Living With Polio
The life-course framework for studying disability emphasizes the importance of developmental stages and tasks within an historical and medical context. It finds that decisions about current disability-related issues are influenced by broader concerns about identity and the fulfillment of personal and cultural expectations (Scheer & Luborsky, 1991). Early life experiences with disability are often found to still be important in later life.
The life-course perspective on the late effects of polio considers it a secondary condition for which most polio survivors are “at risk,” as they grow older. The new problems with mobility, including fatigue, pain, increased weakness, and falling, are considered to be triggered by the onset of other medical conditions, such as obesity, arthritis, depression, heart disease, diabetes, injuries, stress, etc. How polio survivors respond, psychologically, behaviorally, and medically, to the onset of these other conditions will determine the course of possible functional decline during the rest of their lives.
Approaching the new medical problems of polio survivors using the traditional medical disease/illness perspective promotes fear due to unknown etiology and course, expectations of cure, anger, hopelessness, dependency, and multiple expensive evaluations. A life-course perspective promotes self-awareness, emotional growth, and information-seeking. It advocates lifestyle change and health promotion to forestall or prevent future problems.
Excerpt from PHI’s “Handbook on the Late Effects of Poliomyelitis for Physicians and Survivors.” © 1999