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12 Principles for Living Well with a Chronic Illness or Disability

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12 Principles for Living Well with a Chronic Illness or Disability

Before I get into specific home accessibility tips, I want to share some of the most basic lessons for living well regardless of your temporary or permanent situation. Life is all about choices and I’m convinced that if you or your loved one choose to follow these basic principles you’ll feel better, have more control, and get more enjoyment out of your life.

  1. Keep balance in your life. Prioritize, eliminate, consolidate, and streamline activities in all aspects of your life.

  2. Take care of yourself. Be sensible about how you spend your time and energy. Do the things that are most important to you and to your family. Try to eliminate unnecessary or difficult tasks. Give yourself permission to rest. Make compromises and remove the words “I should” from your vocabulary.

  3. Pace your activities. Try to break an activity down into a series of smaller tasks. Rest before you become exhausted and if need be, enlist the help of others.

  4. Eat a healthy diet. Do not skip meals. Carry trail mix, nuts, and/or fresh fruit with you. Eat a healthy snack and avoid the temptation to grab a candy bar with hollow calories and little nutritional value.

  5. Arrange your home for your convenience. Sometimes this means putting handrails or grab bars in strategic locations to help you walk from room to room or placing a chair halfway down a long hallway so you can stop to rest. Sometimes it means purchasing duplicate cleaning supplies for both upstairs and downstairs, or kitchen, bath and laundry room, so you do not have to spend excess energy going back and forth. Only you know what this means for you.

  6. Ask for help when you need it. Take advantage of products, services, and people that are available. When you need something or someone to help you, don’t look at it as giving in, instead, look at it as making intelligent decisions that will make your life easier and safer. Besides asking for help gives others the pleasure of doing a good deed. (And, you know how good you feel when you do something for someone else.)

  7. Use technology. New technology is created everyday that may makes it easier for you to do what you want to do. Remote controlled devices and cordless phones save steps. Speakerphones, voice mail, and wireless intercoms can be used to save time and energy. Computers are good for keeping records, keeping a journal, and writing letters. A smartphone can keep you connected and synchronizes with your computer to help you keep track of people, appointments, and your schedule all in one place. An Internet connection can expand your horizons, whether doing research on your condition or providing opportunities to communicate with others. Keep abreast of technological changes and make full use of every option helpful to you.

  8. Use labor-saving devices. There are many labor-saving devices available to make almost any task easier. For example:  Reachers come in various lengths, weights, and means of operation; find the styles that work for you in various situations (reaching cans on a shelf, picking something up off the floor, etc.). Timers, magnifiers, organizers, special telephones, and light switch extenders are just a few of the many products that may make everyday tasks easier for you to accomplish.

  9. Learn all you can about your condition. Research books at the library and online sources for information on your condition, as well as agencies and organizations that can help you to meet your personal life challenges. Visit Websites such as www.Sharecare.com to find answers to your health-related questions by health experts — neurologists, physiatrists, orthopedists, rheumatologists, radiologists, nurses, occupational, physical, and speech therapists, dietitians, and more.

  10. Consider joining a support group. You are not alone! There are others who have walked a similar path before you — learn from them by attending a support group that focuses on your specific limitation or disability. To find an agency or support group near you, ask your doctor or get a list of agencies from your local library or United Way. You might also contact a local hospital or clinic to see if they offer coping-type support groups for people with chronic illness or those who are going through life-altering changes. Look for Websites such as www.PatientsLikeMe.com where you will find an online community of people with various disabilities sharing support and encouragement.

  11. Enlist the aid of a physical, occupational, or rehabilitation therapist. Ask your doctor or hospital rehabilitation department about a referral to an occupational or physical therapist and you’ll learn about which assistive products would be most helpful to you. Be honest about your abilities and goals so that the assessment and recommendations they make will offer the most benefit for you.

  12. Contact your local independent living center (ILC). Every community in the US is part of a national network of more than 500 community-based, non-profit independent living centers (ILC) that serve people of all ages and disabilities and their families.  ILC’s provide information and referral to community services, offer advocacy training and peer support groups, and teach independent living skills.  The following are a few examples of their many services:

  • Assist you in finding out about disability services in your community

  • Connect you with others to advocate for changes in the law or rules

  • Help you hire and manage personal care attendants

  • Put you in contact with people who have faced challenges similar to your own

  • Most centers have a lending library of adaptive gadgets and devices you may try for a while at no cost. When you find what works for you, they can use their vast computer database of companies and manufacturers that make these products and help you order what you need.

Your local library, hospital, senior center, United Way office, or your state, county, Catholic, Lutheran, or Jewish social services agency should be able to assist you in finding the nearest ILC. For a national directory of Independent Living Centers, contact the National Council on Independent Living. Additional resources are found in my book, Home Accessibility: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier available at a library or bookstore near you or from Amazon.com.

For “11 Tips for Staying Independent” visit my Website, www.MakingLifeEasier.com. While there, look for more tips, products, coping strategies, and inspiration for living life well despite limitations.

©2012 Meeting Life’s Challenges, LLC         www.MakingLifeEasier.com
For reprint permission contact Shelley@MakingLifeEasier.com


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