By Guest Bloggers Dr. Patricia Wright, Ph.D., MPH and National Director of Autism Services at Easter Seals, and Rachel Talen, Public Relations Coordinator, Easter Seals
We often think of spouses, parents or adult children as caregivers, but not siblings. However, if you have a brother or sister with a disability (and there are millions who do), this important role is likely in your future. Through its new Siblings Study, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs (an independent research firm), Easter Seals wanted to learn more about siblings who act as caregivers to their brothers or sisters who have disabilities, and how their lives compare to those who do not have a sibling with a disability.
Siblings can bring much joy to life — those who care for their siblings with a disability who responded to our study said their sibling has had a positive impact on their quality of life, helping them develop patience, understanding and compassion, as well as helping to provide perspective. These sorts of feelings were reported more by people who had siblings with disabilities than those who did not.
The number of adult siblings in the study who reported that they are already the primary caregiver for their siblings with a disability was 23 percent. That’s a shocking statistic, especially when many primary caregivers report they don’t get emotional, physical or financial help from friends and family. Nearly a third of the study respondents who were not already the primary caregiver said they expect to assume this role in the future.
Sibling relationships are often our longest-lasting relationships, so we hope that this new infographic and the Siblings Study will arm sibling caregivers with the information they need and encourage them to self-identify as caregivers so they can start thinking more seriously about their siblings’ future care.
Study sponsor and Easter Seals corporate partner MassMutual can help with financial planning when it comes to caring for a loved one with a disability. MassMutual is committed to serving people living with disabilities through its exclusive SpecialCare program, an innovative solution that gives families with individuals with special needs access to information, specialists and financial strategies that can help improve their quality of life.
Easter Seals will use this study’s findings to raise awareness of and advocate for the life-long services and supports families and caregivers desperately need. Siblings can link to the study to find various resources and support groups available to them – supports that can help them better care for their sibling while juggling their own needs and those of other family members. Be sure to check out the findings of the study to learn where you can go if you need services and supports. And if someone you know is caring for a loved one with a disability, please share the infographic with them, too.
Patricia Wright, Ph.D., MPH has a passion for education and advocacy and has dedicated her career to ensuring that individuals with autism are fully-included in society. Her personal mission is to offer the support that makes it possible for people with autism to lead meaningful, happy and productive lives. As Easter Seals National Director of Autism Services, Wright leads autism programs for Easter Seals, one of the nation’s largest provider of services for individuals with autism across the life span. Wright earned her Ph.D. in education from the University of Hawaii in 2006. She also has a master’s of public health from the University of Hawaii, and a master’s degree in special education from San Francisco State University. Wright earned her bachelor’s degree in education at Central Washington University.