Dealing with the elderly and persons with disabilities is tough, indeed. You need to exercise utmost patience, in order to earn their trust. Most senior citizens and differently-abled folks would insist that they don’t need any help in doing things. But if you feel that they do, try doing things more with actions rather than just words. Silence and a few kind words or words of encouragement would go a long way, especially when you are caring for someone who might have difficulties moving about. This is especially the case when you’re taking care of a relative or friend who is a senior citizen or a PWD (person with disabilities).
Watch and learn. Don’t jump into anything without first trying to analyze the situation, and getting to know the specific things that a senior citizen or PWD needs. The preferences they might have with regard to food, drink, transportation, hygiene and other seemingly mundane or trivial things would let you get to know them better and faster.
Do unto others what you would want others to do unto you. Having empathy works really well to your advantage. Most other people would think the elderly or PWDs are nuisances. But if you treat them with respect and as equals, they will do the same to you. Treat them in the same way you would want to be treated if you were in their position.
Remember they’re people. Some elderly folk or PWDs might not be too mobile. Some might even not be able to communicate with you directly. But even if they can’t always move or speak, this doesn’t mean that they can’t hear or understand you. Be careful with what you say to avoid offending them. This would keep them from becoming more at ease with you.
Show that you care, but don’t be patronizing. If they want to do things on their own, then let them. Be sure, however, to be there to lend a hand in case it doesn’t work out. You should remind your elderly or differently abled friend that you can be called on if they need assistance. This allows them to be at ease with your presence, and accept you as an essential part of their life rather than a nuisance.
Respect personal space. As much as our differently-abled friends and elderly relatives might need our help, they might also need their personal space. While you always want to be there to help in times of need, you might already be encroaching on private time or private space. So be sure you ask the other person if they still feel comfortable with you around. In most cases, the elderly and PWDs would prefer to be left to do their own thing, and will just call for help when this is needed.
In the end, always remember that differences between people might sometimes result in misunderstandings. But if you choose to cooperate and treat each other diplomatically, then the differences, whether in age or physical ability, would no longer matter.