In the U.S. 1 in 5 people have a disability. Of course, people with disabilities aren’t always born disabled. Many are diagnosed with debilitating diseases or experience injuries that lead to disability later in life. In fact, according to the Council for Disability Awareness, a little over 25 percent of today’s 20-year-olds will “become disabled before they retire.”
Whether you’re diagnosed with a chronic illness or injured in an accident, becoming disabled is a scary, life-changing event. There are so many unknowns that it can be difficult to know how to begin to get the answers you need.
For the newly disabled in need of guidance, here are a few tips:
Distance yourself from negativity
When you’re first diagnosed, you’ll probably be overcome with anxiety. You’ll wonder, how will this change my life? Will I be able to do the things I love again? Will things always be like this? And you’ll need all the positivity you can call forth to get through those tough days. There will be plenty of people feeling sorry for you, others lamenting the life you’ll never have, and still others giving their own (medically dubious) opinions about your condition. Do your best to block them out, and surround yourself with positivity, instead.
Look into home modification grants
If your disability affects your ability to get around your home, then you may need to make some home modifications—such as adding a wheelchair ramp or making a downstairs bathroom more accessible. The good news is you may not have to pay for all of these modifications out of your own pocket. As this article on home modification grants explains there are many organizations, such as the American Red Cross, that award funds for modifications to people with disabilities. When you apply you’ll need to demonstrate how you’ll use the funds and why you’re deserving.
Make the most of mobility aids
If your disability requires that you use a wheelchair or other mobility aid, don’t be embarrassed or ashamed. These devices are helping you achieve what you want to achieve, and that’s what matters most. If there’s something you don’t like about one of your mobility aids, whether it’s the color or the functionality, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or make improvements on your own.
Being disabled doesn’t mean you can’t be strong and healthy. One of the best things you can do for yourself is find ways to exercise. In its quick tips, Healthfinder.gov recommends 2.5 hours a week of aerobic exercise with strengthening exercises worked in twice a week. Of course, there will be days and weeks when you can’t achieve these levels of activity. And that’s ok. As the organization notes, “don’t give up. Start again tomorrow.” One thing to keep in mind when it comes to staying active: doing so will help you sleep better. This is a big deal, especially if you suffer from chronic pain. Overall, the better you sleep the better your physical and mental well-being will be.
Consider getting a service dog
There was a time when service dogs were associated, specifically, with acting as guide dogs for the visually impaired. But they’ve come a long way. And today, service animals are being trained to assist people with other physical disabilities and with chronic illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes. As this article notes, depending on your disability, a service dog may be able to help you get from place to place, remind you when to take your medication, or provide many other forms of assistance and will always offer steadfast companionship.
Being newly disabled means you’ll face new challenges and bigger obstacles. But it doesn’t mean you can’t live a great life. When you work to accept and adapt to your disability, you can begin to work toward finding happiness and health once again.
Title image via Pixabay by stevepb
Patricia Sarmiento is the founder of publichealthcorps.org and recommends the following helpful articles for individuals and families affected by disabilities: