Caring for a family member with special needs can be a lifetime commitment. Whether a stroke or other major health event causes a disability, or a condition is diagnosed while one is an infant, taking care of individuals with special needs comes with a unique array of challenges.
While there are no shortcuts or magical solutions, CaringBridge would like to share five suggestions that we hope will make your life easier.
1. Learn Everything You Can
Research the specific condition and the caregiving needs it creates. You can ask special needs professionals about how to accommodate your loved one’s challenges, question healthcare providers about outcomes, and talk with families who’ve been in your situation. You can also take a look at information-rich websites such as WebMD. Be sure, too, that others who help you with caregiving responsibilities are up-to-date on new developments.
2. Reach Out for Support — Locally or Online
Many groups provide services, support and information for those who care for special needs individuals. Communicate as much as possible. Networking with other families in your community will help you connect to these organizations. Asking for help from others is smart. Also available: online support groups.
3. Become an Advocate for Your Loved One
The Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act and other laws spell out the rights of families caring for special needs individuals. In addition, keep current, accurate records of medical reports, insurance policies and payments, and other important documents and updates.
4. Take One Day at a Time
Feeling overwhelmed is inevitable. One way to keep things in perspective (and catch your breath) is to focus on today. Take it an hour at a time, if that works better for you. Keeping your goals realistic also helps, as does celebrating successes when you’ve achieved them.
5. Have a Plan
Establish a plan that details your caregiving responsibilities as early as possible. It’s important. Put required tasks down in writing and keep a consistent schedule — it will help your job become more routine and less challenging.
CaringBridge Sites feature a Planner – a handy calendar you can use to organize and share caregiving tasks like making meals, scheduling visitors, running errands, walking dogs…just about anything you need.
We’d love to hear your ideas and opinions too.
If you have other helpful insights or personal experiences about caring for special needs individuals, please share them here.