Caring for people with developmental disabilities

People with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other intellectual, and developmental disabilities are leading longer, healthier lives. Significant advances—from early diagnosis to healthcare management throughout their lives—are making this possible.

One of the most important things you can do as a caregiver is to make sure basic healthcare recommendations—a healthy diet, exercise and preventive health screenings—are part of the person’s overall healthcare plan. These essentials help avoid serious illness and stop or slow further decline in functioning.

More caregiving suggestions

  • Be empowering. Focus on what you and your family member with a disability can do. Celebrate milestones. Help the person be as independent and self-confident as possible.
  • Be an advocate. Caregivers who are effective advocates may be more successful at getting better service. Let others who are involved in caregiving know about any special conditions. Be familiar with the Americans With Disabilities Act, Family Medical Leave Act and other regulations.
  • Get support. Research caregiving and other resources available to you. Family members and friends can provide support and often want to help. Join a local or online support group. Look for groups that provide services, recreation and information for people with disabilities.
  • Be informed. Gather information about your family member’s condition and talk about issues with others involved in the person’s care. You make more knowledgeable health decisions and have a better understanding about any challenges.

What about the future?

As you age, you may have growing concerns about who’ll care for your loved one when you’re no longer able. Where will he or she live? Who’ll make sure his or her needs are met? How will all the services be paid?

The Administration on Aging suggests you take steps now to ease these worries. Make sure you and your family member receive all the benefits available to you through local, state and federal programs. This can lower your stress now and ease worries about the future.

Work with an agency that provides services to people with disabilities to find out about options for housing, home care support, transportation, financial aid, health, and other services. Start talking to an area aging agency to find out about services that you’ll qualify for as you get older that may help your loved one, too.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,; Administration on Aging,; wikiHow to do anything,