Families with Special Needs: Caregiving Tips

Caregivers typically provide assistance to someone who has a chronic illness or disabling condition. Whether a family member with special needs is a child or an adult, combining personal, caregiving, and everyday needs can be challenging. Below are general caregiving tips and links to information on specific health topics to help you and those you care for stay safe and healthy.

Caregiving Tips

Be informed.

  • Take time to learn about your family member’s condition and special needs requirements.
  • Talk to health care providers and other professionals who work with families with special needs.
  • Understand the needs of you and your family, and work together to make good choices about housing, schools, health services, and more.
  • Be aware of signs of emotional or physical abuse. Notice how others care for the person with special needs.

Get support.

  • Join a local or online support group.
  • Search for local and national groups that provide services, recreation, and information for families with special needs.
  • Find out about local, state, federal, or other programs that may be available.

Be an advocate.

  • Ask questions, and know your rights.
  • Become familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and other state and national provisions. Know how and when to apply them to your situation.
  • Inform other caregivers of any special conditions or instructions. Always remind dental or medical staff of this information each time you visit.
  • Document the medical history and care issues of your family member with special needs, and keep this information current.
  • Make sure your employer understands your circumstances or limitations. Arrange for flexible scheduling when needed.

Be empowering.

  • Focus on what you and your family member with special needs can do.
  • Recognize appropriate milestones to celebrate. Look for memorable events and achievements to honor family members with special needs.

Take care of yourself.

  • Stay healthy for yourself and those you care for.
  • Work to maintain your personal interests, hobbies, and friendships. Balance is key.
  • Set reasonable expectations about caregiving. This may lower stress and make you a more effective caregiver.
  • Take a break. Short or long breaks can be helpful.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov

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