A disability is not necessarily a thing you can see. They don’t exist within a hearing aid, prosthetic limb, walking stick, a wheelchair or a buggy but they do represent a condition someone has which will challenge their way of life. In later years physical disability can become more and more apparent in some cases due to the increasing visibility of equipment like walking sticks etc but hidden disabilities shouldn’t be overlooked only by what the eye can see. A majority of cases are chronic and last for a lifetime in so much they cannot be cured. Just because a person from the outside seems to be coping does not guarantee that all is well elsewhere.
Assumptions based on physical appearance do lead to situations in which people with hidden disabilities are at risk of being left without the required support needed to improve wellbeing. In fact, an elderly person’s confidence to go out and about may indeed rely on a strong support network, close friends or relatives who will understand the individual’s vulnerabilities. Feeling less strong physically and mentally due to an underlying invisible illness is common in the older generations. There are those who may well be be anxious about getting ‘caught out’ or struggling in public unable to cope leading to embarrassment and loss of dignity.
Hidden Disabilities have a varied spectrum of severity with implications for general health while many are linked with a physical diagnosis.
Individuals may experience some of the following examples of hidden disability throughout their later years:
- Neurological Conditions: Altering Brain Function
These include: Autism, ADHD, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia.
Perhaps the early stages of Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Motor Neurone disease
- Hearing Loss
- Visual Impairment
- Back Pain
- Fibromyalgia – Chronic pain over the whole body
- Chronic Fatigue
- IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Crohn’s Disease
The following pages could be useful if you know someone with a hidden disability:
Age Concern Colchester and NE Essex will be able to help you with practical matters surrounding hidden disability. Our Advisers can help with a broad range of enquiries and we also have strong networks of partner agencies we can call upon should you need to access other forms of assistance and support.
Wearing the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower discreetly indicates to people around you including staff, colleagues and health professionals that you may need additional support, help or a little more time.
The Blue Badge scheme helps you park closer to your destination if you’re disabled.