Thursday, September 22, 2022

TIP - Are You Taking Your Medicines As Prescribed?

Did you know that half of all medications are not taken as the doctor prescribes them? That’s dangerous! The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates 125 thousand people die because they are not taking their meds properly each year in the US.

Here are some quick tips to help you stay on track with your meds.

  • Be sure you understand exactly how to take the medicine your doctor is prescribing. Ask questions before you leave the doctor’s office. Take notes if possible. You can also ask for a consultation with the pharmacist when you fill your prescription.

  • Take your medicine at the same time every day. Make it a routine, and it will be harder to forget to take it.

  • Write up or type and print off a schedule of when to take each medicine. Keep the list handy.

  • Use a weekly pill box, or put timer caps on your pill bottles.

For additional ideas from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

Friday, September 2, 2022

Healthinfo Island Displays and Exhibits for September 2022

You can teleport to any of the eight displays and exhibits using the SLURLs in this blog entry. Click on the poster with the same name as the title of the poster set, and you will get a notecard that contains all the text of the posters plus descriptions of the images.

If you click each poster, you will get a message with additional information and live links.

Central Pavilion of Healthinfo Island
Check out the calming breathing exercise on the back wall!

September is National Guide Dog Month

Constipation: Do’s and Don’ts

Protesting? Do It Safely


Better Driving with Chronic Pain

Resistant Hypertension

Oxalate and Kidney Stones

Foods for Sleep

Thanks to Mook and Anna for assistance with the posters this month.

Monday, August 22, 2022

What’s Your Purpose in Life?

Where do you want to go in life?

The purpose of your life is a focus or guidance for living. It is like the mission statement of a company. Everyone should have one.

If you don’t know what your purpose in life is, then your current purpose should be to define your purpose. And here are some steps to help you get started toward a more purposeful life.

  1. Self-awareness is a prerequisite for a purposeful life. Make a list (in your journal or on your computer) of your answers to the following questions.
    • What are your interests, the things that motivate you?
    • What are your values that guide your decision-making and are the foundation of your resilience?
    • What are your strengths, the core of your personality?

  2. Consider the following list of personality traits. Make a promise to yourself to develop these purposeful personality characteristics.
    • Forming friendships with people who have a sense of purpose
    • Spending time with supportive friends and avoiding those who are toxic
    • Ignoring what others think of you
    • Being optimistic
    • Having a good sense of humor
    • Being persistent toward your goals
    • Expressing gratitude daily

  3. Write a positive personal description. List only positives, no negative or neutral points. Include information about:
    • Whatever has been most important in your life (remember, positives only)
    • Your most calm, peaceful experiences
    • Your most exciting experiences

  4. Write another list of the things in your life that are most enjoyable to you. Be sure to include the following topics:
    • People and places
    • Activities and experiences
    • Thoughts and ideas
    • Sensory experiences

  5. Write one or more paragraphs to respond to the following questions:
    • What is important to me?
    • What do I want to accomplish in my life?
    • What impact do I want to have on the people in my life?
    • What will be my legacy when my life is over?
    • Who would the best possible “you” be?

  6. Review what you wrote for Steps 3, 4 and 5. Select five to ten words that are your best self-description. Use these words to write a positive sentence or two that is a narrowed down focus. That’s your purpose in life.

  7. Just as a company shouldn’t stop with writing a mission statement, but also need to act to accomplish its mission, you must hold yourself accountable for working toward your life purpose. How are you going to get there? Set personal goals and milestones to measure your success toward those goals. Envision your progress toward accomplishing your life purpose. 

Here are some additional resources:

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Resilience May Be More Important Than Happiness

Resilient person

Resilience is a personal ability to protect oneself from negative mental or emotional stressors with coping skills, in order to quickly return to normal. It is an important personal characteristic that allows an individual to be able to “move on” after a crisis event.

Resilience is not something anyone is born with. It is a set of learned skills, and anyone can improve their skillset. Using resilience skills becomes a habit that changes how you look at troubles and problems into seeing them as growth opportunities.

