Caregiver support: 9 ways you can better help your loved one with a disability

Therapist Alison smiling at adult med rehab patient

Caring for a loved one who’s recovering from a medical incident or has a disability requires compassion, patience and effort. When you’re already feeling exhausted, self-care can seem overwhelming. Remember, you’re only one person, and it’s essential to set limits and boundaries to maintain your health. You deserve to start your day feeling rested and supported.

To provide a consistent level of support, caregivers need their own support systems. These should include several people who can help with different things. Your family and friends may be able to help out with some tasks. However, there are other aspects of caregiving that may require some professional support.

This article will outline nine different types of caregiver support that can help you de-stress, recuperate some energy and take back some of your time.

What support do caregivers need to better help their loved one?

The most basic type of support you’ll need is respite, or a helper who can step in when you need a break. You may be able to arrange for a respite nurse or a family member to take over one day each week. Supporters who can help with practical things like rides, meal delivery or household chores can also take a few responsibilities off your plate.

If you’re a new caregiver, don’t underestimate what a big difference emotional support can make — and how necessary it is. A peer support group with other caregivers will be one of your best resources for emotional and practical support. Online support groups are making it easier for caregivers to connect.

Another type of support that can provide some peace of mind is caregiver expertise and skills training. Learning from doctors, nurses and course instructors can help you understand your loved one’s risks and what specific aspects of their care are most important. Having a clear plan and the skills to care for your loved one in an emergency will help put you at ease.

9 ways caregivers can better help a loved one with a disability

Some of the biggest stressors caregivers struggle with are their own anxieties and the pressure they put on themselves. Staying by your loved one’s side is a great thing, but no one can give perfect support 100% of the time. Remember that no one gets through life without support from others, and you deserve help as much as anyone else.

As you start asking for help, make sure you’re prepared to accept it. Take some time to figure out what your boundaries are. Coordinate with your support system to set some expectations for communicating. Make a list of tasks others can do for you so you’ll have some options when someone offers help. Finally, remind yourself that caring to your full capacity is more than enough. You’re a human with needs, and you deserve to be cared for, too.

The following are nine types of support that are perfectly OK to ask for. What would each one of these look like for you?

  • Breaks from caregiving — Arrange some time each day to take a break away from your loved one. Do something that will calm you, like reading a book or taking a nap. In some states, you can work with an in-home respite care nurse to relieve you so you can get some rest. You can also look for day programs at adult care centers and nursing homes with short-term services.
  • Breaks from work — Going back and forth between work and caregiving doesn’t leave much time for you to relax and recover. Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, employees may be able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to care for relatives.
  • Practical support — Help with things like transportation, meal preparation and household chores can be a big time saver. Taking these to-dos off your mind will also give you more mental space to relax.
  • Social visits — Being a caregiver can be very lonely. Try to make time each week to see a friend for a purely social visit.
  • Peer support — Encouragement from people who can fully understand what you’re dealing with can go a long way toward boosting your morale. Other caregivers can also help you solve problems and gain perspective by sharing insights from their experiences. 
  • Self-reflection and gratitude — At the end of the day, your motivation to keep moving has to come from within. Take time to recognize the value of the work you’re doing and take pride in being there for your loved one.
  • Caregiver training — Your loved one’s doctors and nurses can provide information about their condition and how to provide specialized care. Your local hospital or community center may have classes on things like CPR and basic caregiving skills you can take as well.
  • Humor and joy — Even when you’re caring for a loved one who’s not well, keeping your spirits up is essential for the best outcomes and your own well-being. Find small ways to create some joy and laugh each day, like watching cute animal videos or reading a memoir with a good sense of humor.
  • Care for your own health — Check in with yourself regularly so you can notice when you’re stressed and take steps to recover before you reach burnout. Get an annual physical and keep up with screenings, vaccines and other doctor appointments. Take the medications and supplements your doctor recommends.

Find caregiver support in your Ability KC community

 You cannot provide the best care for your loved one without support from others. Locate some resources and allies in your community — and then call on them when you need to. There’s no shame in asking for help, and if you burn yourself out, both the care you provide and your own health will suffer.

At Ability KC, we invite family members to be a part of their loved one’s integrated care team. We offer individual and family support groups so you can stay connected with a caring community that understands.

If you’re looking for outpatient rehab programs or comprehensive day rehabilitation, take a look at our admissions guide. Have any questions? Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial inquiry.