Should I Go On Disability?

Should I go on disability because of my PD?

There is obviously no universal or even best answer to this question. Each individual must come to a conclusion best fitting unique needs and circumstances. However, there are some very common concerns that each person should at least consider during the decision making process.

First, and most obvious, is the issue of standard of living. Disability income is real income but it can never match your current salary. It might be necessary to allow yourself some transition time in order to adjust financial obligations to a reduced income. This may mean selling cars or homes to reduce loan obligations or it may entail a thorough search of local resources to assist individuals on a fixed income. Disability need not mean extreme financial stress if the process is well-planned.

Second, is a disability consideration arising out of a mood disorder or anxiety? Research has begun to show that mental health and quality of life issues account for a great deal of the burden PD brings. Depression and anxiety disorders tend to be the norm rather than the exception for folks with PD. Is it possible that consulting with a mental health professional to treat psychiatric concerns might provide you with a few more years of productivity?

Following from the last point, it might be helpful to consider whether the stress arising from trying to manage your expected work obligations is taking too great a toll on your health. Cognitive issues are typically in play when considering this question. It may be that you are able to perform your duties at the expense of more time on the job. If the eight-hour day has become a twelve-hour day because organization and follow through are becoming tougher, your job has become a source of stress. Remember, although no one is immune to the effects of stress, it is the one factor guaranteed to make Parkinson’s worse. Would a modification of your job be the better choice at this time?

Finally, what is your plan when you get disability? Don’t lose sight of what disability really is- retirement. My experience has been that the man or woman who best handles retirement from their chosen career is the one that has developed some sort of putting the extra time to use. Far too many people who enter traditional retirement do so without goals. Television rather than personally meaningful activities becomes the sum of their day. This results in depression, feelings of uselessness and hopelessness, and grinding boredom. This is even more likely to be the case for someone who has seen a career nipped by PD. Idle time means too much opportunity to ruminate on what might have been rather than what can be.

There is nothing that can make the decision about disability easier. However, it is important that the process account for as many factors as possible.

Best regards,
Dr. Paul

NOTE: Dr. Paul Short is neither an agent nor employee of ADPA or any of its affiliate organizations. The views expressed in this blog are the opinions of Dr. Short and do not represent the opinions or endorsement of APDA. The information contained on this site is for your general information only and is not intended as, or a substitution for, medical advice. You should also be aware that the information on this site may not reflect the most current medical developments, nor is it provided in the course of a physician - patient relationship. You should always consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider or expert with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a health or medical condition. You should never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on this site.

About the Author

Paul Short, PhD

Dr. Paul Short, The Parkinson's Coach, provides Internet-based coaching to individuals and famlies challenged by Parkinson's disease and helps them develop personalized plans for coping with the disease.