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November 30, 2016

Celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2016

In 1992, the United Nations founded the “International Day of Persons with Disabilities,” celebrated annually on December 3rd, around the world.

In 1992, the United Nations founded the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, celebrated annually on December 3rd, around the world.

The theme for 2016’s International Day is, “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want,” which draws attention to the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals that strive to create a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities.

What’s inspiring about this year’s theme is that the “17 goals” don’t stem from merely those with disabilities, but they are literally the U.N.’s initiatives for all people around the world.

The goals range from ending hunger to quality education to gender equality to climate action, and so on. Truly, what this year’s theme says is that people with disabilities are… well… just people after all. That’s an empowering, inclusive world view.

See, among the foremost reasons those with disabilities have been historically disenfranchised around the globe is because their needs – read that, our needs, among those of us with disabilities – have been viewed as somehow different. Of course, there’s never truly been a difference. Those of us who have disabilities have always needed, wanted and deserved what everyone else needs, wants and deserves – that is, education, family, community and career, to name a few. Yet, over modern decades, in modern societies, our supposed needs have been noted as “different,” and in that well-meaning but skewed societal view, we’ve consequently been treated differently. For example, we were given “equal access” to architectural barriers, which often really meant a separate entrance, as opposed to “universal access,” where everyone has the same architectural access, walking, wheeling or otherwise.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

However, this year, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the U.N. has put a stake in the ground. The U.N. has proclaimed that the needs of those with disabilities are the needs of all people – there is no difference. And, let us hope that the U.N.’s 17 goals for mankind come to fruition because then we will simply have the International Day of People, a day that celebrates true equality for all.

November 23, 2016

Disability and Illness: Looking at the Positive Side

disability and illness

disability and illnessWhen it comes to disability and illness, no one wants or wishes it.

Yet, for many of us, they are a part of life. And, there within that phrase – it’s part of life – resides a key perspective. Yes, disability and illness can be challenging, harrowing and difficult. Yet, may I be bold enough to ask, might they also be life-affirming?

As one who’s had a severe disability for 45 years, works among those with disability and illness, and is immersed in disability culture, I’ve had unique insight into all of the ways disability and illness impact our lives – including for the better. I know it sounds counter-intuitive that disability and illness can positively impact our lives, but they truly can.

While it’s very clear how we’re adversely affected by disability and illness, the rewards are equally poignant. Disability and illness can bring astounding levels of humility and perspective to our lives, and allow us to sometimes see a kinder world, to experience the best in others, to realize what’s truly important. Yes, disability and illness can shine a light on that which is right in our lives, not just the tough stuff.

Roll up to a door in a mobility device in public, and it’s amazing how strangers scramble to open the door in kindness. See who sits by your bedside when you’re ill and experience true love. Realize your own astounding strength when facing challenges and grow in empowerment. Indeed, adversity opens us up to awe-inspiring aspects of life that we may not otherwise experience.

It’s understandable to see negatives in disability and illness; however, life is not one-dimensional. Disability and illness are a part of life. In fact, disability and illness prove to be many parts of our lives.Yes, difficult at times. Other times, indifferent. But, let us not overlook the positives, as well – that is, what disability and illness teach us, show us, and gift us.

Helen Keller wrote, “It has been said that life has treated me harshly; and sometimes I have complained in my heart because many pleasures of human experience have been withheld from me…if much has been denied me, much, very much, has been given me.

Indeed, for all of us, regardless of plight, when we look at the other side of the coin, it, too, shows how much we’ve been given.

November 17, 2016

Honoring Caregivers during National Family Caregivers month

Family caregiver month

 

In honoring caregivers, let us not only be thankful for the care we may receive, but likewise be thankful for those who care.

Family caregivers know this first hand. It is said that we never realize how loved we are until times of need. There’s truth to that – a wonderful truth. However, there’s a second truth: we don’t know how deeply we can love until we give of ourselves to someone in need.

