Disabilities Do Happen: My Mother’s Story


Disabilities Do Happen: My Mother’s Story

No one believes that a disability will happen to them. But, it happened to my mom.

When my mother was young, she was a home health care aide for the local hospital. She enjoyed helping people – it was in her nature to care for those who could not properly care for themselves. But, she had no idea she would one day be sick herself, and unable to work as a caregiver.

After my sister way born, my mother’s health started to decline. Her asthma got worse. She started having severe depression and anxiety episodes. Her body was always in pain, no matter what she did. We used to joke about the “pharmacy” that she carried around with her, but in all actuality, it was sad. My mother was young, but she felt like someone twice her age.

Then, about 10 or so years ago, she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. She finally had an explanation for her aches and pains. But, on top of that, her asthma had developed into COPD, even though she had never smoked a day in her life. She could barely get out of bed most days. Her depression was worse than ever. She would end up hospitalized every time she got sick, mainly with upper respiratory issues.

Amid all her medical issues, she was no longer able to work full-time. Whenever she would land a job, a few months into it, she would fall ill and need to be hospitalized … then she would lose her job again.

The cycle continued. Eventually, she learned her immune system was basically not functioning. But, without a job to provide proper health insurance, she had no coverage for the medication she needed.

She applied for Social Security Disability Income, but was rejected – three times. It didn’t matter that her physicians had all written letters. It didn’t matter that she had significant proof she was unable to work full-time. It didn’t matter that her illnesses were expected to last over a year.

I’m going to repeat that – she was unable to work full-time and her illnesses were expected to last over a year. That is the basic definition of qualifying for Social Security. But still, she was denied time after time.

Finally, she agreed to hire an attorney. After more than a year and a couple hearings, she has finally been approved to receive Social Security Disability Income. She’ll have some money coming in each month and will no longer have to worry about insurance. She can start focusing on getting better and enjoying her grandchildren.

I wanted to share my mom’s story for two reasons:

  1. Disabilities aren’t always visible. When your clients are picturing a disability, they’re thinking about breaking a leg and needing a wheelchair. In reality, most disabilities are due to illness, not injury. Invisible conditions can impact your ability to work just as much, or more, than a visible injury.
  2. People think Social Security will be there to help if they’re disabled. That’s not always the case. It’s vital to protect the one thing we all mostly take for granted: our ability to work. We may not be able to “fix” our Social Security system, but we can help people get the coverage they need when they’re too sick or hurt to work.

As I said, no one believes a disability will happen to them. You may not always see them, and you probably never expect them, but disabilities do happen.