Resilience helps you become authentic, curious about the future and positively open and vulnerable to new experiences. You see the value of challenges and recognize the value of failures. Resilience also improves your overall mood by releasing serotonin.

Here are some skills you can practice to improve your resilience:

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Focus on Solutions, Not Problems

Your mind is the solution!

Most of us often engage in problem-centered thinking. It’s totally normal. However, because it tends to focus our attention on negatives, it is also an important factor in lowering your self-confidence. A healthier process would be to focus on solutions instead of problems. 

Another way to think of that is working toward goals. Here are some ways to move toward a more solution-focused than problem-focused thought process.

  1. Recognize when you are focused on problems. This type of thought can be experienced as anger, anxiety, depression, fear, guilt or stress. (Hint: This may be easier to recognize in someone other than yourself. What are you seeing in someone who is problem-focused?)
  2. Change to positive thinking about yourself. What were your successes in the previous day? What went well for you? (Hint: Even small positives count on this list.)
  3. Set a daily improvement goal. Choose one little thing to do differently tomorrow that will change your life path toward a solution focus. You are designing your preferred future.

Remember, you are learning a new skill. As you progress with new little daily goals, you will gradually acquire a solution-focused mindset rather than a problem-focused one. You will have improved your mental health and strengthened your resilience.

Some additional resources:

Monday, August 8, 2022

Healthinfo Island Displays and Exhibits for August 2022

You can teleport to any of the eight displays and exhibits using the SLURLs in this blog post. Click on the poster with the same name as the title of the poster set, and you will get a notecard that contains all the text of the posters plus descriptions of the images. 

If you click each poster, you will get a message with additional information and live links.

Central Pavilion of Healthinfo Island

Check out the calming breathing exercise on the back wall!

ICU Psychosis

Boredom or Burnout?

August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day

Yo! Hangover, Dude!

The Vinegar Effect

Sugar, Fructose, Fruit

What is Neuropathy?

What is Spasticity?


Thanks to Virtual Ability members Mook and Anna for assistance with the posters this month.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Is Your Pet Scared of the Vet?

Cat in an appropriate carrier

Although most pets don’t mind, or may actually enjoy, their trips to the veterinarian’s office, some are frightened and may become aggressive or hide from their owners. Here are some strategies to reduce your pet’s fear.

If your pet will ride in a carrier, let him or her get used to it inside the house first. Set it on the floor and leave it there for the pet to explore for a week before its first use in the car. Pad the bottom of the carrier with a fleece blanket. This is more comforting than a towel, and a lot more comfortable than bare wires. Some pets get so acclimated to their carriers that they will sleep inside them at home.

Be sure your pet is used to riding in the car with you. Ensure that your pet is comfortable. Preheat or precool the car so that it is a reasonable temperature. If your pet is riding in a carrier, cover the back and sides of the carrier so only the front is open to avoid excessive visual stimulation. 

If this is your pet’s first car trip, or if he or she is excessively nervous, practice small trips. Perhaps just back out of the driveway and return to the garage, with a treat at the end of the very short trip. Then extend the car ride gradually. A pet in a carrier can be taken through a drive-through. A pet on a leash might like to accompany you on an errand at the pet store. The idea here is to associate being in the car with a joyride, not just with a trip to the vet.

When you have arrived at the veterinarian’s office, the waiting room can be very traumatic for some pets. There are lots of strange people and other animals. The various smells and fear pheromones can upset some animals with nervous temperaments. So, limiting the time you spend waiting inside the office can help as your pet will be able to stay mainly in the familiar comfort of your car. Will the receptionist text or phone you when it is your pet’s turn to be seen?

Did you know that music can help calm pets down when you get back home from a vet visit? Try quiet calm classical or reggae, which many animals prefer. The reader’s voice from books on tape can also be relaxing. 

Don’t put off your pet’s necessary care just because they are afraid of the trip to the veterinarian’s office. It’s as important for our pets to have regular medical checkups and care as it is for ourselves.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Two Quick Tips on Choosing Healthy Foods

  • Include more fiber, protein, and healthy fat in your diet.

