A multi-colored (red, pink, purple, yellow, orange, and blue) illustration of people with various disabilities.
How supporting individuals & families can foster independence
by Rich Paul

The value of homecare services today can be witnessed across a wide array of people and their unique care needs, ranging from seniors aging at home, expecting moms and busy families, individuals with chronic health conditions and those with disabilities. Let’s explore the opportunities for homecare to serve those individuals living with various disabilities.

The word “disability” means having difficulties due to physical, mental or sensory issues. It can make things harder and affect how people do things and interact with the world. As defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), disability is “any condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with the world around them (participation restrictions).”

According to the CDC, there are 61 million adults (at least 1 in 4) in the United States living with a disability, which includes the loss of limbs, stroke, paralysis, learning difficulties such as Down syndrome and neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis and motor neuron disease. Supporting individuals who are living with disabilities—and their care needs—through homecare services can help individuals thrive in the setting that’s most often preferred, their home.

Disabilities are often grouped into different types based on how they affect people. Sometimes, a person can have more than one type of disability at a time. Even if two people have the same disability, it is common for them to need different things and have different experiences.

The most common groupings of disabilities include:

  • Physical disability
  • Developmental disability
  • Intellectual disability
  • Sensory disability
  • Mental health disability
Designing Homecare for the Needs of the Disabled

Homecare services play an important role in supporting the independence and well-being of individuals living with different disabilities. Homecare services should focus on personalized support that is tailored to meet the unique needs and preferences of each individual.

Highly skilled caregivers can help with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, meal preparation and mobility. They can also help with independent activities of daily living (IADLs), which include such things as light housekeeping, incidental transportation, shopping and errands, meal preparation and medication reminders. By receiving help with these tasks, individuals with disabilities can maintain their dignity and independence within the comfort of their own homes. It is important however, not to assume what services or assistance someone with a disability needs, but rather, to ask and to be mindful that the care plan revolves around their specific requests and preferences for how they wish to receive care.

Homecare providers should also assess and implement important safety measures within the home environment. This may include:

  • For individuals with mobility or sensory impairments, ensuring a safe living space is essential to prevent accidents and injuries.
  • By addressing potential hazards and making the home environment more accessible, homecare can support the overall safety and well-being of individuals with disabilities.
  • In addition to safety measures, homecare services can offer a respite for families of individuals with disabilities.

Caring for an individual with a disability can be physically and emotionally demanding, and families may require occasional breaks to attend to their own needs and well-being. Respite care provides families with the assurance that their loved ones are in capable hands, allowing them to recharge and maintain their own health and well-being.

Here are just a few examples of how homecare can benefit people with physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities:

Physical Disabilities
  • Spinal cord injuries: Homecare providers can offer assistance with mobility, transfers and activities of daily living.
  • Cerebral palsy: Homecare services can provide support with mobility exercises, dressing and feeding. Caregivers can assist with light exercises and adaptive strategies to enhance independence.
Developmental Disabilities
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD): Homecare can focus on behavioral support, social skills training and sensory integration. Caregivers can help individuals with ASD navigate daily routines and engage in therapeutic activities.
  • Intellectual developmental disorder: Homecare services can provide ongoing support with daily living activities, community integration and access to educational and recreational resources.
Intellectual Disabilities
  • Down syndrome: Homecare can focus on social skill development, daily living activities and community engagement. Caregivers can offer support with education, communication and life skills.
How We Talk About Disability

Disability can feel like a difficult topic, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Although “people with disabilities” sometimes refers to a single population, this is a diverse group of people with a wide range of needs. A person-centered approach to disability care means focusing on the person and what they can do, not their condition or disability. As such, acknowledging an individual through self-identification (i.e., using people-first or identity-first language) versus assuming all have the same preferences is one way to practice a person-centered care model while delivering homecare services.

Disabilities can be different for everyone. People can experience disability in many ways. It’s important to understand and respect that.

It’s also important to understand how people talk about disability.

  • People can say “person with a disability” or “disabled person.”
  • “Person with a disability” is called person-first language.
  • “Disabled person” is called identity-first language.
  • Both ways are okay; it’s about what people prefer.
Combating Ableism

Ableism refers to the discrimination, prejudice and exclusion faced by disabled people based on their disabilities.

  • Ableism is centered around the idea that people without disabilities are better and matter more than people with disabilities. This is wrong!
  • Ableism shows up in different ways.
  • Ableism occurs in attitudes people have about disability and in the world around us.
  • Some examples of ableism in the world around us include:
  • No ramps to get into a business
  • A restaurant with a small bathroom that wheelchairs can’t fit into
  • When a qualified disabled person goes to a job interview and then doesn’t get the job
  • People featured in ads by big companies not having visible disabilities

Families and care providers of individuals with disabilities play an important role in challenging and addressing these ableist attitudes and behaviors. By promoting understanding, empathy and inclusion, you can help create a more accepting and accessible world for individuals with disabilities.

Homecare providers are well positioned to offer specialized care and support for individuals with physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities, empowering them to live independently and participate fully in their homes and communities. Moreover, families of individuals with disabilities can utilize homecare services to ensure their loved ones receive the necessary support to thrive and lead fulfilling lives.

Rich Paul is the chief partnership officer for SYNERGY HomeCare, a non-medical in-home care provider. Visit synergyhomecare.com.