Gurdip Mudhar, ever since my youngest daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy and learning disabilities at the age of 2, I have been eager to always help others who have been in my situation. I’ve always helped others in my daughters situation but never really understood how I could help large groups, legally, and the right way. I also wanted to help as many people as possible, just didnt know where to find them.
Now that my two sons, Sean and Jay are older, they have helped me develop our website, and helped promote us, so we can find more people who need our support. We now operate Monday to Friday, and we have great staff who really care to make a difference in the lives of those we support. We take everyone to yoga, cooking classes, swimming, gym, football and art and crafts and many more social activities! If you know anyone you think will be interested please contact me, my own daughter is also part of the sessions, and you do not need to pay yourself, the government via direct payments will cover your costs.
Gurdip Mudhar, Founder of Grewps
Many carers begin the journey of promoting independence with the very clear aim of helping their loved one settle into a home and a life of their own, before the time comes when they are no longer able to provide essential daily care.
With this aim in mind you can work with your family member to increase their independent living skills, knowing that you are putting their long-term well-being first, rather than feeling a sense of guilt for wanting things to be different.
We are dedicated to informing and supporting carers and people with a disability through these pivotal life moments. So for those who are ready to take steps to promote independence for a family member with an intellectual disability, we have put together a list of 21 tips that we hope you will find useful.
But before we begin, what is promoting independence all about?
How we can make a difference and promote independence
1. Seek to support, not control, what people do
We all do our best as parents and carers, often under challenging circumstances.
But, sometimes when we care about someone’s well-being we want to control the situation in order to protect and nurture them. Releasing control of the situation can feel like the end result is out of our hands.
However, it’s likely the more you are managing the situation, the less responsibility others will take on, and the more reliant they will become on you as their carer.
Instead of seeking to manage every interaction and decision, begin to find ways that you can gradually switch to a mode of offering support instead.
Sometimes the shift from “control” to “support” can be as simple as some small tweaks to the language you use. Instead of telling someone what to do, ask him or her what they would like to do.
Making this a gradual process will give your family member a sense of security in the process of moving towards greater self-determination.
2. Establish a trusted support network
A big part of promoting independence is to get others more involved in supporting and assisting your loved one. Family carers are often deeply dedicated to their caring role, and it can be difficult to take an intentional step back and involve other family members, friends or even paid support staff.
As you do this you may struggle with a sense of failure that you are no longer taking on all of the caring role. It is essential that you don’t allow yourself to give in to these feelings! Remind yourself that by creating a larger network of support you are ensuring your family member has the security and stability of having additional carers in their life, which will be vital if a situation arises where you are no longer able to provide care.
The reality is that by trying to do everything yourself there is also every chance you may be inhibiting the development and progression of independent day to day activities.
Establishing a trusted support network is something that can take some time as you look for people that you trust, your loved one also trusts, and who are ready and willing to contribute to this journey.
These type of people aren’t necessarily going to be easy to find, but the best place to start is close to home. Think about your family, your friends, your neighbours, or even a select few “outsiders” from within the local community.
You are looking for a small group of supporters that you can talk to openly about your situation, and ask them to contribute in some way, big or small, to your independence goals. Thats where we can help, Grewps.
3. Search for meaning, rather than judging someone’s behaviour
All our staff, and myself, are always very thoughtful, and we are always reminding ourselves that we are all different and we all see the world through a different lens. That lens is shaped by our situation, our upbringing, our lifestyle and a long list of other contributing factors.
This means that all of ours interpretations of a situation or behaviour could be significantly different to that of our attendees (your loved ones). We always take a view of the world through their eyes, and try to understand why they are doing whatever it is they are doing.
This search for meaning will not only improve our relationship, but it will also help everyone involved to educate others and break down the external barriers to independence.
4. Lead with positivity
Emotions are contagious. Feelings like fear, anxiety and negativity can be felt by those around you, even when you don’t put them into words. They can grow like wildfire in the wrong hands. But emotions such as hope, happiness and positivity are just as catchy and contagious and make it easier for everyone involved to embrace change. This is what we bring to at Grewps.
The journey toward independence can be a slow and challenging one, so we celebrate the small wins. We are always positive and exude energy at every opportunity. Others always feed off our energy and build confidence as a result.
5. Learn from each other and adapt
It’s good to be open to learning and developing yourself. It’s not just a one-way street.
