When a friend or family member starts using a wheelchair, it can bring changes to their lifestyle and how they interact with their environment. You, as their loved one, may wonder how best to be there for them. Read on to better understand how to support someone who now uses a wheelchair.
Respecting Independence and Autonomy
People who use wheelchairs value their independence and autonomy as much as anyone else does. It is essential to remember that using a wheelchair is a means of maintaining self-sufficiency rather than a limitation. Avoid making assumptions about what they can or cannot do.
You may think that your friend will need you for all aspects of life now, but the truth is that people using wheelchairs still navigate life with ease. For example, many people maintain their independence through adaptive driving. Encourage them in their efforts to master new skills and adapt to their situation. Be patient and understanding, and respect their decisions regarding their mobility.
Offering Help Without Being Patronizing
While it is natural to want to help, it is crucial to offer assistance in a respectful manner. Always ask before you help—do not assume that they need or want help at any given moment. If they accept your offer of help, ask for instructions and follow them. This approach ensures that you are genuinely assisting rather than imposing your help in a way that might feel patronizing.
Choosing Wheelchair Accessible Destinations
When planning outings or trips, consider the accessibility of the destinations. Many restaurants, hotels, and attractions now have wheelchair-accessible facilities. Look for places with ramps, wide doorways, accessible restrooms, and elevators if needed. Doing a bit of searching beforehand can ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience for everyone.
Making a Home More Wheelchair Friendly
If your loved one often visits or lives with you, consider making your home more wheelchair-friendly. Simple modifications can make a significant difference. These changes might include installing ramps at entrances, widening doorways, removing tripping hazards, and rearranging furniture to allow for better maneuverability. In the bathroom, consider installing grab bars and a roll-in shower.
In conclusion, supporting a friend or family member who uses a wheelchair involves respect, understanding, and thoughtful planning. By respecting their independence, offering help appropriately, choosing accessible destinations, and making your home more wheelchair-friendly, you can contribute positively to their quality of life and strengthen your relationship.