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Living Well with Disability Means Good Healthcare, Social Support, Safety and Activity
By Nancy Kennedy


Having a disability, of any kind, does not mean that a person is not healthy. It is possible, and in fact essential, to live the healthiest life you can, and to get the healthcare that you need. That means healthcare that provides for you in a holistic way, including, but not limited to, any health problems related to the disability. In this space, the Guide to Good Health offers some helpful tips on living your best life.

Getting Good Healthcare

  • It is ideal to have a consistent, comfortable relationship with a PCP who knows you well, is familiar with your individual needs and is easy for you to talk to. You have a right to this and if you do not feel at ease, talk to him about this, or find a new doctor.
  • Be your own advocate: you know your body best.
  • If you are going to see a new physician, call first to find out about access to the facility – are there ramps and elevators? What is the parking situation – do they have valets? Let the office know ahead of time if you have special needs.
  • Does the office have the right equipment for you, such as an accessible exam table?
  • Prepare for your visit by making a list of questions and concerns. Make a copy for the doctor.
  • Sometimes, even with preparation, it is difficult to recall everything that the doctor tells you. If you can, take a friend or relative to be a second set of ears. Write down the doctor’s answers.
  • Persons with disabilities often have difficulty accessing specialty services including gynecologists and dentists. The challenges associated with these services can be daunting, but you should not neglect your health because of them. Again, be your own advocate and insist that you are accommodated in whatever way is necessary.

Maintaining Mental and Emotional Well-Being

  • A person with a disability may find that it is difficult to participate in social events, and as a result, may become socially isolated. Stay in touch with family and friends and let them know if you are feeling lonely, sad, anxious or unusually tired. Learn to ask for what you need.
  • Having a regular routine gives order to the days and reduces stress.
  • Your environment has a significant impact on your emotions. Keep up the care of your home so that you can feel relaxed and comfortable; a messy environment is a source of added stress.
  • Depression is a common illness, and a very treatable one. Tell a friend and your physician if you are feeling hopeless or having thoughts of self-harm. There is help available. If these thoughts are urgent, call 911 or go to the nearest ER.

Protecting Yourself from Abuse

  • People with disabilities are at a much higher risk for abuse, violence and victimization, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, and neglect. Being verbally attacked or humiliated are forms of abuse.
  • Most often, the abusive person is someone known to you – a family member, caregiver, partner or neighbor. If you feel you are being abused, or if you feel uncomfortable with someone, tell a trusted person or person in authority.
  • If the abuse is immediate and you feel threatened, call 911.
  • You can also call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE
  • Keep in mind that abuse is NEVER acceptable and is not your fault.

Staying Physically Fit

  • Everybody needs exercise. Physical activity has countless benefits for people of all ages, sizes and abilities. Being inactive is a risk factor for heart disease and other medical conditions.
  • If you are not certain about the type or amount of physical activity that is right for you, consult your PCP or a physical therapist.
  • If you are starting a new fitness program, start slowly and don’t overdo it.
  • Aerobic activity helps your heart, lungs and mental health and improves energy, while muscle strengthening makes you stronger and more able to perform activities and avoid injuries.

People with disabilities sometimes have a harder time getting and staying healthy than people without disabilities, but it is essential to make good decisions for yourself regarding your health and well-being. Anyone can improve their health, stay healthy and lead a fulfilling life.

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