Living with a disability : London Health

Living with a disability can be very difficult but charities and government organisations are working hard to improve access, funding and resources for disabled people in a bid to make life as stress free as possible. The articles below will explore the effects of having a disability and will offer information and advice about where you can go for practical help and advice, emotional support and any additional information you may require.

Effects of disability

Disability affects everyone differently but often those that have grown up with a disability cope better than those that suddenly find themselves disabled in some capacity. Common effects of a disability may include:

  • Mental health issues including anxiety and depression
  • Loss of freedom and independence
  • Frustration and anger at having to rely on other people
  • Practical problems including transport, choice of activities, accessing buildings
  • Unemployment
  • Problems with learning and academic study
  • Loss of self-esteem and confidence, especially in social situations

Different disabilities can affect people in different ways; someone with learning difficulties, for example, may be affected by their disability differently to somebody with a physical disability.

Physical disabilities

Often, people with physical disabilities feel frustrated because they cannot do the activities that people without physical disabilities can; playing sports and doing exercise is much more difficult, for example and getting out and about can be difficult because it often requires special transport and the help of people who are willing to assist the individual. Having a physical disability also changes the way a person lives their life. They may find their life changes radically following an incident or illness that leaves them with a physical disability; activities they had previously included as part of their daily routine, such as brushing their teeth, washing and doing household chores suddenly become a huge effort and many people require another person's help to carry out these activities.

Having a physical disability also impacts upon the home environment; people who use wheelchairs, for example, need homes that have ramps, low kitchen units, wide doorways and corridors and a stair lift (if they live in a house, rather than a bungalow).

Mental disabilities

Having a disability that affects a person's mental capacity means that they may require additional assistance at school, college, in the workplace or at home; the level of assistance they need will depend on the individual case and the severity of the disability. People with mental disabilities may feel frustrated because they may not be able to communicate and portray what they are feeling and they may be frustrated that they can't grasp new concepts and learn new information as quickly as others. People with mental disabilities may also find it more difficult to find employment and this may lead to the development of mental health issues such as depression and a lack of self-confidence.

Support for disabled people

Living with a disability is difficult but there are many people out there who can help to make life that little bit easier.

Emotional support

Many charities offer telephone and group support services. Telephone lines are usually open 24 hours a day and offer confidential advice; you will not be required to give your name and you can tell the person on the other end of the phone as much or as little as you want to. It is important to share worries and concerns with other people because they tend to mount up and can contribute to conditions such as depression, stress and anxiety; charities that offer these services include the Samaritans, Childline and the Disability Living Foundation. If you want to talk to somebody face to face, see your GP, who will be able to arrange counselling for you, which will enable you to talk to a trained professional about your problems and provide you with somebody to talk to who is completely impartial and removed from the situation you are in.

If you are caring for a person with a disability, this can also be a very challenging role and may leave you feeling physically and mentally drained. If you are struggling to cope or you simply need a little extra help, contact your local authority and discuss additional care for your loved one with social services. If you need advice, emotional support or information about caring you can contact the charity Carers UK free of charge 24 hours a day.

Financial support

The government offers financial support to disabled people; this helps to cover the cost of additional equipment and medical care and helps to replace money that would be earned through employment. You can consult the DirectGov website for details of all allowances and financial benefits for disabled people.

Currently, people with disabilities may be entitled to payments that will help with living costs (living allowance), tax reductions, incapacity benefit and attendance allowance (this is only for people aged over 65).

Support when looking for work

The government offers additional support to disabled people that are looking for employment; trained advisors can help people to find work, arrange training and further education programmes and offer advice on interview techniques and CVs. People that are looking for work are also entitled to financial benefits while they look for employment.

Support at college and school

Children with both physical and mental disabilities may require additional support at school; most disabled children attend mainstream schools and this can be a daunting prospect for both the child and their parents. However, new government initiatives have been introduced to make schools more accessible for disabled children and improve the level of support available for these children. Children are now allocated key workers, who work alongside the child to help them with academic work, liaise with social services and help to sort out any practical issues that may arise, such as arranging appointments or arranging suitable transport, for example. Children are encouraged to form a strong relationship with their key worker and the key worker will act as a friend and an emotional support, as well as offering help with school or college work.

Practical help and mobility aids

There are a huge number of different disabilities so finding ways to help everybody can be difficult; consequently, a multi-dimensional approach to care and provision is required. When a person is diagnosed with a disability they will be cared for by a team of professionals that may be made up of several different individuals. The team may include specialist doctors and nurses, occupational health workers, social workers and physiotherapists, for example. The main goal is to help people maintain as much independence as possible, while providing them with all the medical and practical support they need. Doctors and nurses will take care of the medical side of the care, while social workers and occupational health professionals will ensure the patient has the necessary facilities, resources and mobility devices to enable them to live safely in their home environment; if the patient has a severe disability and is unable to live alone, social workers can arrange for additional care or sort out alternative living arrangements.

There are a range of different mobility aids, which can help people to get out and about and maintain a degree of independence. Devices range from motorised scooters and wheelchairs to walking frames and sticks. Many charities, including Whizz-Kidz, Steps and Motability, help out with funding for specialist equipment and you can contact them directly if you want to find out more; you can also discuss mobility aids with your GP, occupational health professionals, social services or any other members of your care team. There are also a number of other aids which can help to make the home more accessible and safer. These include bath chairs, hoists and lifts, specially designed kitchen appliances, stair lifts and special chairs and beds.

People with conditions such as deafness and blindness will also be given support to help them maintain their independence. Their home may be fitted with specialist equipment and they may be given a guide dog to help them. Charities such as Support Dogs and Vitalise can also help and offer advice about aids for visually impaired and deaf people.

Getting out and about

Transport can be a nightmare for people with a disability, as public transport often causes problems with access and space and some people find it uncomfortable to be around large numbers of people; getting a lift is not always possible and people may not be able to go long distances if they are using a wheelchair or find walking difficult. The NHS offers many local services, which include minibuses and local ambulance services that are designed to take people to certain places; you can ask social services for details of these services.

If you struggle to walk for long periods of time but enjoy getting out in the fresh air, visit your local shopmobility branch. Shopmobility offers wheelchairs and motorised scooters free of charge and the services are available in most towns; all you have to do is turn up and return the chair or scooter when you have finished using it.

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