What’s your first thought when you see a person in a wheelchair? Do you see that person as less-than, someone in need of being fixed? Do you presume they need special treatment, as though a physical disability affects intellect as well? How does your thinking change to see someone standing upright, without the need for a wheelchair; would you think they were better-abled than the wheelchair-bound senior? These are tough questions that need honest answers if we are to understand and respond accordingly to ensure respect and dignity for seniors with disabilities that are visible or invisible, and to overcome ableism.
What Exactly Is Ableism?
Ableism is identified as “the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior.” It leads to harmful misconceptions and stereotypes.
The Two Sides of the Disability Coin
Those with visible disabilities encounter ableism in lots of ways: exclusion from places that are inaccessible, being spoken down to or asked invasive questions, being forced to wait to use an accessible restroom stall while in use by a person who could be using a standard stall, etc. Conversely, there are numerous disabilities that are not as easily visible (such as hearing impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, or a heart condition), accounting for up to 80% of the disabled population. These people may have their concerns minimized and need to fight harder to get any accommodations needed.
Whether or not a disability is hidden or apparent, there are steps we should all take to promote equality and inclusion:
- Treat everyone in the manner in which you would want to be treated. Say hello. Look them in the eye. Engage them in a conversation if they welcome the social interaction.
- Never speak over or around the individual, addressing a caregiver first. Speak directly to the senior, and if help with conversing is necessary, the caregiver can then step in. Bear in mind that the individual is an adult, and should always be spoken to as such.
- Avoid trying to think for the person or impose your help. Offer assistance in an open-ended manner if it seems needed, giving them the opportunity to let you know if they would like your help or not.
At Serenity Home Care, we are committed to treating every person we serve with dignity and respect. We can help someone you love with a full range of individualized in-home care services such as:
- Companionship to brighten each day through conversations, games, activities, arts and crafts, physical fitness, and much more
- Transportation and accompaniment
- Assistance with walking and transfers
- Discreet personal care support, for safe baths/showers, restroom use, getting dressed, etc.
- Planning and preparing nutritious meals and providing assistance with feeding when needed
- Running errands such as picking up prescriptions and grocery shopping
- Specialized care for chronic health needs, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
- And so much more