Fiber has many functions in your digestive system. Dietary fiber is important for preventing and relieving constipation. It can also help you lose weight and lower your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

Fiber is often found in the skin of fruits and vegetables. This chewier layer helps you absorb sugar more slowly. It is not digested, but passes intact through the digestive system.

Protein has many uses. In the digestive system, proteins break down into amino acids that the body can then use to grow and repair itself. Proteins also act as enzymes, antibodies, and hormones. Some proteins are structural elements in the body.

Protein does not have to be from meat or fish. It is also found in nuts, seeds, and legumes. Eating plant-based proteins isn’t just for vegans and vegetarians.

Healthy fats are used by the body to provide energy, as insulation and padding, and to aid in nutrient absorption and hormone production.

Avocado, coconut oil and olive oil are all healthy fats. On the other hand, manufactured fats such as clear oils, and hard fats such as lard and butter, are not healthy, so avoid or restrict those in your diet.

  • Avoid foods that are sweet, white, or fluffy. These are typically over-processed and low in nutritional value.

Sugar is common in sweet foods, including candy, cookies, pastries, fruit juices, and even fruits. While fruits in moderation do provide healthy fiber, vitamins and minerals, don’t overdo them.

White packaged foods often are processed and packaged, and are full of sugar, salt, and preservatives. White vegetables such as cauliflower, turnips and parsnips, however, are healthy additions to your meals.

Fluffy foods to avoid include white bread, popcorn, and mashed peeled potatoes.

Eating healthier foods will lead to better overall health. Gradually implementing these two tips will improve your diet and increase your well-being.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Call 988 for Mental Health Emergencies in the U.S.

People with mental health conditions may experience mental health emergencies. These are often signaled by changes in thought, mood, or behavior. The person may be at risk of harming themself or others.

Family members, friends and coworkers who are close to the person experiencing the mental health emergency may notice some of these signs:

  • agitation
  • difficulty accomplishing activities of daily living
  • extreme grief
  • extreme mood swings
  • isolation (or lack of social support)
  • paranoia
  • self-harm
  • substance abuse
  • suicidal ideation (or thoughts of death)
  • traumatic experience
  • troubled relationships
  • violence

The US now has a National Mental Health Hotline to help with these situations.

Call 988 to contact a trained counselor who can either offer coping strategies or referral to additional resources. The call is free and will support persons in crisis or those who care about them. It is managed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

It is expected that 988 will be as easy to recall during a mental health emergency as 911 is for other emergencies.

For more information:

Sunday, July 17, 2022

July is Disability Pride Month

Picture of Disability Pride Flag
Disability Pride Flag

by Virtual Ability member Gentle Heron

Who are the disabled?

People with disabilities form the largest and most diverse minority group on the planet. We are a naturally occurring part of overall human diversity. We are not adequately defined by dominant society’s often negative attitudes and feelings about us, nor do we deserve to be stigmatized as bad, wrong, or in need of repair.

Being disabled is the only minority group that it is simple to temporarily or permanently join by stepping clumsily off a curb or being in a traffic accident. Most individuals develop one or more disabilities as they age. If you’re not part of our community already, you are likely to join us in the future.

You can be a proud member of a variety of minority groups. Perhaps you are a queer First Nations woman wearing a right arm prosthesis who prefers mango sorbet over both chocolate and vanilla ice cream. Or maybe you are a Latino transman who crochets and has Type 2 diabetes. Whoever we are, we can have pride in ourselves.

Tarik Williams is a member of several minority groups. He is a tall, fit, Trinidadian African American man who is a weightlifter and a creative writer. He is also blind. His pride, his self- esteem, encourages him to embody the phrase “Me equals We.” Read his story here:

What is Disability Pride?

We can be proud that we, as a whole inclusive of all types of disabilities, make up about 15% of the world’s total population. We can be proud of our contributions to our families and to our local and broader communities. We can be proud of our individual identities. This special month puts us all in the spotlight.

The mission of Chicago’s Disability Pride Parade clearly expresses the purpose of Disability Pride Month:

  • “To change the way people think about and define “disability”;
  • To break down and end the internalized shame among people with Disabilities; and
  • To promote the belief in society that Disability is a natural and beautiful part of human diversity in which people living with Disabilities can take pride.”

