- Focus on Secondary Condition Prevention: Pain is a Major Secondary Condition Among People with Spinal Cord Injury
- Amputation and Secondary Conditions: Physical Activity Can Reduce Secondary Conditions in Youths With Limb Differences
- Focus on Secondary Condition Prevention: Promoting Enabling and Empowering Fitness Environments to Increase Exercise and Improve Health for People with Multiple Sclerosis
- Focus on Secondary Condition Prevention: Non-Traditional Exercise as a Way of Preventing Secondary Conditions - Part II
- Focus on Secondary Condition Prevention
- Defining Secondary Conditions for People with Disabilities
- Focus on Secondary Condition Prevention: Universal Design and Accessibility Issues that Impact Health and Function for All
- Focus on Secondary Condition Prevention: Decrease Secondary Condition Risk by Celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day with Exercise
- Focus on Secondary Condition Prevention: Osteoporosis Risk and Low Bone Mineral Density for People with Disabilities
- Secondary Condition Prevention: Building Your Own "Health Empowerment Zone"
- No More Sores: Preventing Pressure Sores for People with SCI
- Exercise Reduces Secondary Conditions in Children with Cerebral Palsy
- Focus on Secondary Condition Prevention: Lower Limb Amputation and Long-Term Prosthesis Use
|Dorothy E. Nary, M.A., NIH Doctoral Trainee, The University of Kansas Gerontology Center|
Question: What are some basic things people with disabilities can do to improve their health and decrease their risk of developing secondary conditions?
Response: People with disabilities should take care of themselves in general by getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods, exercising, and not smoking. The most important thing people with disabilities should do is adopt a different frame of mind regarding taking charge of their own health. Traditionally, we think health care providers are in charge of our health, however, we need to change our thinking and view health care providers as consultants. We need to be in charge of directing our own health care. People with disabilities have the most information and experience about their own bodies and are the most experienced in monitoring whether changes have occurred in their health status that may require medical attention.
In describing her experience with empowerment related to health care, Dot mentioned she has learned over her lifespan that although we are raised to believe that whatever the doctor tells us is always the correct advice, people with disabilities need to be active in informing the doctor about their past health status and how it may have changed throughout their life. Her basic advice is 'You can't just give control of your health to someone else'.
- It empowers her because she is able to refer to past medical records when conveying her health information to the new provider to ensure accuracy of her reports;
- The provider becomes aware that she has a strong interest in her health. Because our society is so mobile, it may be difficult to keep track of these records unless the consumer takes it upon him or herself to keep track of the records as you move. 'Nobody is going to take our health as seriously as ourselves. Secondary conditions impact our general health.'
Question: How can people with disabilities best convey to their health care provider what their needs are in terms of warning signs for secondary conditions?
Response: Dot recommends that as people with disabilities begin to practice record keeping and vigilance in monitoring changes in their bodies, they will begin to build their reputation with health care providers as a reliable reporter, so the provider can know when to take action. For example, when Dot begins to feel signs or symptoms associated with urinary problems, she has developed a reputation with her urologist that allows for a quicker response to the symptoms she is experiencing because she has recognized those symptoms in the past. Dot recommends that people with disabilities learn about the types of secondary conditions they may be at risk of developing and schedule time within a daily routine to check for warning signs associated with certain conditions. For example, she recommends that people who are at high risk for developing pressure sores check the skin on their feet when they are putting on their socks in the morning. Those who are at risk of constipation or diarrhea should keep a food diary so they can track what may be causing bowel problems. People at risk for developing urinary tract infections (UTI) should track their amount of fluid intake which can be a risk factor for UTI development. Dot said that if assuming health care responsibility is difficult due to a stressful situation or to certain types of disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, recruiting a support person, such as a family member or friend, is a great way to get help but still be empowered. We should always assume that each person is able to participate in his or her own health care decision-making and self-determination to some degree.
For other articles written by Dot Nary, please click on the following links
Physical Activity, Mobility Equipment, and Access
Variety (in Physical Activity) is the Spice of Life!
Next month, this column will provide resources for monitoring one's health and empowering oneself to improve health by learning basic skills and record keeping techniques.
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