When adversity strikes our health, it’s astounding how so many caregivers rise in our most vulnerable times, with grace and dignity that doesn’t just physically help us, but also emotionally heals us. It can be as simple as a neighbor who brings a home-cooked meal every eve, or as complex as a spouse who must help bathe us. Sometimes it’s a paid, skilled professional, with a heart of gold, who goes beyond a job description to address not just the patient, but also the person. Indeed, caregivers are diverse, varying based on the situation.

Yet, they share one common trait: they put one in need before oneself. Caregivers don’t just care – they give of themselves, selflessly, in an authentic way that reveals the purest humanity.

The philosopher, Laozi, said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” So many caregivers exhibit such courage, where they give of themselves in even the most harrowing of circumstances, often in ways no one ever sees or knows. It’s the husband who helps his wife bathe and dress for church, where he does her hair and makeup so perfectly that Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t deter her Sunday’s best. It’s the mother who was up all night consoling her son who doesn’t sleep well due to autism, then goes to work in the morning, smiling. And, it’s the adult son who ensures every aspect of his mother’s care, all while caring for his own family. These are the types of caregivers who love and give and serve with little recognition, and dare to love deeply, with courage, sometimes alone in their efforts.family caregivers month

As we honor caregivers, let us not only be thankful for the care we ourselves, receive, but likewise be thankful for those who care. Let us acknowledge the selflessness that caregivers exhibit simply because they love deeply, with humanity and courage, where the reciprocity of caregiving ultimately gives to us all.

November 15, 2016

5 Caregiving Tips to Help You Navigate the Holidays (and Beyond)

In honor of all caregivers out there, SpinLife hopes you will find these caregiving tips helpful.

When you’re stepping up to help a friend or loved one on a health journey, the holidays can become an extra-stressful time. In addition to your already-jammed to-do list, being a caregiver during the holidays demands a good chunk of extra time – as well as taking more of a financial and emotional toll.Thanksgiving Word Cloud Website Banner - Female cupped hands cradled by male hands outstretched with a white 'Thanksgiving' word floating above and relevant word cloud on a stone effect background

 

I came up with some resources for you: insights, ideas and caregiving tips designed to help you navigate the holidays and “keep your merry up” this year.

1. Stay Connected

In the article “How words have the power to heal” by CNNHealth.com contributor, Amanda Enayati, she describes how blogging helped save her life by providing her with a therapeutic outlet to share her experience. If you’re facing a less-than-merry holiday season because of an overloaded to-do list, it helps to share your experience, and embrace the support and positive attitudes of your friends.

 

Stay in touch, don’t cut yourself off, and be open to any assistance they want to give to help ease your holiday stress. Having a strong, supportive network is as important for you as it is to the person for whom you’re caring.

 

2. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

The importance of a strong network of family and friends, even during the healthiest of times, is well established. So, there’s nothing wrong with delegating work and setting a community of support in motion on tasks like meal planning, child- and pet care during appointments, transportation, tackling paperwork, household chores and more. Your supporters want to get involved, but sometimes, they just don’t know how to help. That’s why they’ll actually welcome your specific requests.

 

More suggestions: help you shop, decorate, address greeting cards, make cookies or meals, shovel the walk at home, read emails and holiday cards to your friend or loved one, visit them when you can’t…is that enough to start with?

 

3. Keep Surfing

The more you know, the more prepared you will be. The internet has a wealth of information, online resources and caregiving tips. You’ll find excellent advice and insights on information-rich sites like Today’s Caregiver, Medicare, the Caregiver Action Network and many more.

 

4. Join a Support Group for Caregivers

This is optional, but potentially powerful. Attend a session to see if you like the group’s dynamics, and see how you feel before and after the meeting. To find more information and caregiver groups in your area, check out Daily Strength.

 thanksgiving card design with cute hand print turkeys. I'm thankful for you.

5. Step Back and Appreciate Yourself

Even though your automatic response to the question “How are you doing?” is “I’m good,” you know it’s not always true. Caregiving isn’t easy. It takes extra time, money and emotional capital to help an aging parent, disabled friend or someone who’s recovering from illness or surgery. So if you can’t give yourself a pat on the back, please accept a big one from us.

