Determined to Experience Life
By Stacey Amschler
Over the years I have worked with hundreds of individuals with disabilities as a Disability Advocate (DA) at SCIL. Recently I met a man who represents the independent living movement and is determined to experience life to the fullest.
“I’m not a nursing home kind of guy,” said Larry about his recent transition from a nursing home back to the community. “I know it hurts to do some things for myself, but the alternative of waiting for someone else isn’t for me.”
Larry represents a group of individuals with disabilities that is ever increasing: institutionalized individuals with a disability that want to live in the community. Many home based programs can assist these individuals at a lower cost to Medicaid, such as Consumer Directed Services (CDS) and In-Home Personal Care Services.
Larry is a military veteran, has worked a hard life and now this he is in his early 60’s, cardiac disease and diabetes have made life more challenging. In 2009, health issues relating to his disability caused Larry to have his legs amputated; one below the knee and the other above. Once released from the hospital, Larry was transferred to a nursing facility for rehabilitation. All of his possessions were stored away, his car parked in the lot, his job put on hold and he was given no time frame of when he would leave to drive, work or even live independently again.
As you can imagine, the surgery changed Larry’s world. Amputations have endless implications with long recovery times and the possibility of living in a nursing facility for many years. The shining light was that Larry had hope that he would get through this obstacle.
Larry has a determination to keep living life, “I sat there for 10 months lying around, couldn’t do anything. My roommates watched TV all day and I just knew I had to get out of there back into my own place. Something kept me going, while the others just gave up.”
After only a few months of rehabilitation, Larry contacted SCIL because he felt ready to start his life outside of the nursing facility and wanted to drive again.
“They were so welcoming and believed in me,” Larry shared. “I could have given up. But I was determined to get out and if I hadn’t made the call to SCIL, I don’t know what I would have done.”
When I first met with Larry, I noticed his resolve to work hard for what he wanted. Transitions can take months and require a long list of considerations for the consumer. After meeting several times, we established his options and choices to transition back into the community. With the community-based program “Missouri’s Money Follows the Person,” SCIL assisted him in securing accessible housing and converting his car to hand controls. Also, since Larry is an Air Force Veteran, many services were available to him through the Veteran’s Administration.
Larry has worked hard to set up personal care services, acquire a wheelchair and other assistive technology to make his new life easier. Around a year after his surgery, Larry moved into his own apartment with his possessions returned to him.
Next, he faced driving again. For a short time, Larry utilized public transportation while learning specialized training to use the new hand controls in his car.
“It wasn’t that hard to learn because I have a private pilot license,” said Larry. “I wouldn’t have been able to afford the hand controls without the Money Follows the Person funding from the state. Having the freedom to drive will allow me to do things for myself.”
What’s next for Larry? He recently added a new puppy to his home, Oreo, who will keep him busy for many years to come. “I am focusing on getting healthy while living my normal life and happy to be on my own again. Even without my legs, I’m the same person I used to be.”
For more information visit Southwest Center for Independent Living transitions and de-institutionalization page.