Over the last year I’ve helped my Aunt out as she faces multiple health issues, including driving her to doctor appointments, the grocery store and to some family events. On many of these junctures she has offered me money to cover gas. From my perspective I didn’t “feel right” taking her money, after all she has always been a great support to our family and I viewed my helping her as a way of giving back. However; I quickly realized that by rejecting her offer I was actually disempowering her. Once I came to this realization I began graciously accepting her monetary offering during our outings. As uncomfortable as it was for me to take $10 from her, it was more important to allow her to contribute.
When family members are challenged with health issues most of us tend to try to do more for them because we love them and want to take care of them. However; sometimes our well-intentioned care can disempower those we love because we either do things for them that they can do themselves which can lead to decrease participation in day-to-day activities and their involvement to not only their own care but to the family as a whole.
Disempowering Behavior (includes but not limited to)
- Refuse to take money to cover gas or things purchased for them
- Don’t allow them to participate or help with what they can
- Make decisions for them either because we don’t agree with the decision they have made or feel that we “know what’s best for them”
- Talk about them as if they aren’t there
- Focus solely on their disabilities
- Don’t include them in family or other events because it is inconvenient to pick them up or it might take more of our time because they don’t move so quickly.
- Taking things from their home (i.e.: bills, paperwork) without asking them.
Empowering Behavior (includes but not limited to)
- Allow them to contribute financially (i.e.: gas/grocery money)
- Involve them in choices (about their care/ home safety)
- Focus on their abilities rather than their disabilities (Be creative in finding ways to help them do what they can)
- Give them time to respond (It’s ok to sit in silence for their response – Practice patience)
- Include them in your conversations
- Involve them in family/other events (at least give them the option of attending)
- Talk to them about more than just their medical issues
- Spend time doing fun thing (even if it’s just playing a game together or watching a movie)
Change your perspective and think about how you would want others to treat you if you were dealing with the same challenges and then act accordingly. Not only will you empower the person you are caring for, you may also establish an enriched way of relating to others around you.