Health Care

Mentally Disabled Caretakers



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No one can truly prepare you for taking care of a mentally disabled family member.

When the writer's mother passed away she left a mentally disabled son. This disabled son is my brother was in his fifties and had lived with his mother and father all of his life until the passing of both parents.

This daughter felt a strong sense of duty and family obligation and took it upon herself to welcome her brother with open arms and right into her life. The daughter was divorced and a single mother with a teenage child of her own.

Life changes drastically when you take on such a great responsibility. You must be aware that it is definitely not as simple as it sounds. Just because you love someone, feel sorry for them or have a sense of family duty does not prepare you for the obstacles to come.

An individual can read all the materials and recommendations of caring for the mentally disabled, but although there are lots of basics described, each individual is different.

Just like any person, a mentally disabled person has their own distinct personality, qualms, likes and dislikes. They are not stupid, just mentally rearranged both socially and personally. My brother loves TV and anything to do with black music and/or people. Which is utterly delightful and surprising since his father was a prejudiced and very religious individual with the unwritten rule of segregation. He loves buffets and the" Fonz" with absolute dedication to Cincinnati Reds and thinks wrestling is all real and wants to invite the Cosbys to dinner. He loves animals and in return all animals love him.

One must have a sense of humor when caring for a family member and incorporate their pet peeves, likes and dislikes into the family situation. The mentally disabled must have consistency and do not readily accept change easily, set routines are very necessary. Often they are possessive about their things and their space.

My brother is an emotionally four or five year old child in the body of a fifty year old man. He has reactions sometimes just as a four year old would over space, things or when it is time to eat.

Our lifestyle definitely had to be readjusted. My daughter could not have her friends visit without planning ahead and incorporating iti nto my brother's daily expectations. The same situation applied to my own personal life. You cannot do anything without planning ahead. You will find many of your associates looking at him as untouchable or unacceptable. You will find people very uncompassionate. Their loss and your gain to say the least.

At the beginning it was suggested by relatives tp put my brother into a group home. This was totally not a consideration because of the promises made to our mother that he would always have family surrounding him. As we get older these promises are difficult to keep. What will happen when I die? My daughter has a life of her own and is not in position to care for him.

This obligation is not always easy but it most definitely has its rewards which will be shared in another article. But anyone considering in taking on this commitment should think carefully and decide what is best for both the caretaker and the disabled. There is no one simple answer.

More about this author: Gresilda McDermott

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