Do you know someone who is a full time caregiver to someone with special needs? It can be someone’s child, spouse, parent, sibling or friend. It can be due to a genetic issue, a health issue, or the result of a traumatic event such as an auto accident, drug reaction, drug overdose, or any other trauma. If so, although there may be many organizations or services for the special needs individual, there may not be any support for the caregiver or enough support to improve the quality of the caregiver’s life.
Consider some of these tips to help the caregiver.
ASK: Due to the myriad of special needs individuals, and the level of care necessary, you would have to be very specific when offering help. So the best way to do so is to ask what is needed. Do they need help searching for information, weeding through information, or finding organizations or services for their loved one? Are there financial issues whereby a fundraiser would be beneficial for equipment, house modifications, mobility devices or transportation vehicles?
Do they just need help for accompanying them and the loved one for medical appointments, outings, or just for visitations to the loved one? Do they need someone just to listen to their sadness, or heartache, or frustration as they navigate through the emotional aspects? Pay attention to what is stated in general conversations as to what is needed, even if not directly asked. Then help as best you can to your level of ability and availability.
INCLUDE: Feeling isolated is one of the common denominators when handling life as a caregiver. Sure, raising a family is difficult enough for your time is split in so many directions, but it’s different for a full time caregiver of a special needs person. So many additional precautions or constraints must be considered. Something as simple as attending an event or party if there is a child with autism or food allergy can create a problem.
So, consider how to include the caregiver within the parameters of their loved one with special needs. Some grown children are now caregivers of a parent in their home and have trouble finding coverage, so maybe a friends gathering at their home works better than trying to get them to go out with you. Or maybe it’s easier for the caregiver to host an event or party because they know the restrictions yet you can fund it and do most of the work for the party or event to be held at their home. The important thing is to make the caregiver feel included and supported within the restrictions of their unique situation.
RESPITE: Not all caregivers of special needs loved ones are on 24/7 call. But many have daily schedules that are overwhelming and exhausting, physically and emotionally. I know from personal experience of being a caregiver the toll it takes. My years of being a caregiver to my parents for 8 years started daily at 3:30 a.m. and ended usually around midnight.
It was an exceptional situation for a specific period of time in my life. And even when collapsing to go to sleep for the few hours I could, I was on hypervigilant alert. Caregivers appreciate any amount of respite but again, the needs and ability to do so vary by person and their unique situations. Only they know what they can or will do, but offering an hour, a day, or an extended break to them will always be appreciated. If you can offer your time, your treasure or your talent to help, no matter how small or grand, that will always make a positive difference.
No one knows what it is like until you are in that person’s shoes, which is why support groups for caregivers are so necessary. But that does not dispel the benefit that you may be able to afford someone you know if they are the caregiver of a loved one with special needs.
Do what you can, as often as you can, whenever you can to help with the special needs of a caregiver of a loved one with special needs.
Wishing you health, appreciation for your kindness, and living your best life.