Category Archives: In the News

We all have different abilities, so why are some of us, “disabled” and others not?

We all have different abilities, so why do some have the “disabled” label and others not? Maybe we should start by defining a disability. Going to the internet we get the following definition of a disability: “a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities.”

According to this definition many of us are disabled. We all have limitations. Can you throw a ball as well as a pitcher? Can you run a four minute mile or a marathon?

Yes, I am comparing us to the best here. It might be better to say a disability is a physical or mental condition that prevents a person from performing in life as well as most others.

If we look at conditions individually we are hard pressed to find any single condition that uniformly disables people.

Take blindness for example. There are many who see nothing at all and function well in society. There are musicians, speakers, and even a Governor who cannot see.

Then maybe we should ask why those with a condition that disables most people doesn’t disable them? . This is the question I am exploring by interviewing such people in Disability Freedom.

Some of the things I have found are:

  • An attitude of being “able.”: This is apparent in how some who were born blind just went ahead and did what they wanted. I remember the story of a three-year old blind girl getting stuck in a tree. She got up in the tree by herself, but like many three-year olds she could not figure out how to get back down.
  • Parental support: Children who overcome significant limitations can usually point to one or more parent who was there to insure that opportunities were found for the child to do things. They would see to it that the child was taught the necessary adaptive skills to do school work.
  • Options to do things: Lewis Braille had to invent the writing code that bears his name. He didn’t invent it so he could take notes. He invented it so Napoleon could send messages at night. However, Lewis was blind and lived with other blind children. His braille writing system soon caught on and the rest is history.
  • Community support: Lewis Braille had been sent to a school for blind boys. This school had been set up and run by adults. He (like many other blind boys) learned to play the organ. That was a common occupation for blind persons in his day.
  • Social supports: having people around when we need help is universally important. Parents ensure that their children have the opportunity to play with other children. Schools and clubs provide these contacts.

All this is find for children, but how do adults who develop a condition that might disable them in some way continue to function?

The biggest disabling factor is attitude. The Rep. John Boehner who says he has both a bad back and anxiety clearly does not want to stop being in the public eye. He has the idea that he is not “disabled.” He is able to compensate. What sort of abilities does it take to get elected and stay elected? Clearly, he is able to read people and influence them. Many others tried to get nominated and elected but he is the one in office. He could be a politician working from a wheelchair the same way FDR did.

How many of us have exceptional abilities that allow us to function in spite of a disabling condition?

The resource of a parent is lost once we become adults. Some of us replace our parents with mentors. That role has to be sought out and agreed upon by both people. Mentors are a new concept in our society. I would have done things differently if I had a mentor earlier in my medical career. My failing eyesight might not have been so much of a problem. I would have been doing a lot of administrative things that I avoided early in my career. The lack of those experiences prevented me from getting interviews for medical administrative roles.

Options to do things differently: We live in a time when each day brings new options. A Few months ago I added an app to my smart phone that allows me to take a printed page or a sign and have my phone read it to me. Soon my phone will also be able to read US money to me. I know about these because I have been able to gain membership in a supportive blind community.

The third way a child overcomes a disability: Community support systems are available to those of us who are adults. There are vocational rehabilitation services in all states. They are limited in that they are funded primarily to put people into jobs. For many people that is the least of their problems when a disability hits. There whole social support system crumbles.

For those no longer seeking to work there are limited funds available for their rehabilitation. Rehab. Services can help people learn to get around or use adaptive software on a computer.

There is no formal way to recreate a social support system. Your family will always exist. However, how many of your family members know anything about living with a disability, especially the one you have?

Where did we get our support system originally? I met my wife at a summer job while I was in school. Most of us met our life partners either at school or work. Now there are on-line dating services. Do they help to find those who will support someone with a disability? This weekend I met three people who found someone to marry that way. Two of them are blind.

There are organizations of persons with almost any kind of disability. They are both in the community and on-line. Facebook has many such groups and a review of the posts shows that Facebookers are supportive of each other.

So a Disability is a condition you blame for not being able to function. Not being able to function results from so much more than one condition.

As you can see learning to live with a disability is complicated. That is why I focus my life coaching upon those with disabilities.

As All Ways, Seek Joy,

  1. Comments and sharing my blogs are welcome. Who do you know who is struggling with their decreased abilities?

The Hospice Cure?

People in hospice are living longer than expected, according to a recent Washington Post article. Why is that? It’s because for-profit hospice companies are recruiting less ill patients, or patients not really dying. In my experience as a geriatrician, many chronically ill people have lost most incentives to keep them alive.

