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'I hope he doesn't feel too lonely' — COVID-19 hits people with intellectual disabilities hard
Prior to COVID-19, 45% of people with intellectual disabilities reported feeling lonely.
My brother was supposed to move into his first "independent" home in mid-March. In his late 20s, and a person with an intellectual disability, he had finally gathered up the courage and the will to move out of our family home and live in a group home.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, my brother's move is now delayed indefinitely, and his world remains mostly his bedroom. He can't go to his part-time job, the library, or to church.
My brother and many others with intellectual disabilities face the additional burden of increased loneliness during COVID-19. While many people are experiencing isolation, anxiety and loneliness during this challenging time, we know that prior to COVID-19, 45% of people with intellectual disabilities reported feeling lonely (that's compared to only 10.5% of the general population). The increased pressures living in quarantine can result in challenges to mental health, sleep disruptions and mood swings.
We know that loneliness is correlated with serious health risks such as heart disease, weakened immune systems and stroke. For people with intellectual disabilities who had already long experienced loneliness and social ostracization, what significant impacts might this have on their mental and physical health? Many COVID-19 patients die alone. For people with intellectual disabilities already experiencing severe loneliness, this fact seems particularly cruel.
People with intellectual disabilities often utilize resources such as home health aides, day programmes, drop-in centres, family respite services and group homes. For health and safety reasons, many of these services are now unavailable or closed, increasing the responsibility of family members, affecting the routine of people with intellectual disabilities and significantly impacting their independence. My brother is not able to go to his state-funded part-time job, removing his interaction with others outside of our immediate family and taking away the sense of purpose he felt by doing work.
These COVID-19-related service changes also reveal the complex interdependencies with families, caregivers and staff that most people with intellectual disabilities depend on in their day-to-day lives. In China, a family made headlines when a teenager with cerebral palsy died in Wuhan after his father and brother, diagnosed with coronavirus, were quarantined in a treatment facility and unable to care for him.
Some people with intellectual disabilities are not able to quarantine alone or stay with their families due to their enhanced medical or behavioural needs. Remaining in group homes or similar long-term care facilities can allow people with intellectual disabilities access to the care they need, but may put them at a much greater risk of infection. For people with intellectual disabilities who live independently or semi-independently but rely on home health aides, they and their families weigh the risk of exposing themselves to infection or not receiving the daily life supports they need.
In addition to all of the health and safety guidelines we all must decipher and follow, people with intellectual disabilities face increased challenges when it comes to staying safe during COVID-19. My brother and many like him have had their daily routine disrupted completely, a challenge for many people with intellectual disabilities. Understanding the rapidly changing information about COVID-19 or updates to public health guidance can be puzzling, and people with intellectual disabilities may struggle to communicate without non-verbal cues.
In Saskatoon, Canada, some people with intellectual disabilities were so confused about the public health guidance to social distance that they went without groceries or other necessities. It is unlikely that my brother really understands the importance of washing his hands or remembers how to do so correctly, even after seeing a video or reading a detailed pamphlet.
Organizations that support and advocate on behalf of people with intellectual disabilities are working hard to continue to provide services and resources, even amid reduced revenue and logistical challenges. Inclusion Europe has produced an easy-to-read instructional guide about coronavirus, designed for people with intellectual disabilities, available in several languages. The UN has produced resources about how to include marginalized and vulnerable people, including those with intellectual disabilities, in risk communication and community engagement. The International Disability Alliance has issued specific recommendations for a disability-inclusive COVID-19 response.
People with intellectual disabilities face the prospect of navigating a healthcare system that is rationing care. During a time of resource scarcity, like the one many countries are experiencing during COVID-19, there simply aren't enough resources for every patient that needs them. When this occurs, medical professionals need to decide which patients receive these resources, thus rationing out the care that is available.
In Italy, there are many stories of hospitals too overwhelmed with patients to ventilate every person who needs it – medical professionals are forced to make heartbreaking choices about who receives care.
In the United States, the disability community, including the American Association of People With Disabilities, has advocated strongly against guidance in disaster preparedness plans such as those released by states like Washington, Kansas, Tennessee and Alabama that recommend end-of-life decisions that could disadvantage people with disabilities, including some that do not recommend providing ventilators to those with "severe mental retardation". Disability advocates assert that these policies directly impact civil rights. In response, the director of the federal health department's civil rights office has begun investigations, and some of these states, including Washington and Kansas, are in the process of updating their guidelines to ensure they do not implicitly or explicitly condone discrimination.
Still, the fear and uncertainty associated with rationing of care is deeply disturbing to people with intellectual disabilities, who are worried that medical professionals, forced to make quick decisions and without a full understanding of their capacity and medical history, might prevent them from receiving medical resources.
People with disabilities and their advocates rightly point out that doctors may make assumptions about people with disabilities based on bias. These fears are supported by research that ableism in medicine does exist. People with intellectual disabilities and their family members remember unethical medical research done on people with intellectual disabilities in the name of science, like those experiments done on unwilling participants at Willowbrook State School in New York. People with intellectual disabilities are still subject to forced sterilization around the world.
For now, I am grateful that my brother doesn't seem to understand all the fuss around COVID-19 and I'm relieved that he's stuck at home. I hope that he doesn't feel too lonely. When I think of the inevitable time when we are allowed to return to our community, I wonder if my brother will follow hygiene guidelines. Will he stay away from people who are coughing? Will he tell us if he has a fever? For now, if he has to go to the hospital, I have to hope that his life is considered as valuable as someone without a disability.
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Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?
- Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
- The surge in "feel-good" hormones also promotes a more relaxed and calm state of being, making it easier to achieve restful sleep, which is a critical part in maintaining a high-functioning immune system.