 

What you do is priceless, and you’re just giving it away, asking nothing in return, not even gas money. For that, my friend, you rock. We celebrate you this month and always, and we hope the tips, suggestions and online resources in this article help you keep all the joyous holiday spirit you deserve.

About the Author:

Sona Mehring is the founder of CaringBridge, the first and most widely used global nonprofit social network dedicated to helping family and friends communicate during a health journey through the use of personal websites. She founded CaringBridge in 1997 when the Internet was just becoming a household name, making her one of the first to recognize that the Internet could be a powerful tool in helping people connect, share and rally support during a health journey. Follow Sona on Twitter @gogosona.

November 9, 2016

5 easy tips to avoid falls: Reduce your personal fall risk!

avoid falls

 

“What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?”

According to Greek Mythology, this is the classic riddle delivered by the Sphinx. According to the myth, if any person who was asked this riddle could not answer, they were thrown down against the rocks and killed by the Sphinx.  When this riddle was posed to Oedipus Rex, he considered his words carefully and declared the answer in one word; Man.

His reasoning was as a baby, a human goes about on all fours (“four legs in the morning” – morning being childhood).   Then he learns to walk, which he does well into adulthood (“two legs in the afternoon” – afternoon being adulthood).  Finally, advanced age requires him to use a cane to support himself (“three legs in the evening” – evening being old age).

It is the evening I wish to discuss in this post.

It is so important to avoid falls. Statistically 1 in 4 aging adults will be injured in a fall this year. Falls prevention is such a hot topic that the federal government NCOA has devoted a whole program strictly centered on fall prevention.

brava-walker avoid falls

Brava Walker

As we age, our once strong bodies sometimes need additional support to continue to be active.  Using canes, walkers or crutches becomes commonplace as balance or coordination skills become affected. Making certain our home environments are adapted to our new skill level is important.  Here are 5 easy to accomplish tips to ensure your environment helps you avoid falls.

  1. First thing to remember is to remove unnecessary clutter in your home.  Removing unnecessary clutter from walkways will help prevent unwanted tripping over objects that you meant to throw away years ago.  Yes we all have them! Clear the pathways of stacks of books and magazines, extra furniture and scatter rugs.
  2. Next thing is to install grab bars in and around your bathing areas.  Nothing feels quite like a hot bath after a long day, so ensure you can traverse these wet, slick areas by installing grab bars everywhere you may need a handhold.  Apply non-slip appliques in the bottom of your tub for extra traction, or use a rubberized bath mat with suction cups.
  3. Make certain you can see objects around you properly to avoid falls.  Knowing where things are supposed to be in your home is not enough.  Be certain you have the proper lighting in your home to see clearly so obstacles won’t become obstacles to you! Add nightlights that come on automatically as night falls- so you won’t!
  4. Have dual handrails installed on stairs- not just on one side, but on both. While climbing stairs we can                                                                    become fatigued more quickly than walking
    avoid falls

    Sugar Cane

    on a level plane.  Dual handrails will help to steady your gait and provide additional support for the body. Avoid falls as you avoid carrying things up and down the stairs as much as you possibly can. Countless falls happen every year as people negotiate the stairs with hands full.

  5. Finally, review your medications side effects.  If a medicine tells you plainly on the bottle, “May cause dizziness”, avoid physical activity for a couple of hours after you take that medication.  Instead, pick up a book or read your favorite blog to enhance your mind! Always use your walker or cane if you do find that your medication is causing dizziness issues, and do speak to your doctor about any side effects you are experiencing. Your doctor certainly doesn’t want to increase your fall risk either!

What happened to Oedipus?  Once he answered the riddle of the Sphinx he was free to pass and enjoy life.  All of us here at SpinLife wish the same for you, and hope that using these 5 simple tips will prevent a fall that could do serious damage to your “Oedipus Rex!”