Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 15: Support for caregivers

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HealthWiki > A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities > Chapter 15: Support for caregivers

a woman reading to a blind woman who is working.

Everyone needs help sometimes. It is rare that we can go through a day without getting help from—or giving help to—family members, neighbors, or even strangers. It is human nature to help each other.

A disabled woman often needs assistance in a daily, ongoing way. When she gets the help she needs, she can live a healthier and happier life, and can contribute to her family and community.

Assisting a woman with disabilities can be rewarding work, but it can also be stressful, especially if she needs a lot of care. This chapter is mainly for families and others who assist women with disabilities in caring for themselves. It will also help disabled women better understand the needs of the people who help them.

Make decisions together

a woman speaking.
Ramola tells me what help she needs. She is the one in charge!
Above all, anyone who assists a woman with a disability must remember she is a grown woman and not a child. If she can, let her tell you what she needs help with, and then together you can decide the best way to do it.

As much as possible, the disabled woman should be in charge of her care and her life. Caregivers should encourage the disabled woman to regard herself as the captain of the ‘team.’ That way she can get the help she needs, and not assistance given in a way she finds unnecessary, not helpful, or lacking respect.

As far as possible, talk with the disabled person about what she expects. Ask her what responsibilities she can share, and what a caregiver needs to do or not do. She may not feel good asking for help to do things she would rather be doing herself. It will be easier to give good care if you and the woman can talk about this openly. If that is not possible, try putting yourself in her place and imagine what she might be feeling.

If she is deaf and uses sign language to communicate, make sure you learn how to sign with her as soon as possible.

If she is blind, let her tell you how she wants you to help her find her way around. Do not just take hold of her arm or hand and start to lead her. Let her take your arm first. Also, if she uses a stick or cane to find her way around, make sure it is always close by her side.