The amount of help and support you will need to provide for your friend or relative will vary hugely depending on their disability. Some people will require round-the-clock help with every element of day-to-day life. Others will just need a little extra support, but can manage most things independently.
In either case, the most crucial thing you can do as their carer is to try and put yourself in their shoes, and really understand what they are feeling at that moment. This can sometimes be difficult because the way they experience the world is likely to be quite different to you. If it is appropriate, ask them what help they need from you, and how they want you to provide this help. This can allow you to better understand what they might need.
You should aim to support the person you care for to do as much of every task themselves as they can, rather than just stepping in and doing things for them. This can sometimes mean everything takes a bit longer, but it is vital for developing and maintaining their skills, independence and self-esteem.
Some people with a learning disability or autism may find everyday tasks can upset them or make them anxious. For people who are oversensitive to touch and smell, for instance, having their hair washed can be a very uncomfortable experience. It can therefore help if you create an environment for them which is as calming as possible. This can include minimising bright or flashing lights, reducing background noise and avoiding strong smells. Try to keep a note of any particular triggers, such as a specific brand of shampoo or a certain temperature of bath water, so you know what to avoid in the future.
You may also find that the person you care for particularly struggles with change. One way to deal with this is to minimise any unnecessary changes in their life. Other carers of people with learning disabilities and autism have also found it helpful to make sure the person they care for has consistency, a set routine and clear expectations for each task. Others have recommended making a visual timetable for their day.
One way to help the person you care for deal with inevitable changes is something called ‘social stories’. These are short descriptions of the change that will be coming and why it is happening. They make the information you might want to convey more literal and concrete and remove any ambiguity around it. For more information about social stories, take a look at this guide from the National Autistic Society.
And for more specific advice about day-to-day tasks that you might need to provide help with, take a look at our guide ‘Helping someone with everyday tasks’.