By Meshell Baylor, MHS
“One person caring about another represents life's greatest value."
-- Jim Rohn.
Caregivers are individuals who provide long-term assistance to exceptional people with disabilities. Caregivers take on the most critical task of advocating for a special needs child or adult. The duties of a loving caretaker are the everyday duties of shopping, cooking, making sure their loved one takes their medication, and attending regular doctor visits. Caring for a family member with different abilities is the most responsible task a person can ever do for a loved one. You learn about what they love, what interests them, and how to meet their wants and needs.
As time flies, they begin to grow and age as well as you do, but what can we do when an aging care provider can no longer handle the task of caretaking for their loved one? How do we make the proper arrangements to ensure that the care provider does not feel isolated in determining the next step in caretaking for their family member?
According to the Institute of Aging, 65% of older people with long-term care needs rely exclusively on family and friends to assist. This includes taking on the everyday responsibilities of ensuring the child and adult receive the services they need to live a safe and healthy life. I had the opportunity to watch a documentary about a 69-year-old daughter who was the primary living caregiver for her 80-year-old father. The daughter explained how her health began to impede her need to aid her father's wellness properly. The woman claimed how fearful she was that she could no longer take on the task of caring for him on an everyday basis.
Many of our exceptional families have never been able to consider the next phase of life regarding aging out and elderly care for an exceptional loved one. The caregiver may struggle with their health or cannot lift, bathe, and properly do the things they usually could perform due to their own health conditions and age. As parents, loved ones, and care providers, we must find and seek the proper entities to prepare in the long run if caretaking for our exceptional loved ones requires more assistance. Here are some ideas and suggestions:
Identify Your Support System: As time changes for you and your exceptional adult, do a caregiver audit. Investigate who in your support system would be a great provider for your exceptional person. When researching, do not be afraid to ask questions to get their views and understanding on caring for special needs individuals.
Connect With DDS: Contact your local Department of Disability Services. Seek programs that provide additional services and support to help you care for your exceptional loved one. Find an agency that can help with food preparation, transportation, assisting with cleaning, and additional support. Please remember that the special needs community is here to help, and you are not alone.
Family Meeting: Hold a family meeting to discuss sharing the task of caretaking for your exceptional loved one. Create a schedule with active family members to share the duties of providing unconditional love and care for your loved one.
Seek Adult Care Programs: Adult care programs can help you take on the everyday task of sharing the responsibilities of transporting your loved one to their doctor's visits, arranging appointments, and helping with food preparation. Your local county office can assist with these resources.
We are a community committed to aiding the needs of our exceptional loved ones, and as they age, we also mature. Finding the correct resources will help you prepare for this journey one day. There is no shame or judgment in preparing for the future down the line. Your job is to ensure that your exceptional person has all the love and support they need for the rest of their lives and yours.
Note: Many of these agencies vary depending on the state. Please research the agencies in your area for the best resources.
Department of Developmental Services
Meshell Baylor, MHS, is a mother of four children—two of whom are on the autism spectrum. She serves her community as a social worker and advocate within the Los Angeles area. She has a bachelor’s degree in human services from Springfield College and a Master of Science in Human and Social Services. Meshell continues volunteering and giving within her local area while serving the special needs community.