Why was July chosen as Disability Pride Month?

July 26 marks the anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by then-President George H. W. Bush in 1990. Tireless advocacy by Justin Dart, Ed Roberts and numerous others led to this historic achievement. The first Disability Pride Day occurred in Boston in 1990, and they are now held around the world.

Color photo of President George H.W. Bush signing the Americans with Disabilities Act
President George H.W. Bush signing the
Americans with Disabilities Act

Black and white photo of Ed Roberts, disability civil rights advocate, protesting for civil rights
Ed Roberts, civil rights advocate

But we still have a long way to go to create the most accessible possible world. People with disabilities have lots of abilities. We just need the proper tools and environment to be able to use our abilities to their fullest.

That’s the main purpose of this Pride Month: To encourage public awareness, the first step toward achieving full accessibility. Education of the remaining 85% of the world’s population about the needs and achievements of our 15% is a positive action. 

What are some good ways to celebrate this special month?

The Virtual Ability community encourages everyone, disabled or temporarily able-bodied/minded, to learn more about disability rights and accessibility tools during the month of July. A good place to start is to take the pledge to become disability friendly.

You will find numerous additional ideas of disability-supportive actions you might take this month and in the future in the following list.

Some great accessibility resources:

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Women Drivers!

Men are more likely than women to be injured or killed in traffic accidents. That’s probably because they drive more often and faster than women do.

However, if you compare outcomes per incident and at the same speed (not total outcomes by gender), a woman is 20-28% more likely than a man to be killed in a car crash, and 37-73% more likely to be injured. What causes this difference?

It is possibly because women tend to drive smaller, lighter weight cars than men do. Women are also more likely to be driving the vehicle that is hit during front-into-rear and side-impact crashes, where vehicle structures may not protect them as well.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also notes that women are more likely than men to suffer leg injuries in car wrecks. Because of all these differences in accident statistics between the genders, IIHS is suggesting that crash test dummies better reflect the female body.

Here are the statistical reports:

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Is Headbanging Music Bad for Your Health?

Man holding head in pain after banging head

The short answer is: probably.

But it’s not the music per se, it’s how you listen to it.

Head banging music may be rock, punk, or heavy metal, to which listeners swing their heads, often quite fast, along with the beat of the song.

Loud music can damage your hearing in many ways. It can damage or destroy the hair cells that allow us to detect sound. Damaged hair cells cause temporary hearing loss. After a loud concert you may need to have people speak loudly so you can hear them. You may have a sense of ringing in your ears. This goes away eventually, but repeated damage will cause hair cells to die, causing permanent hearing loss.

Loud noises can also damage the auditory nerve that carries messages from your ear to your brain, causing a hidden form of hearing loss. This damage makes it difficult to understand a single speaker in a noisy background environment. This hearing loss is also cumulative, increasing the risk of hearing loss as you age.

Recent research has shown that the rhythmic head motions that usually results from listening to this music genre can lead to moderate- to severe-level traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) over time. Each time one's head changes direction the brain gets whacked, not enough to cause a concussion, but there is injury. But the small injuries add up, eventually resulting in a TBI. The type of injury resulting from headbanging is similar to that of whiplash from a car accident, as both involve acceleration/deceleration motions with the brain bumping against the skull.

Be cautious how you treat your ears and your brain. You only get one set, and it has to last you all the rest of your life.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Learn to Edit Wikipedia Health and Medical Articles, May 10, 11am-1pm SLT

Wikipedia is a free comprehensive multilingual online encyclopedia that encourages everyone to participate in editing it. Writing the articles and maintaining the site are all done by volunteers. “Dr. Wikipeda” is consulted by over 500 million people worldwide each month for health and wellness topics.