Why might Hospice Cure a dying person?

In my experience as a geriatrician, I saw that seriously ill patients often became isolated. As we become ill we cut back on our social contacts. With a cold or flu that is certainly wise. However, after heart attack or stroke there is no reason to avoid social contact. Yes it might take more effort, but can yield benefits that make it worth it. Have you ever gone to a party feeling bad only to enjoy yourself and forget your ills?

As we get older our bodies stiffen up. We are aware of more aches and pains. Most people past 60 have some osteoarthritis but for some people it doesn’t cause problems. Doctors can’t explain this. I have seen very deformed knees that did not ache and seemingly normal knees that were crippling. It seems that some people with osteoarthritis have adapted very well and others not as well. Those who adapted live full lives, the others are shut up in their illnesses.

What are the benefits or remaining active?

The main benefit of an active life is the self-image of health. When I can shop and do other things by using a bus I don’t feel the loss of driving. When I get to the gym I am among others who are enjoying strengthening their bodies.

There is a large social benefit from getting out. I go to a book group regularly. The others bring their printed books. I recall what I heard while listening to the book and my thoughts about the book. In the time I have attended this group I have made several friends. If I had let the difficulty of transportation and low vision stop me, I would have missed out on the friendships.

Those who are shut in by illness are cut off from friends and family.В When people recognize that they are dying, they enter hospice, which brings renewed support. The hospice teams are available in person and by phone. They have a network of supporters who will sit with a person and do chores.

Hospice changes the focus from Cure to Care. This was the biggest change I noted when I became a Geriatrician. No longer could I expect to cure an illness. In fact I often had to decide which symptom to address, recognizing that other illnesses would be left to run their courses.

Our society is very isolating. We no longer live in multigenerational groups. Families are separated by distance. Many divorced or widowed people live alone with personal contacts limited to what they can organize.В If someone misses a group gathering, soon they will be forgotten.В The news of their entry into hospice may bring renewed contacts.

Humans are social animals. Infants who don’t get physical contact with care givers soon die. Kids are always in contact with each other. They wrestle and roll together on the floor. Adults too need physical contact. Hugs are usually welcomed and enjoyed. Even a hand shake can enhance the experience of meeting a stranger. We can take stock of someone we meet by the strength of the handshake. Physical labor makes one’s hand strong and well-muscled. Confidence is communicated by willingness and taking the lead.

Thus the social supports and contacts Hospice Care provides might be just the Cure a person needs.

As All Ways, Seek Joy,

Coach Dr. Dave,

Author of the forthcoming book: “Recipes for Lemonade (thriving through disability): Dr. Dave

S Personal Recipe”

Disability Interventions, when?

When someone recognizes their disability and is open about it as Capt. William Swanson the most recent Medal of Honor winner, it is easy to know that assistance will be appreciated. When we see someone struggling to do what had been in easy task, deciding to intervene is harder. Often we see a friend or family member misinterpreting what is said because they are hard of hearing. The question then becomes should I correct them or answer for them?

We all struggle to do some things. At times the struggle gets us down. In frustration we may give up. This morning I was trying to pay some bills. I first went online to use my bank’s electronic system. After several tries in which I could not find the company I was going to pay in the bank’s list, I shouted a few angry words. I pulled out the checkbook. There were no more checks. I pulled out the credit card and filled in the information on the bill. One down and one to go! I was on a roll. Then I found the next bill did not have the option to pay by credit card. I went back online and eventually succeeded. With struggles like this I realize why it had taken me so long to pay these bills.

Paying bills is one of many chores that people who become disabled struggle with. I recall many instances where people either made poor decisions or failed to pay bills. It was the consequence that brought the problem to the family’s attention. Lights would get turned off, and the person would turn to family or friends to get them turned back on. Someone was alerted to a problem. They were willing to assist. They set up an alternative method for getting the bills paid.

In the absence of a crisis when should you intervene in someone else’s affairs?

This month I’m looking at the issue of intervening in someone else’s affairs because they are disabled. In the issue of driving we worry about safety. Safety is also an issue in cooking and doing some personal chores like bathing. There is embarrassment when someone misreads or mishears something. Often they or the other party will realize there’s miscommunication and try another way. People don’t like being told they can’t do things. We saw this in the responses to one of my posts on Facebook. When I asked what you do when others say you can’t, several people said they just try harder. There is a degree of anger and frustration when we do try harder. This came out when I was trying to pay bills today. Do you risk becoming the focus of that anger by suggesting you step in to help the disabled person?

