Age of Disability Onset

This week, I performed an initial psychological evaluation for a 49-year-old female resident of a nearby nursing home. She has been quadriplegic, following a motor vehicle accident that she sustained in the 1990’s.

We spoke about the overwhelming sense of loss that she has experienced. I asked her what the single most difficult aspect of living with her limitations has been. Without hesitation, she responded that she no longer feels in control of her own life.

Although my disability is hidden to others, I can most definitely relate to what she shared. While normative to face the loss of physical functioning as we age, experiencing disability at a relatively younger age definitely has its own set of unique challenges.

Others quite often withdraw from those who face disabilities at relatively younger ages. After all, their simple presence powerfully heightens own our sense of overwhelming vulnerability.

It’s not accurate to think that those who encounter overwhelming health challenges at younger ages progress through uniform, unidirectional stages of grief and loss. Their loss continues to evolve, as new developmental stages are encountered.

Like others, those who are faced with earlier onset of disabilities are subject to the challenges and changes associated with the aging process.

I never disclosed my personal health challenges to this female resident. Nevertheless, she and I really do have a lot in common, despite our external differences.

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