Functional Health & Disability: Definition & Major Issues

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

This lesson looks at the functional health issues of the mechanical system. In other words, we examine the human body, why it fails and what happens when it does.

Man As Machine

Stand up and then sit down. Or I guess you probably have your headphones on, so you can just think about someone standing up and sitting down. Either way, the idea of a mechanical machine is now in your head. The act of standing up requires the activation of a particular part of your brain, which triggers neurons to activate, which triggers muscles to tense, causing your body to move. It is a fully mechanical operation, just like a machine.

Taking out some of that interpersonal stuff and focusing purely on the mechanical aspects, we can begin to define certain issues that were hidden before. Functional health can be defined as the ability to perform all of one's activities of daily living. Activities of daily living are self-care activities, such as bathing, dressing, using the toilet, grooming and feeding oneself. It's the stuff you have to do every day.

Therefore, functional health disability is difficulty performing, or requiring assistance from another to perform, one or more activities of daily living. In a mechanical way, the system is kind of lagging in an important way.

It is no mystery to anyone that as we get older, the body begins to wane. Your muscles just aren't as tight, your bones are a little more brittle and everything just sort of slides. Therefore, measuring the level of functional health disability is a concern because it allows those with the resources to determine who is in most need.

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  • 0:02 Man As Machine
  • 1:42 Functional Limitations
  • 3:35 Causes of Functional Limits
  • 5:08 Lesson Summary
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Functional Limitations

There are multiple levels of functionality here. At the highest level, we have someone who is fully capable of doing everything on their own. These people have minimal disabilities and effectively manage everything. This would be Augustus, who is an older man who lives on his own. He is able to shop for his own food, has the financial abilities to function and is able to take care of himself and his cat, Mr. Mittens.

But what about Bob? Bob has few to no functional health disabilities. He is able to use the bathroom, dress himself and feed himself. However, Bob can't live on his own. His instrumental activities of daily living, such as managing medication, grocery shopping, preparing meals, using the telephone, driving, handling financing, housekeeping and doing laundry are all things a person needs to be able to do. Without these instrumental activities, a person can't really take care of themselves day to day.

Our example of Bob, who can't manage his finances and has difficulty obtaining medications and groceries, means living on his own just isn't possible. This might be due to a slowing down of the processes in Bob, such as early signs of dementia. Or it could be that he had become dependent on other people taking care of him, such as his wife, and now struggles to take care of himself.

The lowest level of function would be a person who is unable to do any of the activities of daily living or the instrumental activities. Here we have Clarence, who cannot bathe or dress himself, cannot use the telephone and cannot prepare his own meals. He would be helpless and likely perish if he were not placed in a care facility. There he would receive the necessary aid to help him.

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