When a family member becomes disabled this is of course a huge blow to them and a psychological trauma as well as a physical one. They are going to lose much of their freedom, independence, autonomy and identity as a result – not just their ability to walk around.
Most people are sympathetic to this fact, but what many don’t recognise is how much of a strain this also puts on the family and friends of that person and how much of a tragedy it can be for them too. You and your family will of course be upset for your loved one, and will of course that alone can be difficult.
However there is a lot more at play here than will be immediately obvious – it will affect the dynamic of your family, it will affect your relationships and it will affect them in other more subtle psychological ways.
The Dynamic of the Family
At the same time for instance you are also going to find that the dynamic of your relationship changes; to an extent this can almost feel like a loss and particularly for the child who can no longer play football with their Father or Uncle. Of course it also places new pressures on a family too – suddenly you are responsible for someone who can’t take care of themselves which will mean lots of extra work. You’ll divide that work between you, but that in itself can be stressful and cause arguments. And because there’s always more you could be doing, you’ll find that you always feel guilty. Then there’s the worry that leads you to find yourself…
Even your relationship with your friends might change you will now have a new responsibility that you didn’t before. You’ll be more sympathetic to others in the same situation, or other analogous situations, and you’ll find that you grow apart from some people potentially as a result.
Your Relationship With Them
That’s how your relationships will be affected with others, but what about your relationship with the person themselves?
Well in one sense you might find yourself actually becoming closer. You will have to see them more often and spend a lot more time with them and as such you’ll get to know them better. At the same time though, you will also probably find that your relationship can become somewhat strained at times.
Partly this will be purely down to the fact that you are spending so much more time together – as with a partner or a brother this can lead to a closer relationship that is also a little more tempestuous as you occasionally get on each others’ nerves. At the same time though it will also be down to some of the way it changes them…
How They Will Change
Of course your loved one is likely to undergo a lot of stress and quite possibly depression following an injury or illness that leaves them disabled. In time though they will also exhibit signs of some other changes that could complicate your relationship with them.
For one, they are likely to become more irritable and frustrated. This is particularly true if they are in pain, but even if they aren’t they are likely to find the experience of being ‘helpless’ very upsetting. This can result in a kind of ‘OCD’ even, as they find themselves unable to do simple things like straighten cushions. When you can’t get up to straighten a rug, suddenly it becomes very upsetting when someone comes in and scuffs things up – and they might shout or seem unreasonable as a result even when that person is trying to help them.
This can even lead to resentment on both ends – you can end up angry that you’re being told off even when you’re trying to help, while they can resent you for not caring as much as them and not understanding (and of course they might resent you simply because they are reliant on you).
Understanding the complex emotions at play here though is the key to surviving them and making the best of the situation. Deep down they will be truly grateful for any help you can give, just as you deep down won’t mind helping. Approach them with this understanding and patience, and don’t beat yourself up when things go wrong. It’s times like these when family becomes more important than ever…
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- License: Royalty Free or iStock source: http://pixabay.com/en/disability-rehabilitation-wheelchair-224130/
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This article is contributed by Paul Walton, a business development executive at Hire Mobility, a wheelchair van rental service provider. Paul is a party animal and can be found either attending or hosting a party on weekends.