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How Do You Adapt to Life in a Wheelchair

When we talk about disability, we often think that those affected were born with different disabilities. Nevertheless, statistically, more than eighty percent of individuals with a disability were actually born without it, and this means that they will have to spend quite some time to adjust. Whether you became disabled as a result of an illness or accident, you may see yourself struggling to adapt to life in a wheelchair. This simple guide provides advice on how to best deal with your most recent life challenges, and be at peace with your altered lifestyle.

Staying positive at all times is an important part of adapting to life in a mobility device, and without a solid support base, you might find yourself fighting to stay positive. Even if you have a lot of friends and family around to help you, certain charities like the NCIL (National Centre for Independent Living) or the RADAR, a network of disabled persons, can help you get in touch with organizations that are beneficial to your disability enabling you to talk to those who fully understand your situation, and even get in contact with other people who have gone through the experience.

In most cases, when someone finds himself/herself in a wheelchair later in their life, their home or apartment will need to be worked on to make it accessible to them once again. Certain things such as easy access bathrooms like those from normal bathing make a huge difference between struggling and coping with a new disability. It is also relevant to always remember that you may need a comfortable solution in getting into your home if you stay in an apartment that has more than one floor. Platform lifts give the easiest way of mobilizing yourself on every floor of your house, but you can consider stairlifts as well if you decide to stay in your house and still have full access to all rooms.

Also, a new disability can lead to financial problems and a rise in your day-to-day living costs. So, it is very important to consider the kind of financial support to apply for, to enable you to meet the high costs of living that often comes with disability. Disability will alter your lifestyle and provide you with new difficult challenges, but this should not stop you from living your best life. With the right adaptations and support, you can still live a happy and active lifestyle. Do not let a disability stop you, stay strong, and keep enjoying those little things of life. You must bear in mind that being disabled also affects the people around you, thus below are some ways in which both you and your friends and family can all adapt to your new life in a wheelchair. 

Face the Emotional Challenges That Comes With Adapting To A Wheelchair Life

The individual in the wheelchair has suffered a lot of losses. They have lost the body they were once used to, their self-image, and the independence and mobility they had. They are most likely to be grieving, experiencing anger, denial, or despair.

Others struggle with the feeling of shame or embarrassment. They become scared of heading out to public places, wondering how other people will look at them.

Many become consumed with the limitations that come with their new situation. They often feel afraid or scared of all the unknowns they might face in dealing with their recent illness or injury. This fear can cause them to look at their future without any sort of hope.

  • Get them talking

You will need to create a bond and urge them to discuss how they are feeling and assist them to work through those emotions. An easy way of doing this is by having them verbalize how they feel. Once you get them to start talking to you, you can explain to them how being disabled does not mean worthless, unable, or incompetent. All it implies is they have a few challenges to face.

  • Reassure them that things will get better

They will adjust, they’ll learn to utilize their tools better, they will form a new routine, a new way of life. Help them to stop concentrating on what they have lost. Instead, to focus on what they now have and the many possibilities that lie ahead of them.

Develop A Great Sense Of Humor

Humor is an important tool that gives you a lot of power over the way you feel. The more you and the people you are close to can talk and laugh about your present condition, the more comfortable everyone will feel.

Cultivate Patience

It will take time to learn, adjust, and adapt. Reminding yourself and your loved ones and learning how to overcome frustration will go a long way in helping you and your friends and family successfully adapt to your new life in a wheelchair.

Expectations That Comes With Living In A wheelchair

This world is known to be a place of expectations. We expect that it’ll take some time to have a bath and get properly dressed. Or to get in the car. Or from the store to the car. And when these expectations are not met, we are usually frustrated.

For people adapting to a mobility device, all their previous expectations are all left by the wayside. Frustration occurs, as the individual, is lost in the thought that “it should have been this way.” Such frustration can be unbearable to a new mobility device user.

  •  Help them to form new expectations

Assist your loved one to form new expectations on how long things may take time. Make them understand that things do not always happen the way there are planned. This means you will have to assist them to be patient with the amount of time it may take to do a simple task that used to be easy. 

