Plan regular trips or visits. To improve the social wellbeing of a loved one, family member, or dear friend that is suffering from a disability, one of the most powerful ways to show your love and support – and to demonstrate to them how much you care – is to stop by for regular visits. Life can be hectic with a number of personal commitments, but if you can take the time out of your busy schedule to stop by once a week, or even once a month (whatever you have time for), it can make a big difference to their mental and emotional wellbeing. Connection with other people is one of the most vital things in helping us to thrive as human beings!
When you do visit, bring an excited energy to make the person feel wanted and appreciated.
Also, make an effort to relate to them in the same way you did prior to the disability. This will show them that you see them as the same person, and that nothing has changed for you at the heart level as a result of the challenges they are facing with their body.
This will boost their self-esteem and feelings of self-worth, because many people do not want to be viewed in a different light by their loved ones simply because of a physical disability or challenge.
Check with a social worker for locally run day trips and other programs that the community offers. In addition to home visits (or outings you may do with your loved one), encouraging them to get involved in community events can be a great way to meet new friends and also to feel engaged in life.
Trying different activities may also help the person with a disability to find something they are passionate about, which can re-kindle their sense of enthusiasm for life. Having a passion with other people outside of the home can do wonders for one’s mental and emotional wellbeing (and note that mental health problems such as depression can be one of the greatest problems accompanying disability).
Find a pet for them, if they are interested. Pets can be great companions. It is important to choose a type of animal that the person likes, and that they are able to look after given their disability. Having a pet (or anything to look after – even a garden!) can contribute to one’s sense of responsibility, and overall happiness and wellbeing.
Pets have been shown to increase the mental health of people living alone. In studies of how people relate to dogs, for instance, it has been shown that having a dog increases your levels of oxytocin, which is commonly known as the “love hormone” (it gives you that great feeling when you hug, cuddle, or kiss someone, or otherwise connect with a living being such as a pet).
Some disabilities would also qualify people for a “service animal.” Service animals are specifically trained to help with the given disability, such as guide dogs for people who are blind. Service animals are also available for people who are diabetic, autistic, or suffer from severe anxiety, among other things. If your loved one’s disability qualifies them for a service animal, look into this option as well – it provides not only companionship, but also assistance moving through the world in a functional way.