Invisible Disabilities in Seniors and Why it’s Important to Avoid Ableism

What’s your first thought when you see a person in a wheelchair? Do you identify that person as less-than, someone in need of being fixed? Do you presume they need special treatment, as though a physical disability impacts intellect as well? How does your thinking shift to see someone standing upright, without the need for a wheelchair; would you think they were better-abled than the wheelchair-bound older adult?

These are tough questions that require honest answers if we’re to understand and respond accordingly to invisible disabilities and ableism.

What Exactly Is Ableism?

Ableism is described as “the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior.” It results in harmful stereotypes and misconceptions.

The Two Sides to the Disability Coin

Individuals with visible disabilities encounter ableism in a variety of ways: exclusion from places that are inaccessible, being spoken down to or asked intrusive questions, having to wait to use an accessible restroom stall while in use by somebody who could be using a standard stall, etc. Conversely, there are many disabilities that are not as easily visible (such as Alzheimer’s disease, hearing impairment, 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 receive any accommodations needed.

Regardless of whether it is a visible or invisible disability, there are steps we should all take to promote inclusion and equality:

  • 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 person, addressing a caregiver first. Speak directly to the individual, and if assistance with conversing is necessary, the caregiver can then step in. Don’t forget that the person is an adult and should always be spoken to as such.
  • Avoid trying to think for the individual 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 Radiant Health Services, we are dedicated to treating each individual we serve with dignity and respect. We can help someone you love with a full range of customized in-home care services which can include:

  • Help with walking and transfers
  • Companionship to brighten each day through conversations, games, activities, arts and crafts, physical fitness, and more
  • Running errands such as picking up prescriptions and grocery shopping
  • Transportation and accompaniment
  • Planning and preparing healthy meals and providing assistance with eating when needed
  • Discreet personal care support, for safe baths/showers, restroom use, getting dressed, etc.
  • Specialized care for chronic health needs, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
  • And so much more

Call Radiant Health Services at (240) 673-6377 or contact us online for additional details about our in-home care services in Greenbelt, MD and nearby communities, and to request a free of charge in-home consultation.

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