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Intervention and accompaniment in the ageing process of people with disabilities and their families

Over the last few decades, advances in medicine combined with healthier diets and lifestyles have led to a steady increase in the life expectancy of the entire population. This remarkable growth in longevity has also reached people with disabilities, giving rise to an unknown scenario, where we are faced with people who used to die relatively young and who now generally come to enjoy advanced ages.

The ageing process of these people affects, in addition to the group itself, their families, the technical personnel who carry out their work activities among this population and the official institutions responsible for the social welfare of citizens.

Each individual has his or her own way of aging

We know that ageing and the way we age are characterised by a series of biomedical, psychological and social conditions, as a result of which it could be said that there are as many ways of ageing as there are individuals going through this ageing process.  And this situation occurs regardless of whether or not a person reaches the age of 60-65, with a certain disability.

It is also known that successful aging means active aging, where there are developmental opportunities for a healthy, participatory and safe life,... understanding it as one more cycle of personal growth, in which the importance of participation in the social reality and the maintenance of interpersonal relations with the community is recognized.

The triple challenge of ageing with a disability

So, on the one hand, we must recognise that many older people face a double challenge; that of their own ageing and the changes that this brings with it, and the negative view that our society still has of old age. This means that people with disabilities who are getting older face a third obstacle, disability itself, which can put them in an unequal position in relation to the rest of the citizens.

On the other hand, the majority of these people have already "experienced" and assumed as normal, there are consequences/limitations both physical, psychological and social because their lives are full of these adverse situations they have had to face. And surely, that strength will be their best weapon to cope with their aging process.

We could therefore say that the differential aspect of these changes in this population is centred on the time of their appearance and the way in which they express, manifest and/or face them.

For this reason it is essential that those of us who are support agents and work with people with disabilities and are in the process of ageing are capable of adapting our intervention, accompaniment and support to these changes and to the new needs of the person.

An intervention and accompaniment that develops strategies that favour, among other aspects: a sense of economic and housing security that avoids the psychosocial impact derived from an abrupt interruption of the work activity; a planning before any change of housing; an adequate confrontation of the stress that can entail the changes in this stage; an identification of environmental situations that are positive or attend to strategies that favour the understanding of grief.

These principles of action should promote social inclusion and the relationship with the environment, self-determination and personal development without forgetting at any time that they are people with full rights.

We can't forget the families

And if we talk about people with disabilities, we are talking about their families, because the processes of ageing affect both the person and their family.

People with disabilities in the process of ageing often receive support from their relatives who are also ageing. We must offer the necessary support so that the latter are able to adapt to the changes associated with the ageing of their family and themselves.

In short, actions which are capable of adapting to the changes and needs of people in this stage of life because all this will undoubtedly result in an improvement in well-being, making this process a natural accompaniment for people with disabilities and their families with the aim of maintaining as far as possible the type of life they have led up to now.

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