When a family member accidentally becomes disabled, you will want to help but may be unsure how. You may be uncertain about your loved one’s needs and limitations, if and what treatment is possible, and what can be expected in the future. The following tips are recommended to help a family member who becomes disabled:
- Get informed. It is important to learn about your family member’s particular disability, including symptoms, treatment possibilities, how to mitigate the effects, and the prospect for improvement. Provide your loved one with informative articles with medical information and stories of hope, including accounts of other individuals who have made gains in society despite having the disability. Attend support groups and associations with your loved one for practical assistance, training opportunities, and to introduce your family member to others who may be facing the same challenges.
- Do not treat the disability as something to be ashamed of. Your loved one is still the same person on the inside as before, with new stressors and a new challenge added. Interests, goals and dreams may have changed as a result of the accident, but he or she and you may also grow personally in new ways previously unimaginable.
- Do not treat your family member as “different.” Be present and treat your family member the way you would treat any other human being. Include your loved one in family events and activities and encourage interests for as long as he or she enjoys those interests. If needed, help facilitate new interests.
- Respect individuality. Everyone is unique, handles stress differently and deserves to be respected for the choices they make. If your family member is comfortable learning and talking about the accident and/or the disability, do not discourage it and instead consider the talk to be an opportunity to heal emotionally. If you family member does not want to learn or talk about it, be available but never force a conversation; not everyone heals through exploration and discussion.
- Allow independence. People with disabilities would like to be treated like everyone else, as independently as possible. This is increasingly possible today with more technologies and social programs than in the past. Most people with disabilities prefer to be given the space to do what they can themselves and appreciate being offered help where they ask for help. Disabilities are often referred to as different abilities. Everyone has something to contribute and shine for.
- Be patient. It will be necessary to accommodate your family member for challenges caused by the disability. For example, if the disability causes causing communication difficulties, try not to finish your family member’s sentences but instead wait and show understanding, much like you would want if you were in the same position. As another example, if your family member has mobility restrictions and moves more slowly than previously, do not pressure and rush your family member and rather allow movement at his or her own pace. Respecting where a person is at with a new disability can go a long way to build the emotional confidence needed to make more gains.
- Encourage living a full life. A disability does define a person and does not mean the end of one’s future, though it may change one’s future. Many people with disabilities still have the potential to work, obtain an education, and enjoy various hobbies, activities and sports. Your loved one should be encouraged to seek therapy and counselling to pursue his or her interests and consider new possibilities.
- Help with expenses, receipts and bill payments. Increasing medical bills and home expenses can add stress to your family. If accident benefits coverage is available through an insurance plan, then ask your family member to submit the claim or work on it together if your help is needed. This may also be the time to help the family financially, providing more income, spending less or doing both where possible.
- Make long-term financial plans. Find out what assistance and grants are available provincially and federally for people with disabilities in general and the specific disability your family member has. Inquire about eligibility for a medical disability tax credit certificate and the possibility of setting up a registered disability savings plan.
- Advocate for your family member. If poor treatment results as a result of the disability, then encourage your family member to be assertive and provide support if he or she is unable to act independently. If your family member’s disability was caused by someone else’s negligence, contact a personal injury lawyer and find out what legal recourse is possible.
Dealing with a disability can be difficult, stressful and sometimes strengthening. Contact us for more information on how to help your disabled family member at CLG Injury Law today at 1-800-606-2529.