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A man in a wheelchair and two people walking behind him

What is a physical disability?
A physical disability can affect a person’s mobility, stamina and dexterity. Every physical disability is unique and affects everyone differently, therefore each individual with a physical disability will experience different symptoms.

Physical disabilities can result in someone having reduced ability, and make daily tasks more challenging or even impossible to complete. Individuals with a physical disability may find it difficult to walk, stand, sit, move their limbs or control certain muscles.

What causes a physical disability?
The causes of a physical disability can vary, but can include:

  • Hereditary physical disability - Some physical disabilities may be inherited and present from birth, these are known as hereditary physical disabilities. Hereditary physical disabilities can be caused by gene variants that are passed down from family member to family member. 
  • Congenital physical disability - A congenital physical disability can be present at or before birth. They can be the result of genetic inheritance or mutation but also caused during pregnancy or at the point of birth, for example, if an individual is deprived of oxygen during birth.
  • Acquired physical disability - Someone can acquire a physical disability at any point in their life. Physical disabilities can be the result of infections, diseases, an accident, medical conditions - such as a stroke or dementia - or a brain injury.

What are the types and causes of physical disabilities?

There are two main categories of physical disabilities; musculoskeletal disabilities and neuromusculoskeletal disabilities. A musculoskeletal physical disability affects a person’s joints, bones and muscles whereas a neuromusculoskeletal physical disability can be caused by a disease, disorder or degeneration that affects the nervous system. 

There are quite a few different common causes of physical disabilities, these include:

  • Acquired brain injury - An acquired brain injury occurs when the brain is damaged after birth. Someone may be suffering from an acquired brain injury after a stroke, head injury, lack of oxygen to the brain or a disease. People with an acquired brain injury often have difficulty completing daily activities independently as they may struggle to move certain parts of their bodies.
  • Spina bifida - Spina bifida is caused when there is a problem during the development of a baby’s spinal cord. This results in gaps in the spine, which causes spinal nerves to be exposed, which can cause paralysis to the lower body.
  • Epilepsy - Epilepsy is a neurological condition that causes a person to have seizures. Frequency, severity and type of seizures vary from person to person, but some seizures can leave a person without the ability to move different body parts permanently or temporarily.
  • Spinal cord injury - If someone has been in an accident or suffered from an infection, they may have damage to their spinal cord. This damage can cause weakness or complete loss of muscle sensory and function in the body.
  • Cerebral palsy - Cerebral palsy is caused when the brain is damaged by a group of non-progressive disorders. This damage to the brain can cause impairment of motor function, affecting movement and coordination.

How can a physical disability affect a person’s life?
As the type and severity of a person’s physical disability differ, the difficulties a person may experience also differs. Each individual with a physical disability is unique, which means each individual will require a different level of support. 
For example, someone with a mild physical disability may only need support with getting around or basic tasks. Someone with more complex needs because of their physical disability may need support with more parts of their lives, including everyday tasks such as personal care, cleaning, and cooking.
At Lifeways we believe that people should not be defined by labels. One person is not the same as someone else with the same physical disability.

What is supported living for people with a physical disability?
Supported living for people with a physical disability allows people to live as independently as possible. Individuals can enjoy the independence of living in their own home but with the reassurance of extra support when it’s needed. The amount of support provided depends on the individuals’ unique needs - it could just be a few hours a week, through to 24-7. There are a number of different benefits of support living, from greater independence to tailored support and care. 

Read our blog to find out more about what supported living is.

How do Lifeways support people with a physical disability?
Many of Lifeways’ 1,500 services support adults from the age of 18 and upwards who live with physical disabilities. At Lifeways, we understand that individuals with a physical disability may find daily life more challenging, but we also believe that a physical disability should never hold someone back from achieving their hopes, dreams and aspirations - they may just need a little extra support. Read about all the wonderful things Jason has achieved since moving into our supported living housing.

At Lifeways, we make sure that the people we support feel understood and are encouraged to live the most meaningful life possible. We are proud to help and support people to lead more fulfilling lives and help the people in our care achieve the most amazing things. For example, Michelle, has been able to move into her own home located in the area she grew up in, with the support of Lifeways. 

We provide different physical disability support options depending on the level of support needed, and this includes supported living and residential care. Many of our locations are specially adapted to support people to live as independently as they can with wide door openings, accessible kitchen areas and adapted wet rooms as well as assistive technology, for example, video entry systems, fire and fall detection sensors or smart devices and appliances that can be controlled by a person’s voice or a tablet. This helps make life easier and safer while giving someone with a physical disability more freedom while feeling less dependent on others. Simple home changes like changing the height of light switches or door handles can also make life easier for people with a physical disability that use a wheelchair.

Who delivers support with physical disabilities at Lifeways’ services?
Around 11,000 people work for Lifeways, with many of our support teams specially trained to support individuals living with physical disabilities. At Lifeways, we believe everyone deserves the best care and support possible so, alongside our initial comprehensive induction programme, we deliver training that’s either focused on an individual or is specific to a service. This deeper level of training makes sure our support teams are fully equipped with all the tools they need to effectively support people.

As much as training is important, choosing passionate, caring people is equally important. Read how Lifeways support workers, Dave, Kirsty and Steven, have formed close-knit bonds with each individual – and carved out new careers for themselves.

Further training, learning and support.
At Lifeways, ongoing training for colleagues who work around individuals with physical disabilities is of key importance which is why training doesn’t stop there. For ongoing learning and development, every Lifeways support colleague has access to a secure online comprehensive learning platform, My Lifeways Learning. The online platform means that colleagues can access learning to keep up to date as people’s needs change, and best practice is updated as well as for their personal development. 

People with a physical disability can have poorer physical and mental health than other people and may find it harder to access healthcare. That’s why our support colleagues are trained to be able to recognise potential signs and symptoms of deteriorating health so they can seek early medical intervention and ensure people get any reasonable adjustments they may need to access health services. We are proud of our service but don’t just take our word for it, read what people we support have said about us. 

How we can help

At Lifeways, we’re proud to support people who live with a range of complex conditions, including learning disabilities, autism, acquired brain injuries, physical disabilities and mental health conditions. Everything we do is tailored to the unique needs of each individual.
If you want to find out more information or have any questions about support for people living with physical disabilities, please get in touch and our friendly team will be happy to help.

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