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is hosting an online Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon on Tuesday, May 10, from 11am-1pm SLT (2-4pm Eastern). The webinar (hosted on the gotowebinar platform) will include:

  • An introduction to Wikipedia
  • How to edit Wikipedia articles
  • How editing is monitored on Wikipedia to avoid bias and disinformation
  • Practice editing articles about asthma (although this does not need to be your focus)
  • Suggested next steps and ongoing support

You do not need to have any prior Wikipedia experience, nor do you need to have a specific interest in asthma to participate. Wikipedia chose this topic for their examples because May is Asthma Awareness Month.

If you have ever read a Wikipedia health, wellness, or disability article and wished your own viewpoint were better represented, this is the webinar for you.

Here’s where to register:

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Healthinfo Island Displays and Exhibits for May 2022

You can teleport to any of the eight displays and exhibits using the SLURLs in this notecard. Click on the poster with the same name as the title of the poster set, and you will get a notecard that contains all the text of the posters plus descriptions of the images. 

If you click each poster, you will get a message with additional information and live links.

Central Pavilion of Healthinfo Island

Check out the calming breathing exercise on the back wall!

Please note that all displays and exhibits this month correlate with the Mental Health 

Loneliness, Social Isolation and Mental Health

Counteracting Loneliness

Brain Injury

What Defines Community?

Why is Community Important for People with Disabilities?

Boost Your Resilience

Minority Mental Health Equity

How to Get Mental Health Help


Thanks to Anna and Mook for assistance with the posters this month.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Save The Date! Friday, May 13, 2022: 11th Annual Mental Health Symposium - I Am Not Alone

11th Annual Mental Health Symposium
Friday, May 13, 2022

The 11th annual Mental Health Symposium will take place in Virtual Ability’s Sojourner Auditorium, on Virtual Ability Island on Friday, May 13, 2022.

The theme of this Symposium is “I Am Not Alone.” Our presenters will offer a wide interpretation of the theme, based on their interests and academic backgrounds.

Virtual Ability hosts this annual Symposium to share information about mental health and mental disabilities with the general population. Within our cross-disability community we have members who deal with a variety of mental health issues. Not only is this an opportunity for our community members to learn more about topics related to mental health from experts they probably would not have a chance to meet otherwise, but it also allows the general public to attend a professional conference at no cost.

Link for further information on the sessions and the presenters:

Sunday, April 24, 2022

What are the “Dirty Dozen” Produce?

Picture of washing strawberries and lettuce
Washing fruits and vegetables

The “Dirty Dozen” is a list of the twelve produce items with the most pesticide contamination as sold in grocery stores. This list is produced annually by the Environmental Working Group (EWG)

The twelve worst offenders for 2022 are:

  • strawberries
  • spinach
  • kale, collard and mustard greens
  • nectarines
  • apples
  • grapes
  • bell and hot peppers
  • cherries
  • peaches
  • pears
  • celery
  • tomatoes

The EWG also produces a list called the “Clean Fifteen.” These are produce types with the least pesticide residue. Many are covered with an inedible peel, which keeps the part you eat free of chemicals. This list for 2022 includes:

  • avocados
  • sweet corn
  • pineapple
  • onions
  • papaya
  • frozen sweet peas
  • asparagus
  • honeydew melon
  • kiwi
  • cabbage
  • mushrooms
  • cantaloupe
  • mango
  • watermelon
  • sweet potatoes

The testing of produce that informs these lists was done by the US Department of Agriculture and the US Food and Drug Administration

Pesticides have numerous health effects on humans, including impacts on the nervous system, skin, eyes, and hormones. Some pesticides may cause cancer.

To reduce your family’s exposure to toxic pesticides on produce, be sure to wash fruits and vegetables properly and thoroughly before eating or cooking them.

Monday, April 18, 2022

April 17-23, 2022, is Psychology Week

The American Psychological Association (APA) has recognized the third week in April as Psychology Week. The purpose of this week is dedicated to raising the profile of psychology as a discipline and profession and celebrating psychology’s contributions that benefit society and improve the quality of our lives.

How can you participate in Psychology Week? Here are some suggestions.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Spring Home Maintenance Tips

This house was clean yesterday, we're sorry you missed it.

When you set your clocks ahead, check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Set up annual maintenance for your air conditioner. Replace or clean the filters.

