Fall is a wonderful season to be enjoyed because of its diverse colors and activities. As I wrote in my last newsletter, change can either be embraced or resisted, depending on the manner in which it appears.Transitioning from good health to disability is extremely challenging for many individuals and their families. Together, we will now explore 5 ways people have learned to adapt to this new phase.  

1. Open, honest, and loving communication.

Discussing personal struggles and challenges when coping with disability can be very difficult for many people at the onset of or during its progression. Not everyone responds the same or can adapt to significant changes so readily. Each person is coping in his or her own way. They may be experiencing feelings such as: anger, resentment, irritability, or a sense of feeling trapped. Whatever the struggle, there is a need to communicate these emotions whereby each person feels safe and supported. Misunderstandings, assumptions, and misinterpretations are exposed and relationships can become strengthened.  

2. Receptive to adjusting to new roles and responsibilities.

Any life-altering event requires new and unfamiliar roles to be filled. Those facing disability discover ways of coping with the daily strain and unpredictability of events. Each person agrees to be willing and teachable when assuming new or existing responsibilities. They learn to master the art of cooperation by: preferring one another, maintaining family unity, and looking out for the welfare of the one requiring care.

3. Seek support from family, friends, or church community

It is amazing to see how people rally to support those who are hurting and in despair. Granted, there are those who possess neither compassion nor sensitivity. Do not be afraid to ask for help from those whom you trust and respect. Learning to delegate tasks will relieve immediate family of assuming all the responsibilities. Additional support will ease everyone’s stress and create closer relationships. It now becomes a team effort!

4. Research public and private agencies that provide resources

There are several county and state agencies where one can obtain case management and possibly qualify for benefits and essential services (there are certain income and asset limitations). Individual or family counseling is one such example. You can also explore community resources that are free or of little cost to those who qualify for services. Tension and conflict within the home will be reduced with increased financial and practical assistance.

5. Engage in social and recreational activities together as a family

This may not always be feasible for families who have a child or spouse with special needs requiring ongoing care. However, there are respite and PCA services available that permit family members to participate in various activities, confident that their loved one is being cared for. I personally know a couple that have a date night every week. They have a trusted person attend to their adult child with special needs so they can invest in their marriage. 

There are other means too numerous to mention by which individuals and family members can use to make adjusting to disability easier. Having a plan with all supports and measures in place is one such strategy. Designing and executing a plan will create greater stability for the caregiver(s) and the person receiving care. The topic of support planning will be covered in the next two newsletters.