This week marked International Day of Persons with Disabilities, an annual campaign which promotes the rights and well-being of people with disabilities. More than 1 billion of the global population have a disability.
In America, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 has improved the lives of disabled people across the country, and has improved access to buildings, transportation, and employment. However, equal access to healthcare still remains a challenge for disabled people, mainly because people with severe functional disabilities use healthcare services more frequently than other groups. Currently, the annual healthcare cost for people with disabilities is approximately $400 billion.
What is a Disability?
“Disability” is an umbrella term that encompasses impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions that may affect someone’s quality of life.
- Impairment – a problem in body function or structure
- Activity limitation – difficulty executing manual tasks
- Participation restriction – difficulty with social activities
Almost 53 million Americans live with a disability. U.S. adults are affected by the following functional disabilities:
- Mobility disability -13% of disabled people have difficulty walking or climbing stairs
- Cognition disability – 10.6% of disabled people have difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- Independent living disability – 6.5% of disabled people have difficulty running errands alone such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping
- Vision disability – 4.6% of disabled people are completely or partially blind
- Self-care disability – 3.6% of disabled people have difficulty bathing or dressing up
A severe disability may limit three or more functional capacities, such as mobility, communication, self-care, self-direction, interpersonal skills, work tolerance, or work skills.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) people with disabilities are more likely to have poor overall health and to have limited access to adequate healthcare, and are less likely to be physically active.
How can people with disabilities improve their health?
People with disabilities often have unique needs, especially related to healthcare. Many may require a team of providers to ensure they receive optimal care. It is important for people with disabilities and their caregivers to be aware of health problems related to their disability, and how to treat them. In order to achieve optimum health, those with disabilities should:
- Keep physically active
- Follow a healthy diet
- Avoid too much time in the sun
- Schedule regular check ups with a doctor
- Avoid smoking
- Take medication prescribed on a routine basis
- Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation
- Make sure one has easy access to caregivers’ or family members’ contact details in case of emergency
- Practice stress relieving activities
- Connect with a doctor as soon as possible, should a health concern arise
Almost everyone will face or has faced hardships at one time or another in their life. But for people with disabilities, barriers are more frequent and have greater impact. In today’s modern world, society’s understanding of how we recognize a disability continues to improve significantly .
Healthcare itself continues to make strides to cater to the needs of people with disabilities. Telemedicine based care offers people with disabilities easy access to treatment from the comfort of their home. Even prescriptions, if needed, can be provided with remote prescribing.
If you or someone you care for has a disability, there are many things you can do to make sure you receive the best possible treatment from your doctor. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Keep track of how you or your loved one feels, and connect with a doctor when not feeling well
- Talk openly with your doctor about any health concerns
- Find a doctor that has experience managing yours or your loved one’s disability
- Think about your questions and health concerns before you connect with your doctor so that you are prepared
- Share all your health records with your doctor
- Write down, or have someone write down for you, what is recommended by your doctor
If you or a loved one has a disability, our doctors are available for you, with whom you can connect 24/7 from the comfort of your home.
Author: Simitha Singh Rambiritch