  • Help them in creating new goals

You will also have to assist them in deciding on the number of things they are going to do every day. Setting some simple goals will help reduce frustration. The crucial thing is to not stop in those simple goals but to push forward gradually to accomplish more every day.

Maximize Independence

One of the greatest challenges that those in wheelchair face is regaining and maintaining their independence level. The higher their level of independence, the simpler it will for them to remain positive about life.

  • Do not help

Allow the individual to do whatever it is they are trying to do. They need to keep pushing themselves. Do not step in to take over. Only assist them when asked, and only take part when called upon.

  • Seek out adaptive tools and devices 

Keep working to seek out the best devices and other adaptive tools that your loved one or friend can utilize in maximizing their independence. Whether it is a specially designed van that allows them to drive themselves around or modifications to their computers so they can go on the internet on their own, adaptive tools will provide them with more independence and will help in overcoming the sense of helplessness. An electric wheelchair is one of the many devices that makes it easier for a user to go around on their own without exhausting themselves as a result of manually pushing themselves in the wheelchair.

Modifying Routines Of Day-to-day Living In A Wheelchair

One of the greatest challenges wheelchair users face is finding it difficult to do certain life activities, such as brushing their teeth or going to the bathroom without needing help. This feeling of being helpless and losing your privacy can be quite demoralizing, defeating, and depressing.

  • Know the things they can do on their own

The most crucial thing to do is to help them increase the number of things they can do independently. If this means all such persons can do is picking their choice clothes, good. If it means they can bath and wash and just need assistance in getting back into their chair after having a shower, super.

  • Provide help when asked

Helping with those intimate self-care activities can feel weird, especially if the individual is just a friend and not a family member. But if you are called to help carry the person from his/her wheelchair to the bathroom, for instance, then help them however you can. For day-to-day movement and maintaining normal day-to-day living routines, there is a wide range of public transportation options available for those with disabilities. 

Modifying Your Home

Most individuals don’t build their houses to accommodate wheelchairs. So most existing homes have counters that are very high or hallways/doorways that are very narrow. Or the bathroom might have a step that leads straight to it. All of these problems mean that most wheelchair users might not be able to freely access all parts of their home.

  • Make necessary changes

Renovating the bathroom, adding a ramp and widening doors are some of the few changes that should be made to a wheelchair user’s home. But depending on the individual’s ability level, other changes might also be needed. Work with the individual to think about every part of the house that might be inaccessible. Will the individual be doing any cooking? Then you will need to consider the heights of all counters and where the cooking tools are kept. 

Remember Relationships Do Not Change 

Most times, people begin to treat their loved ones that are wheelchair-bound in a different manner than they originally did. Yes, we have all been through certain major life changes. But relationship changes only stress what the individual has lost and the things that have changed.  

In most cases, when a person has been in a severe accident, friends and family are scared of hurting them. So they behave as if the individual in the chair will break and restrain from touching or even hugging them. This ends up increasing the user’s sense of loss and isolation.

  • Remember you won’t break them

If you usually hug your loved ones, don’t stop. Keep the same level of physical connection as it was before. This way you show that your love for the person has not changed and the physical connection still exists. 

  • Try to maintain the physical connection 

You are still a friend, dad or husband or sister. Your loved one still needs their friend or father or husband or sister to be the same as it were. This means, for instance, if you as a dad used to hug your son after he leaves to school, and you could still do this, then do all you can to keep hugging him.

That way your son knows you are still his dad and you love him and the relationship you both share is the same. This way, he knows you are still around. Instead of treating him as a liability. 

Financial Challenges

Living life in a wheelchair means that there are a lot of other health problems involved. Which means that expenses and medical bills could pile up. There may be difficulty in their physical ability to work, or they might not be able to earn a living for a long period of time, or ever.

So financial problems could become a cause of frustration. With luck, there are some jobs available for those that are wheelchair-bound.

Last words

Adapting to life in a wheelchair can sometimes be a tough journey for the person and his friends, family, and loved ones. But as time goes on, many have pushed themselves and found several ways to adapt and live life happily in their wheelchair.

With perseverance, patience, and a positive mindset, you and your loved ones will find the right path that leads to a healthy and rewarding life.

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