Getting older requires us to adapt to numerous changes. Our children mature and move out. We may decide to sell the family home and downsize. Retiring from a lifelong profession changes our purpose and goals. And, health problems or mobility challenges may result in the need for a wheelchair.
Helping a loved one adjust to life in a wheelchair can be quite daunting. A lifetime of hiking, walking, jogging, and dancing has now been traded in for a more sedentary way of life. It’s easy to see how challenging this will be, and what a concern it could be for someone’s sense of self-reliance.
Steps to Help a Loved One Who Is Newly Wheelchair‑Bound
If an older adult you love has started a new chapter of life in a wheelchair, they will need your assistance and reassurance to deal with the countless feelings that may go along with this change. Fear, embarrassment, anger, and despair are normal. The following tips from our experts in home and respite care in Portland and the surrounding areas can help.
- Listen. Be available for as much time as for as much time as possible to enable the older adult to share how they are feeling. It’s important to tell them they are heard and understood, without seeking to “fix” anything or appear condescending or judgmental in any way. Acknowledge that their feelings are valid.
- Remain positive. After the older adult shares as much as they’d like, make an effort to delicately shift the focus of the conversation to what they still are capable of doing and what they have not lost. Talk through and set some new goals that they might wish to accomplish, no matter how small it may seem to be. If adding in a bit of humor is appropriate, shared laughter can be very therapeutic. Keep in mind that a measure of patience will likely be necessary for you both as the older adult experiences and copes with new frustrations.
- Research adaptive devices. There are plenty of gadgets and tech tools available to help maximize independence, safety, and comfort for individuals who use wheelchairs. There are simple home modifications you can make right away as well, such as moving commonly-used objects to lower cabinets and shelves that the older adult can easily reach and reconfiguring furniture to make wider walkways.
- Keep your relationship the same. Despite this external change, the older loved one remains the same inside. It is imperative to treat them the same as always. Your inclination may be to take control and do as much as possible for them in order to make life easier, but you may wind up doing more harm than good. Allowing the older adult to maintain self-sufficiency is important for their wellbeing.
Anthem Home Care, a trusted provider of Portland respite and home care, is here to help! We can provide a no-cost consultation to make recommendations for alterations around the house that will make it easier for an older adult in a wheelchair to live independently. We can also provide a wide range of personalized in-home care services to assist the older adult in whatever way is needed. Call us at 361-643-2323 to find out more. For a full list of all of the communities where our award-winning care is offered, please visit our Service Area page.