Check the outside of your home and any outdoor equipment for winter storm damage.

If you have an outdoor grill, check it to make sure corrosion hasn't compromised the fuel feed. Check your propane tank for damage.

Clean out gutters. Think ahead about April showers.

Friday, April 15, 2022

What Do Doctors Know About Legal Protections for People with Disabilities?

Doctor in white coat standing next to man in red shirt sitting in a black wheelchair

The answer to that question is: Apparently, not enough!

It’s been three decades since the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) took effect. Researchers recently quizzed doctors about the ADA and its requirements to provide appropriate accommodations for their patients who have disabilities. The quiz results are shocking.

Over a third of doctors surveyed said they knew little or nothing about their legal responsibilities as outlined in the ADA.

Almost three-quarters of the doctors did not know who was responsible for determining reasonable accommodations.

One in five doctors could not correctly identify who was to pay for the accommodations.

And because of their lack of knowledge, almost two-thirds felt they were at risk of an ADA lawsuit.

Physicians’ lack of knowledge about accommodations is yet one more barrier between a disabled person and adequate and appropriate healthcare. As our population ages doctors will see increasing numbers of persons with disabilities. Medical schools bear some responsibility for improving physician training on the topic of legal accommodations.

As patients, we can also explain our accommodation needs when we schedule an appointment with a medical office. Ask that your accommodation request be entered into your electronic health record. Don’t feel shy about asking how any new equipment will work for you.

You can become part of the system for improving your doctor’s knowledge about the ADA and its accommodation requirements.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Improve Your Forgiveness Skills

Forgiveness is an important skill to master. Knowing when and how to forgive people who are not good to you will help you manage stress in your life and improve your relationships overall.

Forgiveness is a learned skill that takes practice. Don’t expect to be good at it right away. Forgive yourself if you goof up while learning to improve your skill, because it is not the easiest skill to master.

One useful definition of forgiveness is that it is “a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”

Forgiving someone does not mean offering excuses for their behavior. When you think of the phrase “forgive and forget,” remember that forgetting is not part of forgiving. When you forgive someone, you are not saying that they didn’t do anything wrong. On the contrary, they will have to work to rebuild your trust that they won’t repeat that wrong.

Just as forgiveness isn’t about forgetting the wrong, it’s also not about punishing the wrongdoer. Resentment and retaliation are not part of forgiveness.

Research has shown numerous psychological and social benefits of practicing forgiveness:

  • improved sense of mental wellbeing
  • reduction in negative affect
  • feeling positive emotions
  • positive relations with others
  • spiritual growth
  • a sense of meaning and purpose in life, and 
  • greater sense of empowerment. 

Physical health benefits of forgiveness include improvements in cardiovascular health indicators (heart rate and blood pressure).

Robert Enright has identified a Process Model of Forgiveness that involves four phases. Forgiveness begins with identifying that you have been wronged and understanding how this has affected you. Enright calls this the Uncovering Phase. The second phase, Decision, means actively committing to forgiving the offending person.

Commitment is followed by the Work Phase. You try to understand the offender and view him or her differently. This is a reframing or rethinking of the offensive situation. The final phase is Deepening, when you discover that forgiveness has released you from negative emotions.

How to improve your forgiveness skills? Begin with Uncovering. In addition to the obvious facts to think about, try to figure out how NOT forgiving the offending person is affecting you. Perhaps you are angry. When you Decide to forgive, you may come to realize that forgiveness isn’t a favor you are doing for someone else, it’s actually something you are doing to improve the quality of your own life.

In the Work phase, think about the offensive event from a different perspective. Often you will see the people who bully have been bullied, or people who say mean things have heard those things said to themselves. Think about standing in the other person’s shoes. You will be working to develop compassion and empathy. The other person is a human just like you, not someone evil.

In the Deepening phase, you will be able to release your negative emotions about the situation. You can take a positive action by doing something nice for the person who wronged you. When you are good to somebody else, you receive more benefits than you are giving.

The world needs a lot more forgiveness. Let’s all work on our forgiveness skills.