Avoiding Ableism: Undetectable Disabilities in Aging Adults

Senior woman in wheelchair talking with daughter and grandchildren
Avoid ableism when encountering invisible disabilities in aging adults!

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see someone in a wheelchair? Do you see 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 change 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 the questions we have to answer if we want to understand and confront invisible disabilities in aging adults and a mindset of ableism.

What Is Ableism?

Ableism is defined as “the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior.” It influences potentially negative misconceptions and stereotypes.

The Two Sides of the Disability Coin

People who live with visible disabilities experience ableism in many ways: exclusion from venues that are inaccessible, being spoken down to or asked invasive questions, being forced to wait to use an accessible restroom stall while in use by a person who could be using a standard stall, etc. Conversely, there are many disabilities in aging adults that aren’t as easily noticeable (for example, Alzheimer’s disease, hearing impairment, or a heart condition), accounting for up to 80% of the disabled population. These individuals may have their concerns minimized and need to fight harder to get any accommodations needed.

Whether a disability is noticeable or not, there are steps we can all take to promote equality and inclusion:

  • Never speak over or around the individual, addressing a caregiver first. Speak directly to the individual, and if help 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.
  • Treat everyone in the manner in which you would like to be treated. Look them in the eye. Say hello. Engage them in a conversation if they welcome the social interaction.
  • Avoid trying to think for the person or impose your help. Offer assistance in an open-ended manner if it seems needed, giving them the choice to let you know if they would like your help or not.

At JFS Care, we’re committed to giving the utmost respect and dignity to everyone we care for.  We can help someone you love with a comprehensive range of individualized in-home care services such as:

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

If you need home care services in Long Beach or the nearby areas, contact us online or at 213-383-2273 to learn more and to request a complimentary in-home consultation.