- Just as bad habits can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system which can prevent you from becoming sick.
How masturbation affects your brain...<p>Orgasms are a very common human phenomenon. The physical and mental health benefits have been researched frequently as a result, and yet, there is still so much to be learned about how our bodies and brains react to the chemicals and hormones released during and after experiencing this type of sexual release.</p><p>"The amount of speculation versus actual data on both the function and value of orgasm is remarkable" explains Julia Heiman, director of the <a href="https://kinseyinstitute.org/" target="_blank">Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction</a>.</p><p>Masturbation causes a rush of <a href="https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-dopamine" target="_blank">dopamine</a>, which is a chemical that is associated with our ability to feel pleasure. Along with the rush of dopamine that is released during an orgasm, there is also a release of a hormone called <a href="https://www.livescience.com/42198-what-is-oxytocin.html" target="_blank">oxytocin</a>, which is commonly referred to as the "love hormone."<br></p><p>This concoction of chemicals does more than just boost our mood, it also can play a key role in decreasing stress and promoting relaxation. Oxytocin decreases <a href="https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol" target="_blank">cortisol</a>, which is a stress hormone that is usually present (in high volumes) during times of anxiety, fear, panic, or distress. </p><p>According to BDSM and fetish researcher <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/dr-gloria-brame-colbert-ga/278388" target="_blank">Dr. Gloria Brame</a>, an orgasm is the biggest non-drug induced blast of dopamine that we can experience. </p><p>By boosting the oxytocin and dopamine levels and subsequently decreasing our cortisol levels, the brain is placed in a more relaxed, euphoric, and calm state. </p>
Masturbation boosts your immune system and raises your white blood cell count.<p>How do those effects on the brain from reaching orgasm translate to boosting our immune system and making our body healthier?</p><p>The increase of oxytocin and dopamine that causes a decrease in cortisol levels can help boost our immune system because cortisol (well-known for being a stress-inducing hormone) actually helps maintain your immune system if released in small doses. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.health24.com/Sex/Great-sex/incredible-health-benefits-to-masturbating-20181030-2" target="_blank">Dr. Jennifer Landa</a>, a hormone-therapy specialist, masturbation can produce the right kind of environment for a strengthened immune system to thrive. </p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15316239" target="_blank">A study</a> conducted by the Department of Medical Psychology at the University Clinic of Essen (in Germany) showed similar results. A group of 11 volunteers were asked to participate in a study that would look at the effects of orgasm through masturbation on the white blood cell count and immune system.</p><p>During this experiment, the white blood cell count of each participant was analyzed through measures that were taken 5 minutes before and 45 minutes after reaching a self-induced orgasm. </p><p>The results confirmed that sexual arousal and orgasm increased the number of white blood cells, particularly the natural killer cells that help fight off infections. </p><p>The findings confirm that our immune system is positively affected by sexual arousal and self-induced orgasm and promote even more research into the positive impacts of sexual arousal and orgasm. </p>
Masturbation can ease and prevent pain, which allows you to achieve the restful sleep that helps your immune system stay strong and healthy.<p>The benefits of masturbation have long been debated, but the more research that is done on the topic the more we understand that there are many positive reactions that happen in our bodies and brains when we orgasm.</p><p>Orgasms can help prevent or mitigate pain, which boosts the immune system, preventing cold and flu symptoms. </p><p>According to neurologist and headache specialist Stefan Evers, about one in three patients experience relief from migraine attacks by experiencing sexual activity or orgasm. Evers and his team <a href="https://www.livescience.com/27642-sex-relieves-migraine-pain.html" target="_blank">conducted an experiment</a> with 800 migraine patients and 200 patients who suffered from cluster-headaches to see how their experiences with sexual activity impacted their pain levels. </p><p>The study showed that 60% of migraine sufferers experienced pain relief after participating in sexual activity that resulted in orgasm. Of the cluster-headache sufferers, about 50% said their headaches actually worsened after sexual arousal and orgasm. </p><p>Evers suggested in his findings that the people who did not experience pain relief from migraines of headaches during their sexual activity did not release as large amounts of endorphins as those who did experience pain relief. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.sharecare.com/health/chronic-pain/chronic-pain-affect-immune-system" target="_blank">rheumatologist Dr. Harris McIlwain</a>, people who suffer from chronic pain have immune systems that are simply not functioning at full capacity - therefore, alleviating pain (through orgasm, as an example) can help boost the immune system. </p><p>Orgasms can also promote relaxation and make it easier to fall asleep. Serotonin, oxytocin, and norepinephrine are all hormones that are released during sexual arousal and orgasm, and all three are known for counteracting stress hormones and promoting relaxation, which makes it much easier for you to fall asleep.</p><p>There are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1233384" target="_blank">several studies</a> showing that serotonin and norepinephrine help our body cycle through REM and deep non-REM sleeping cycles. During these sleep cycles, the immune system releases proteins called <a href="https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity" target="_blank"><span id="selection-marker-1" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span>cytokines<span id="selection-marker-2" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span></a>, which target infection and inflammation. This is a critical part of our immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released throughout our bodies while we sleep, which proves the importance of a good sleep schedule to a healthy immune system.</p>
Masturbation promotes a high-functioning immune system; a healthy immune system prevents cold and flu.<p>The immune system is a balanced network of cells and organs that work together to defend you against infections and diseases by stopped threats like bacteria and viruses from entering your system. While there are many things we need to do to keep our immune systems functioning at optimal levels, masturbation (or other means of achieving orgasm) has proven to have positive effects on the immune system as a whole.</p><p>Just as bad habits (such as an inconsistent sleep schedule or harmful chemicals in your body) can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system. </p>
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.