Lesson Learned – Self- Responsibility & Accountability in Health: A Commentary

Jan 28, 2011
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As the temperature falls below zero, my body stiffens, and there are days when I feel like I am walking with 2 x 4’s attached to my legs because of a lack of flexibility.   I am in my 30’s.  My mobility function is in its prime now.

A recent study by Chappell et al. notes “The major chronic conditions of an aging society include: cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, stroke, diabetes, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, muscular-skeletal conditions including arthritis and osteoporosis, mental health conditions such as dementia and depression, and blindness and visual impairment.”[i]

As the winter season descends further upon us, I chose to re-investigate and write about what I know from my stiffened limbs.  As I get older, moving and walking will get harder, if I am not proactive about mobility maintenance now.

Chappell’s study also documents a recognized fact for people with disabilities, “Physical health does decline with age; … and Mobility [disability] is particularly important because the ability to ambulate is critical to so many activities that allow us to be independent.[ii]

Mobility is critical to independence.  I have always strived to be independent with one major exception.   Up until the age of 20, I refused to take on the responsibility, exercise, and implement other strategies that I needed to preserve my mobility and function.  I sat through classes that reviewed healthy eating and the benefits of exercise.  I heard the information, research, and statistics but failed to apply the teaching.  I did not adopt a sense of responsibility until conditions like arthritis befell me.

Over the last several years, I have read studies about the impact of aging on people with disabilities.  One such study notes, “Lack of optimal physical activity may contribute to the development of secondary conditions associated with CP such as chronic pain, fatigue, and osteoporosis.”[iii]

I can validate the findings of such studies.  At the age of 35, I have arthritis and muscular-skeletal conditions.  I have experienced serious pain and fatigue.  When I started to pay attention to what I should be doing to maintain my health and mobility, I was already a walking statistic.   It took experiencing pain and new diagnoses for me to get serious about my health.

Factors such as a lack of accessibility, resources, and transportation are significant and legitimate barriers to health for people with disabilities.  I have faced these barriers. I also fell radically short in motivation and accountability.

I did not believe and was in denial that conditions like arthritis or other factors of aging that we all face, were going to happen to me as early as 20 and beyond.   I was going to be the exception; and if something did happen, I would deal with ______ when it took place.

Experience is a powerful teacher.  Prevention should have had a higher level of priority for me.  Now that preventative versus reactive action is my focus because of raw experience, I encourage women with disabilities to do what I did not.  Explore and investigate existing health resources for women with disabilities.  Examples include:

1. Mobile Women:

www.mobilewomen.org

2. ORCHID: Health and Wellness for Women with Disabilities

From the NC Office on Disability and Health

http://www.fpg.unc.edu/~ncodh/orchid/pages/index.cfm

3. Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD)
Sponsored by Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX.

http://www.bcm.tmc.edu/crowd

4. Healthytransitionsny.org

Sponsored by SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse NY.

Attention to health and wellness issues for women with disabilities is increasing, but the responsibility and accountability for health and preventative action starts with the individual and should start before the age of 20 to 30.  In my case, a personal and difficult lesson learned.


[i] Chappell NL, Cooke HA. 2010. Age Related Disabilities – Aging and Quality of Life. In: JH Stone, M Blouin, editors. International Encyclopedia of Rehabilitation. Available online: http://cirrie.buffalo.edu/encyclopedia/en/article/189/

[ii] Chappell NL, Cooke HA. 2010. Age Related Disabilities – Aging and Quality of Life. In: JH Stone, M Blouin, editors. International Encyclopedia of Rehabilitation. Available online: http://cirrie.buffalo.edu/encyclopedia/en/article/189/

[iii] Fowler E, Kolobe T, Damiano D, Thorpe D, Morgan D, Brunstrom J, Coster W, Henderson R, Pitetti K, Rimmer J, Rose J, Stevenson R. Promotion of Physical Fitness and Prevention of Secondary Conditions for Children with Cerebral Palsy: Section on Pediatrics Research Summit Proceedings. Physical Therapy 2007 Nov;87(11):1495-510. http://www.semel.ucla.edu/tarjan/publication/journal-article/fowler/2007/promotion-physical-fitness-prevention-secondary-condi

Author: Kerry