If you have a family member with a disability, you’ve probably felt a wide range of emotions related to their daily experience. Support can be a beautiful thing, and the lack of support can be a tragic one. You might find yourself wondering what you can do to bridge the gap between what the world has to offer and what your family member needs. With that in mind, the following will explore a few things you can do to help take better care of your family member with a disability.
Get Better At Listening
This is the number one tip. There’s no point in doing anything else if you can’t get this one under your control. Learn to actively listen and employ the skill every day. Ask your family member what they want and need, and then respect their answers even if you feel like you’d answer differently in their shoes. If, for example, a veteran in your family asks you whether you know of any financial support available to them, you could point them in the direction of this VA calculator to see if this could be a good starting point for them to get some extra help.
Create An Independence-Supporting Home Environment
Being able to do things on your own is critical for happiness and a healthy self-image. With your family member, figure out what they can’t currently do independently that they could do independently if changes were made. This might involve changing the height of shelves and light switches or seeking out disabled housing to rent. This might involve storing things differently in the fridge and rearranging furniture around the house. Figure out what can be done to allow your family member as much independence as humanly possible.
Advocate In Medical Situations
Speak to someone who needs to make regular medical visits, and they’ll tell you that healthcare professionals don’t always have their best interests at heart. There’s no judgment directed at medical professionals—they have an impossible job to do and not enough time to do it in; they need to get people in and out quickly—but that doesn’t mean you and your family member should simply accept what you’re told.
Studies have found that 88% of patients looking for a second opinion end up leaving the office with a new or refined diagnosis. 21% of people with have a distinctly different diagnosis. Seek a second opinion if your family member feels that a diagnosis was wrong (honestly, seek a second opinion even if they don’t have this feeling).
If your family member is experiencing negative side effects from medications or treatments that are making their daily experience insufferable, advocate for them in a medical setting. Demand that alternatives be sought out. Negative side effects should never simply be tolerated; there are always solutions if you look hard enough.
Be forewarned; medical professionals are overworked, exhausted, and not used to being questioned or refused. Advocating in medical scenarios involves standing up to people who society tells you it’s not okay to stand up.
The above information should help you contribute to the care and well-being of your family member with a disability. Again, nothing should be done without first speaking to your family member; you want to help them accomplish what they want, not what you want or expect them to want.