The more you, your loved one, and our network can work together to adapt and understand each other, the quicker progress will be toward independence.
Talk openly with us about the things you are struggling with, ask for guidance, search for meaning…
We do whatever we can to build a trusted level of communication that brings the cause of challenges to the surface more quickly, so they can be addressed.
6. Respect and recognise multiple identities
Society can be harsh. Often as a group we are quick to label people and disregard their rights, hobbies and lifestyle choices.
This kind of “labelling” can be an obstacle to promoting independence in adults with a disability. Our carers never forget about the person behind the disability and ensure they are not labelled or feel alone.
We as a group, help our attendees be recognised by the things that make them unique, whether that is being a “soccer fan”, a “horse rider” or a “chess player”. Respecting and recognising that each person has multiple identities and interests, and removing unfair labels, will help build confidence and the desire to become more independent.
Confidence and control
Promoting independence requires patience. It’s about a series of small steps and 1% changes that add up to a more empowered lifestyle and more choice for the individual.
The challenge is that many adults with disabilities have experienced strongly nurturing and highly protective environments. Independence and decision-making power may be foreign concepts, which means that if things happen too quickly, fear and anxiety can take over.
The solution we have at Grewps is to start slowly, by empowering the individual with daily life decisions. It can be simple things like how to wash the dishes, or what to cook for dinner. As they build up decision-making confidence with every day activities, then begin to transfer that confidence into new and more challenging situations. Over time, their confidence will grow and the breadth of responsibility will widen.
8. Allow choice about friends and lifestyle
More choice… it’s a theme that we’re reiterating throughout Grewps because essentially that’s what independence is all about.
Everyone deserves the opportunity to choose their own friends and decide what hobbies they would like to do on the weekend. Enabling this power of choice is an important way to support individual growth and development.
9. Get into community activities
Once this journey to independence with Grewps activities begins to progress you can integrate the process with daily at-home rituals.
For example, we encourage our attendees to go into the grocery stores and pick up the shopping. Initially they may need to support on these trips and we are always with them, but after a while they may be able to go independently. It’s another small step towards building their capacity for independence.
10. Join mainstream community groups
We also are open to facilitate and encourage interactions with local community groups such as a local church or a sports club that runs regular events.
We find community groups that closely relate to your loved one’s interests and hobbies. This will get them excited to go along and accelerate the building of self-confidence.
Of course, with any of these activities it may be necessary for us to check out the groups prior to going along, but we always do this beforehand. You can also come along and see how they interact, get to know some of the people yourself and evaluate whether you think the group would be a good fit.
11. Encourage interactions with others
Anything we can do to break the cycle of dependence will help, no matter how small it is at the time.
By interacting with more and more people outside of the primary carer and direct support network, your loved one will build confidence and start taking initiative.
We provide opportunities for socialisation and independent living, and over time you can allow this to happen without you being present.
12. Get your vote on
As well as increasing social interactions, we begin the journey to increased independence by encouraging other confidence-building activities.
For example, registering one to vote in local elections is a great way to give them a voice in the community.
13. We encourage embracing diversity
Education plays an important role in increasing independence for adults with disabilities. This education is not, however, always targeted at the individual.
It’s important for us at Grewps to be open and willing to embrace diverse cultures, religions and abilities.
Many people are misinformed, or uneducated, about the abilities that adults with disabilities actually have. This isn’t their fault. Often people are too concerned about offending someone to ask these sorts of questions. Give them a helping hand to understand, so they can act accordingly. It all helps towards an inclusive community.
14. Living a healthy lifestyle
It’s common for adults with disabilities, especially intellectual disabilities, to have a fairly inactive lifestyle and unhealthy diet. This lifestyle can lead to obesity and more severe diseases such as diabetes or heart disease.
When we are looking to promote independence, we are aware of the education required to make healthy lifestyle choices.
Education alone won’t cut it though. We can help your loved one create daily habits that will contribute to a healthy and happy life while they are not with you. A great place to start is with a daily dose of light exercise and a healthy, balanced diet which we do at Grewps.
15. Consider options for learning, employment or volunteering
Working – whether to learn, to make money, or to volunteer your time – can provide people with a sense of purpose. It’s an opportunity to contribute to society and develop improved self-confidence and interpersonal skills.
Employment or volunteer work is a critical component of independent living and helps promote inclusion and build friendships.