How to Care for a Parent With a Disability

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

As the elderly and disabled population grows, many children take on the responsibility of ensuring their parents have adequate care as they age. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, the number of unpaid family caregivers has risen 85 percent since the year 2000. This can be a daunting task for children, because it requires money, organization, technology and medical care. While each disability requires different care, there are some ways you can prepare to care for your parents ahead of time. Learn some guidelines on how to care for a parent with a disability.


Disability Care Preparations
  1. Speak with your parents before disabilities begin. Let them know that you are willing to take over care when their disability or future disabilities make it impossible for them to live completely independently. Set up a plan of care with them, if possible.
  2. Recognize when a disabled parent is in need of help. Some disabilities are gradual, especially those associated with aging. The following are some ways that disabilities can appear:
    • Watch for signs that parents can no longer handle their daily routines. Failure to shower, wash clothing, brush teeth or eat well is usually a sign of mental or physical problems. Also, look for signs that they are unable to keep up with housework may show that they need assistance in the home.
    • Evaluate how your parents are driving. Look for signs of confusion, failure to see or motor vehicle accidents. Failing sight, dementia and loss of muscle or nerve control will dictate when it is time for them to stop driving.
    • Look for signs that your parents risk injury at home. Stairs, icy conditions, slippery showers and other hazards can give you warning that a parent is losing some mobility. A change in living conditions, aides or living situation may be necessary.
    • Keep track of memory loss. Disabilities can be mental as well as physical. If your parent forgets appointments, has trouble speaking or cannot follow directions, then assistance in a daily routine may be necessary.
Financial Care Plans
  1. Meet with your parent and a lawyer to update or start a will, durable power of attorney and advanced directives. A durable power of attorney gives you the ability to make long term care decisions for your parent, should they be unable to do so. Advanced directives are instructions given by the parent to family members and medical staff, which give instructions on what medical treatment they would like to receive during hospitalization and end-of-life care.
  2. Speak with your disabled parent about the money needed to handle their disability. Experts estimate that it can take $40,000 to $80,000 per year to care for someone who is ill or disabled. Ask your parent how they desire for the money to be used, and see what financial decisions you should make for your parent in the short term.
  3. Gather financial information from your parents as they grow older. Ask questions about what benefits they receive from the government, and which benefits they take care of themselves. Being familiar with their assistance can save you from losing your financial safety because of family member's disability.
  4. Help your parent to apply for social security disability or another government funded disability program, especially if they are too young to receive a pension. Gather all the necessary financial, medical and personal details and submit it to the government. Applying for disability benefits can take months or years, so begin when you know your parent's disability is permanent.
    • Hire a lawyer to help your parent with an appeal, if they were turned down for disability coverage and you believe the case is valid. The lawyer can help follow the protocol of the appeals process and improve your chances of success.
  5. Contact local aging services. Many cities and counties provide meals, transportation and community activities to people who are older and have disabilities. These services can ease the burden of some caring from your shoulders.
  6. Learn about your parent's Medicare or Medicaid benefits. Health insurance benefits are extremely important in getting your parent high-quality medical care. Keep a list of all providers that are covered under their plan.
  7. Learn about the services offered by the Department of Veteran Affairs. If your parent served in the military, then they may be due for a pension or medical coverage.
  8. Read about agencies that can help your parent at This will acquaint you with state or federal programs that your parent may not have applied for.
Home Care Plans
  1. Overhaul your parent's house to ensure it is safe and accessible. Follow your parent around during their daily routine to see what problems come up. You may also choose to hire an occupational therapist to visit the house and suggest possible aides for installation.
    • Install ramps for your parent outside the home, if he or she is confined to a wheel chair. Make sure the rooms and hallways are wide enough to move around in while in a wheel chair.
    • Create a safer bath room. Install a walk-in shower if your parent has mobility issues. Place a seat inside the shower to remove the risk of falling. Install grab bars along the walls and shower to reduce the risk of falling. You can install an elevated toilet seat with bars to make using the toilet easier.
    • Install safety devices in the home. Buy carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, if they are not installed already. A disabled parent may not be able to call in case of emergency, so these devices can alert neighbors or caregivers.
  2. Invest in technology that will keep you close in contact. Buy your parent a cell phone that is easy to use and buy a membership in a medical alert company. Some companies, such as QuietCare, can call you if something is out of the ordinary by employing motion sensors.
Health Care Plans
  1. Consider hiring a health care professional. If you are unable to administer the necessary medication and health care, then you can seek the help of a full-time nurse, part-time nurse, caregiver, physical therapist or occupational therapist. Begin with part-time care and increase in the future if necessary.
    • Professional carers can be expensive. However, it may be your parent's preference if they want to live as long as possible at home, instead of in a facility.
  2. Go to medical appointments with your parent. If you are devoting time to caring for your parents, then you should make sure you are getting the most value out of their medical care. Parents with memory loss or mental disabilities may not remember or ask the right questions, so go to the appointments and take notes.
  3. Communicate with your parent's pharmacy. Make sure all the prescriptions are filled at 1 place. Losing track of medication can result in an unforeseen drug interaction, causing further illness.
  4. Discuss a nursing home facility with your parent. If your parent's disabilities are large or their home is unsafe, then relocation may be the best option. Discuss their concerns and look for a place that you can visit often.
Social Care Plans
  1. Arrange activities for your parent. Avoid letting your parents be home bound as long as possible. Regular social activity can improve their mood, avoiding depression.
  2. Plan regular meals with friends and family. Your disabled parent may no longer be able to cook, so a homemade or restaurant meal may improve their quality of life. If your parents are seniors, you can also research community meals at the local Elk's Club, Senior Citizens Center or other clubs.
  3. Look at assisted care facilities that act as communities. If your parent can still live somewhat independently, they may be able to take up residence in a community environment. Assisted living facilities provide a space where people of similar age and health can eat, talk and do activities on a daily basis.


  • For more tips, buy a book like "Caring for Your Parents: The Complete AARP Guide." Since not all disabilities are the same, an instructional book can help you anticipate the care your parents will need and give you advice as your parent's situation changes.
  • Ensure that you get quality time to yourself when caring for a disabled parent. Being a carer can be emotionally and physically draining. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, treat yourself to a favorite activity every day and a larger session every week.

Things You'll Need

  • Will
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Advanced directives
  • Social security disability information
  • Pharmacy
  • Medicare/Medicaid
  • Aging services
  • Senior Citizens Center
  • Assistive devices
  • Professional carers
  • Cell phone
  • Medical alert bracelet
  • Nursing home facilities

Sources and Citations

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