In my next blog I will explore some ways we can step in. In the meantime if you have some additional thoughts on how we might decide when to step in please share them. I am always open to new ideas and perspectives. If you know others who would like to ponder this question please get them involved.

As All Ways, Seek Joy,

Coach Dr. Dave

Author of the forthcoming book, “recipes for lemonade (thriving through disability): Dr. Dave’s personal recipe “

Loneliness: how to overcome Loneliness

Everyone feels lonely some time, but how can we stop feeling lonely? Researchers investigated this in a study recently reported on by NBC news. The question was does loneliness make us seek things or do things make us lonely? They found for some it works both ways, but not for all. Do you use shopping as a way to combat loneliness?

Loneliness is surprisingly common, with 20% of Americans saying their lonely at any one time. About one third suffer from chronic loneliness. Loneliness increases stress high blood pressure and possibly premature death. So how can we combat loneliness?

In this study they divided people’s approach to material items into three groups. There were those who liked having things for the sake of the things themselves. Second group like things for the social status they brought. And the third group never felt they could have enough stuff.

Those who like things for the sake of the items tended to be happier and not as lonely. For them getting new things did not make them lonelier nor did loneliness seem to make them want more stuff.

For the second group that sought items for social status shopping brought only short-term gains their increase in social status was short livedВ and they soon felt lonely again. В This seem to be a recurrent spiral. Loneliness made them seek things. Things eventually made them lonely again.

The third group seemВ to beВ stuck in loneliness. Buying things did not make them happier. And being unhappy seem to cause them to be alone with the things. They could neither have enough stuff or enough friends.

How can you become less lonely?

We can think of several ways to be less lonely. Shopping was the example in this study. But we can think of the lonely man sitting in a bar. Or “all those lonely people” sitting in a church in the Beatles song. These may be attempts to get ourselves out among other people but are they really satisfying our need?

What lonely people seek this connection with others. While watching a movie in a theater may seem more connected than watching at home is it really satisfying our need? Isn’t what we really need, getting together with those people and talking about how we feel about the movie and how the movie made us feel?

It would seem that the solution to loneliness is in connecting with people and sharing with people. Not in just being around people. How do you connect with others?

As always feel free to comment and share this blog.

As All Ways, Seek Joy

coach Dr. Dave

author of the upcoming book “Recipes for Lemonade (Thriving through Disability): Dr. Dave’s personal recipe”

Finally, Obama will make Americans healthier

For much of his presidency, president Obama has been focusing on providing health care for Americans. As a physician I know that saving one life at a time does little for making Americans healthier Obama care will just make Health care more lucrative. . This was the main outcome of Medicare and Medicaid, which started in the 1960’s.

In the 20th century Americans and others living in developed countries saw great increases in life expectancy. In 1900 the average life expectancy was in the mid-40’s, now it is in the mid-70s. Most of this has come from public health efforts and better nutrition. The public health at efforts included indoor plumbing and public sanitation. These we have come to expect wherever we go. Pub. Health efforts in food safety have also helped. We often hear of foodborne epidemics and recalls of certain food products.

However over the 20th century certain illnesses have become more common. When I went to school nobody had asthma. Now if your child doesn’t have asthma, several of their friends will. The increase in childhood asthma has been linked to air pollution. There are numerous examples of this throughout the world. But when air pollution increases we all suffer. How has air pollution affected you?

Doctors have long known that air pollution causes many health problems. That is why air pollution is now monitored and alerts given when it gets bad. When air pollution gets bad it is not just children that suffer. Air pollution irritates our eyes and makes it harder to see. Heart attacks and heart related deaths increase along with those of asthma and chronic lung disease. These illnesses cause absences from school and work. America and other industrial countries lose a lot in productivity.

Most of the pollution we suffer comes from the burning of fossil fuels. The burning of fossil fuels has allowed us to live better. But who hasn’t noticed the exhaust from a car or truck? Air pollution also comes from the burning of coal to produce electricity. Thus electric cars will pollute less only of their electricity comes from clean sources.

Thus, America will be healthier not because of Obama care but because of the environmental initiatives he took this week, the press has made much of the global warming consequences of these actions. However, a much quicker benefit will be to the health of Americans. We will be able to breathe easier in our cities and towns.

As All Ways, Seek Joy,

coach Dr. Dave

author of the forthcoming book, “recipes for lemonade(thriving through disability ): Dr. Dave’s personal recipe”

WW enjoy health and life