May 2, 2016 | 8:00 am | By Pants Up Easy
Family caregiving may take on varied roles and responsibilities. We most often think in terms of caring for an elder relative, but in reality, it also happens that one becomes caregiver to a child with disabilities. Caring for a loved one is always a challenging job. When that person is your child, however, there are of course additional concerns. The role carries with it a high level of stress. Research has found that parents who are caregivers of children with disabilities experience higher rates of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Change in family roles
When a child suffers from a lifelong condition, which requires ongoing support in order to perform their daily activities, there are likely to be disruptions to the ordinary roles and relationships within the family. The relationship between husband and wife may become imbalanced as one of the spouses spends more of their time in the role of caregiving to the child in need. And if there are other children in the household, they may feel neglected as the parents’ attention is more focused on the disabled child.
Effects on the child’s self-esteem
Depending on the type and severity of the child’s disability, there may be impact to the child’s self-esteem. Some children with severe cognitive disabilities may be unaware even that they have a disability, and thus their self-esteem remains unaffected. However, for children with minor learning disabilities, or disabling physical injuries, there is likely to be a painful awareness of their condition. Seeing that they are unable to perform the same activities as other children they interact with, or even other family members, there may be serious issues related to self-esteem. It is essential to keep this in mind, and to use positive reinforcement through praise and reward, to help the child maintain a healthy attitude.
Finding support for children with disabilities and their caregivers
The responsibilities of caregiving for a child can become overwhelming. It can be extremely valuable to find support groups, which will not only assist the child, but the caregiver as well. Online support groups provide a type of community in which caregivers can connect with others in the same situation. Forums, chat groups, and other online media provide a venue for exchange of ideas as well as reassurance and moral support. You may also find additional assistance through support groups in your local area in which you may meet and experience some camaraderie with other caregivers. Your community may also offer some form of school or daycare for children with disabilities. This allows the child to interact with other kids, receive additional support from occupational therapists, and it also gives the caregiver some much-needed respite.
Should a child with disabilities be cared for at home?
This is actually a complex question. The answer depends on the nature and severity of the child’s disabilities, as well as the family situation. If the child’s care can be managed at home, there are certainly great benefits to remaining in a comfortable, nurturing family environment. But in cases where the disabilities are too great or too complex, caregiving at home may simply too difficult to accomplish, particularly if both parents need to keep working and can’t be available to take on the role of full-time caregiver.