man near glass window pane

There is a lot of information out there about what you can’t do – working after you have applied for disability is risky.  Furthering your education is also a dicey proposition.  During those months to years of waiting for a decision to be reached, what can you do?  What should you do?  Do you really have options?

What is my job after I become disabled?

There are good things you can do while you wait!

You are working when you are learning about and adjusting to living with a disability.

Your job is to do what you need to do to be as healthy as possible. 

No, you don’t get paid for it, but you only have this one body, and so caring for it is always one of your most important responsibilities, and adjusting to a new or worsening health condition requires a lot of effort on your part. 

Your most important job when dealing with a disabling condition is to take care of yourself. 

You need to keep up with your medical appointments, work with good doctors, do their recommended self-care and document what is happening. 

By doing that, you are able to prove your disability claim and do everything possible to treat and manage your condition.

If you do have a paid job during this time, your primary job is still seeing your doctors and documenting your condition.  If you are not seeing the right doctors, your claim for disability won’t be respected. 

If you do work, keep track of what you do, what your accommodations are, and how working affects your health(both mental and physical). 

A good balance of managing your condition and working can help you ward off depression, boredom, or a negative self-image, but too much work will increase your stress and likely make your condition worse. 

There are always things you can do to manage your condition

good food while waiting for disability
Whatever your condition, eating the right food can help you feel better!

While there may be times where you really can’t do much more than sleep and heal, once you are recovered enough to find this site, you are likely ready to do more than that.  It’s time for you to actively take control of your healing process. 

What can you do?

You can also figure out how to better manage your household

  • how much effort is involved in your day to day struggles to survive?
  • How much energy does each activity you need to do take?
  • What accommodations do you need?
  • What can or can’t you do around the house, or what do you need to do or have done?
  • Can you make it easier for yourself?
Is there anything you need to be shifted, adapted, or replaced? Now’s the time to do it!

For example, Al finds it extra painful to bend over, stoop, or any other movement that places extra pressure on his hip.

So I usually end up picking things up off the floor for him, but he still can sweep or dust and wash dishes. 

When he first was injured, about all he could do was fold the laundry if I brought it to him, so that’s what we did – I’d run the wash and bring him the clean clothes, but he would fold them for us.

There are always ways to manage – figure out what you need and prioritize them so that you can get what you need when you need it -or so you can ask your loved ones to help you get started at the tasks you can do with a little help.

As you heal, you also are going to have more energy and desire to operate independently – so think through what that would look like and see how you can make that happen as well.

Maybe you need a modified car, or maybe you need a few things in the kitchen rearranged so you can reach the things you want to use. 

Al and I recently shifted things around in the kitchen so that the pots and pans are in a cabinet up high, where he can comfortably reach, rather than by the floor.

Now, he can comfortably get them to make a meal, instead of needing me to bend down and pick them up. 

Also, we have collected a lot of little devices for making things in the microwave as opposed to stovetop – so that I could make meals even if I was too shaky to feel safe using the stove.

Think about your future

  • Is your diagnosis correct and complete?
  • What’s your prognosis?
  • What kind of recovery are you expected to make?
  • What are your next steps?
person holding x-ray image
What do you know about your diagnosis?

The more you know about your condition and what your healing process looks like, the better able you are to think ahead and make decisions that will help you in the weeks, months, and years to come.

If you have a permanent condition that’s either progressive or unlikely to improve, your focus will likely be on making your life as comfortable as possible and finding the right adaptations for yourself and your living situation. 

You will need to plan lifestyle changes and adjustments that are permanent and unlikely to change much.

On the other hand, if you are expected to make a significant recovery, you are more likely to make short-term adjustments in your home but can focus on preparing for what you can do as your situation improves. 

Lifestyle changes are important, but more to start yourself on good habits that can be stepped up as your condition becomes more manageable.

If you are in a flare of a chronic condition, you likely will need to make long-term investments of time, energy or equipment that will help you whether or not your symptoms are extreme and in things that can keep your symptoms under control.  You’ll also be working on short-term solutions for the severity of your symptoms now.

No matter what, you need to learn what your ‘new normal’ is, so you know what to expect from yourself.  As you learn to recognize your ‘new normal’ you will be better able to plan ahead.

You can help your household

A big part of applying for disability is the need for money and insurance to help you survive.  If you live with a partner or a parent, there could be significant changes in money due to your unemployment and/or your medical bills.  You may need to move into a less than ideal situation to survive.  Buying food may become an issue.

Unless your condition muddles your brain, you likely can help manage the budget!

You can’t work a ‘normal’ job because of both the condition that made you apply for disability and because of how the application process for disability works. 

So, get creative about bringing in some supports without endangering your benefits.

If appropriate, apply for federal and state services that can help you, like SNAP, LIHEAP, and Medicaid.

You can create and stick to a family budget that takes your expenses and lack of income into account.

You may have things that you no longer need in the house(we are a consumer society) – maybe you have something you don’t really want or need anymore that you could sell?

Are there things that you enjoy making that could be exchanged with friends and neighbors for money, or for other things you need?

Maybe you can join a local time bank.

Or maybe you have a church or other social group that could help you – either around the house or by having some form of fundraiser.

If you are comfortable with writing, you may want to look into some of the survey or sampling programs out there.  They won’t make you much money, but they can get you some resources in exchange for your time and energy and you may find some interesting stuff.

Sites like penny hoarder often have lists of potential money-saving or small-scale money-making programs.

There are also some money-saving apps out there.  They can help you save a little bit here and there or get you some free goods, but be aware that one of their primary purposes is often to get you to buy more things, so you need to exhibit self-control if you use these.  If you don’t think you have that, it’s not worth the few dollars here or there.

There are also some game or scratch-off sites.  Be aware that they mainly operate by having you watch commercials in payment for your ‘free’ activities – but it can be a good substitute for participation in the lottery, which costs you money, or a little bit of entertainment if you just need to do a little something on your smartphone but want to do something helpful.

link for social welfare guide

Invest in yourself

if you’re going to be stuck for a while anyway, you might as well help yourself become the best you that you can be.

As you find your new normal, think about your abilities.  What skills do you have that you’d like to improve?

With some creative searching, I’m sure you’ll find something helpful!

What could you constructively focus your energy on right now?

One of the great things about the internet is that information is pretty much always available.  About anything. 

There’s also usually some part of it available for free.  Don’t spend money on things if you can’t afford to, but look around and follow your instincts.

Is there something you still can do, and you’d like to pursue now?

Has your condition given you a new perspective that you’d like to explore?

Did you meet somebody through your recovery process who does something fascinating that you never heard of before?

Whatever it is, you can do some research on it, learn more about it, and have a better idea of where you want to go or what you want to do after you get your benefits.

Conclusion: Waiting for disability does not need to be a passive activity

While you cannot do the things that people tend to think of immediately when there’s a large trauma in your life, there are good ways for you to spend your time between when you apply for disability and when you receive it.  Your life does not need to go on hold, and it shouldn’t!

By thinking about and planning for your future, you have made sure that when you do finally have your check coming in you will be able to take that big, life-changing next step you need to take. 

When you finally get that check with all the back pay you are able to live more comfortably and be better insured and get that unobtainable treatment, or that perfect job or go to school – or whatever else you have been dreaming of doing.

What can you do for yourself while waiting?  Share other ideas you have or reliable sources you’ve found – I want to make sure we keep helping our community!

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