach vacation, find out if the beaches are accessible via a car, ramp, portable walkway mat, or other equipment.
Inform other caregivers of any special conditions or circumstances. For example, if your family member with special needs has a latex allergy, remind dental or medical staff each time you visit them.
Document the medical history of your family member with special needs, and keep this information current.
Make sure your employer understands your circumstances and limitations. Discuss your ability to travel or to work weekends or evenings. Arrange for flexible scheduling when needed.
Become familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and other state and national provisions. Know how and when to apply them to your situation.


Be empowering.
Focus on what you and your family member with special needs can do.

Find appropriate milestones and celebrate them. For example, you may have to let go of “first words” or “first steps,” but there are events to remember and achievements to celebrate.

If someone asks you questions about the family member with special needs, let him/her answer when possible. Doing so may help empower the individual to engage with others.

When appropriate, teach your family member with special needs to be as independent and self-assured as possible. Always keep health and safety issues in mind.


Take care of yourself.
Take care of yourself. Caring for a family member with special needs can wear out even the strongest caregiver. Stay healthy for yourself and those you care for.

Work hard to maintain your personal interests, hobbies, and friendships. Don’t let caregiving consume your entire life. This is not healthy for you or those you care for. Balance is key.

Allow yourself not to be the perfect caregiver. Set reasonable expectations to lower stress and make you a more effective caregiver.

Delegate some caregiving tasks to other reliable people.

Take a break. Short breaks, like an evening walk or relaxing bath, are essential. Long breaks are nurturing. Arrange a retreat with friends or get away with a significant other when appropriate.


Keep balance in the family.
Pay attention to other family members. Family members with special needs require extra care and attention, but don’t let it be at the expense of the rest of the family. Take time for other family members, too.


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Denise said...

Thanks for being you.

luvmy4sons said...

As always good info...

He & Me + 3 said...

Your posts are always so informative and awesome! Thank you so much for taking the time to post such helpful information.