This story comes courtesy of Randy Alexander, with Memphis Center for Independent Living. Names and images have been changed to protect privacy.
Henry had been living in a nursing home for well over a year. He had incurred a spinal cord injury from a shotgun wound, and over time his condition worsened until he was living in a full-care nursing facility.
Although Henry’s condition now had him classified as a paraplegic, he had some use of his arms and hands and if his care had been more consistent, he would have been able to provide for many of his needs and had a more independent life.
“As is typical for many low-income individuals, Henry did not receive the proper rehabilitation training he needed to allow him to avoid many of the skin care issues and other problems associated with a spinal cord injury,” an agency counselor noted.
That agency counselor works for Memphis Center for Independent Living, a United Way network agency that helped Henry find greater self-reliance and independence.
Before Henry made contact with the agency, his condition in the full-care nursing facility was worsening. He was developing bed sores, and had already been hospitalized.
The agency realized that Henry needed to have communication with people who were dealing with similar physical challenges to better understand his rights, options and expectations.
“Through peer support, meeting and talking with people with disabilities who live more independently, Henry learned he had the right to expect to live in his own home, not in a nursing home,” the agency counselor said.
Empowered by the examples of others, Henry set personal goals so that he could find a place where he could receive the daily services he needed to live on his own. First, he needed to learn more about his rights and personal independent living skills. Through the agency’s independent living skills training program, Henry was able to gain the information he needed to move forward with his goals.
Henry learned how to apply for affordable housing and how to fight for his legal rights if his application was illegally denied due to his physical condition. He also learned about his responsibilities in renting a subsidized apartment.
“While we all celebrated Henry’s meeting his goals and moving from an institutionalized setting to live independently, the real success came months later,” the agency counselor confirmed.
Shortly after moving into his apartment, some of the services Henry needed were cut back while others had never even fully started. This would have been a horrible way to start his new life, but Henry knew his rights and how to make the calls to rectify the situation. Henry found the solutions to his own challenges, acting as his own advocate for care and services.
Your support of United Way helps people with physical challenges understand their rights and shows them the way to greater independence. Thanks to your gifts, Henry is not living in a nursing home – instead, he has assembled the support, services and housing he needs in order to live independently.