About...Dealing With Disability
Courtesy of MetLife Insurance and the U.S. Dept. of Education
This Life AdviceSM pamphlet about Dealing with Disability was produced by the MetLife Consumer Education Center with assistance from the U.S. Department of Education. Editorial services provided by Meredith Custom Publishing.
The media and the medical community all tout the wonders of a healthy, active lifestyle at any age. And even though the "golden years" may bring some physical changes, most people-young and old-have come to expect they will live long, healthy and unencumbered lives. Consequently, when you or someone you love is faced with a disabling illness or injury, you are taken by surprise. Having to deal with a disability is not something most people anticipate.
Reactions Run the Gamut
When people realize that a disability, their own or a loved one's, is going to be permanent, they may express a variety of reactions from shock to fear to grief to anger. There is no "right" way to respond. People generally react according to what the disability means to them and just how much it is going to affect or change their lives. Generally speaking, those who accept and make adjustments for their new reality will have an easier time coping. If you've developed a disability, acknowledge your limitations, but concentrate on what you can do and how you can adapt to do even more. Set realistic goals, and approach life as a challenge, not an effort.
A disability often requires changes in how a person lives, works, travels or spends free time. If you've developed a disability, you may need physical or occupational therapy. You may also have to make adjustments to your daily routine. Perhaps you have to find a new living arrangement or change jobs or hobbies. Maybe you need to make structural changes to your home. An occupational therapist can help you with these changes. If your doctor agrees, ask him or her to recommend one.
Keep in mind that community services and household help may make the difference that enables you to continue living at home. Examples of help that's available are:
There are also a host of products available to help with daily living activities. For more information, contact
If your home requires major structural changes or remodeling, contact the following organizations for information or assistance:
Architectural and Transportation Barriers
Rural area home improvement and purchase loans:Farmers Home Administration
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
14th and Independence Avenues
Washington, DC 20250
Home improvement loans:
The Assisted, Elderly and Handicapped Program
Rental assistance and housing programs:
Special Advisor on the Handicapped
Home Away from Home
If you can no longer manage in your own home, you may have to consider a new living arrangement. Medical and social service professionals can offer advice on whether you need skilled or nonskilled daily care and what type of environment (an assisted living, rehabilitation or continuing care facility) may be best for you. They may also be able to provide recommendations on specific living facilities.
Before making such an important decision, you may wish to discuss the options with family and friends. Ask them to help you check out several facilities by researching them and then visiting. At each facility, ask to see the results of the latest state inspection. This is public information, and facilities are required to post it. Also, the local health department can tell you whether the home has ever received an Intent to Deny License because of sanitary or fire violations or patient care inadequacies. For a list of accredited facilities, write to American Health Care Association, 1201 L St., NW, Washington, DC 20005.
Sources of Financial Support
Many people with disabilities are able to continue to work and support themselves. Often, simple accommodations in the workplace are all that is needed. You may require a flexible work schedule or special equipment to help you perform your job. Talk to your employer about specific problems, or seek advice from an occupational therapist. If you are unable to continue in your present job, a vocational rehabilitation counselor may be able to help arrange training and other services to help you prepare for an alternative line of work. Each state has a vocational rehabilitation agency (and some states have separate agencies for persons who are blind) to provide these services. These agencies typically have a number of local offices in each state. The Job Accommodation Network of the President's Committee on Employment of Persons with Disabilities at 1-800/526-7234 offers technical assistance primarily to employees.
Sometimes a disability prevents a person from working at all.
If you are fortunate enough to have disability income insurance, it can help to make up for lost wages. Some employers provide disability insurance as a benefit, or you can purchase a private policy. Disability insurance is designed to replace a portion of your income when an illness or injury prevents you from working. Talk to your benefits representative at work or your insurance representative about specific disability coverages.
If your disability is due to illness or injury resulting from your job, you may be eligible for workers' compensation. Again, talk to your benefits representative.
If you're under 65 and your earnings are lost or reduced because of certain disabilities, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI generally makes monthly payments to people who are aged, disabled or blind and who have limited income and resources. You may be eligible for SSI even if you have never worked. To determine your eligibility, contact your local Social Security office.
Medicare and Medicaid are two of the primary sources of federal medical assistance for people with disabilities. Most people think of Medicare as providing health coverage to those who are over 65. But it is also available to people under 65 who have been entitled to receive Social Security disability benefits for a total of 24 months or who have severe kidney disease. The program is not based on income and is available regardless of financial need.
Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides health services to people with low incomes. The eligibility requirements vary by state. Generally, you may be eligible for Medicaid if you are receiving welfare benefits or SSI or are blind or disabled.
For more information about Medicare and Medicaid, contact your local Social Security office, your local or state welfare office, or write to Health Care Financing Administration, Inquiries Staff, 7500 Security Blvd., Baltimore, MD 21244-1850.
A federal law, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, prohibits discrimination against otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities in programs and activities conducted or funded by the federal goverment. These activities include housing, education and transportation. Section 504 requires the provision of "reasonable accommodations" to allow persons with disabilities to participate in the federally conducted or assisted activities.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA was enacted in 1990 to protect people with disabilities. This federal law generally forbids discrimination in employment, transportation, public accommodations, telecommunications and services provided by state and local goverments. The U.S. Department of Education supports regional technical assistance centers to provide information about the ADA and its implementation.These centers may be reached toll free at 1-800/949-4232. Your call will be automatically routed to the center in your area.
Generally, the protection provided by the ADA extends to:
Interacting with People with Disabilities
When you're around someone who has a disability, be relaxed and talk about mutual interests. It's okay to talk about the disability if it comes up, but don't pry. Some other helpful hints include:
Some Advice for Family and Friends
Those who are close to someone with a disability may experience many of the same feelings their loved ones have-anger, frustration, fear, sorrow and even guilt. If you are part of the day-to-day life of a person who has a disability, your emotional as well as physical support can be an invaluable source of strength. Here are some ways to help:
Millions of Americans have some type of disability, and many more-their families and friends-are also touched by the challenges of dealing with disability. While a disability may be a fact of life, it should not be the focus of a person's existence. The key to coping is knowing what resources are out there and finding the people, programs and organizations that can help you. Take control of your life now, and seek the help you need to live life to the fullest.
Making Life More Livable:
The First Whole Rehab Catalog:
Clearinghouse on Disability Information
National Council on Disability
National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC)
Helen Keller National Center for the Deaf/Blind
National Information Center for Children and
If you're a veteran with a disability, contact your nearest Department of Veterans Affairs field office, or write to Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, DC 20420.
Pamphlets from the federal government
The quarterly Consumer Information Center Catalog lists more than 200 helpful federal publications. For your free copy write Consumer Information Catalog, Pueblo, CO 81009, call 719/948-4000 or find the catalog on the Net
Related Life AdviceSM pamphlets
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This pamphlet, as well as any recommended reading and reference materials mentioned, is for general informational purposes only. It is issued as a public service and is not a substitute for obtaining professional advice from a qualified person, firm or corporation. Consult the appropriate professional advisor for more complete and up-to-the-minute information.
Metropolitan Life Insurance Company