Relationships and carers

Gary Barling
People with physical disabilities can have fulfilling and long relationships. They can have relationships with people who do not have a disability. Sometimes it is hard for the person without a disability to accept there is a need for a carer. But carers can help the relationship. The carer must respect the couple's relationship. But it is also important for the couple to respect the carer. It helps when the carer and the couple talk to each other. They can talk about any problems they have. The person with a disability can also talk to their support agency.
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Gary Barling on 20/01/2012
woman staring into partners eyes

Relationships can be strong.

It is possible for people with physical disabilities to have fulfilling relationships. They may however need help from carers so that things don't become overwhelming. It is important there is mutual respect and open communication between the couple and the carer.

Relationships can be hard to manage for any two people. Relationships involving at least one person with a disability that is physical and profound can be even tougher. Help provided by carers is often needed to make things work well and to maintain a typical relationship. Despite the possible extra stresses, relationships can still be strong and lasting.

Outside support

It can be a difficult concession for the person without a disability to accept there is a need for personal support workers (carers). It is easy for the person with a disability to overlook this concern as they are used to having a carer in their life.

I have always required intensive help from carers to live independently. When I became part of a couple, the dynamics within my home changed. I found I wanted privacy when I had not wanted it before. I needed to consider my partner's feelings and look at her point of view.

Carers also need to become familiar with the new situation. A new relationship for the client changes the carer's working environment. As one carer told me As far as I know we are just expected to do our regular work. We are not trained to change with these new situations.


For carers, there are a number of things they can do to lessen their impact on the new relationship. They need to:

  • have and show respect for the partner and their lifestyle
  • allow the couple privacy
  • understand the partner is not another carer
  • understand they should not interfere with or judge the relationship.

The carer needs to be respectful and flexible in the way they work. It's a basic requirement for most jobs in this field. But it's not always so straightforward. I think the most basic principle is that carers be able to imagine the position of the new partner.

At the same time, the couple needs to appreciate the carer's position. The couple must have realistic expectations of what the carer can do within time constraints.

Carers need to be integrated into the lives of the person with the disability and their partner in a way where everyone is comfortable. The couple's dignity must be respected. The ideal is for there to be no stress on the relationship or on carers.


Communication needs to be open between the couple and carers so that carers understand the expectations of them. The carer should be given the chance to know and address reasonable grievances with their work.

I prefer to handle any potential problems myself. This is probably an individual thing. However, I have also learned that sometimes it is more constructive to raise concerns with a support agency. Clients should not hold back because they are worried they may get someone into trouble.

Readers comments (1)

Interesting article: would be interested though in hearing more specifics of your story - without getting too personal of course!

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