Does My State Have Funding for Enabling Technology?

  

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It’s a question we hear often: Does my state cover assistive technology?

It’s not a surprising question: Working through pages and pages of waivers and other documents can make you feel like you are working in the dark.

As we work with providers, clients, families, and loved ones, most want to know if Medicaid funding can be used to implement assistive technology – and specifically, to use that technology to promote independence as a part of a life in the community.

 

The short answer to the question? Yes.  

According to federal mandates about providing supports to people with disabilities, all states should be including community supported living (CSL)* as a residential option for people with disabilities.

As part of CSL, states and providers are beginning to see the value of integrating enabling technology into the natural support system. From simple plug-and-play devices like medication dispensers to sophisticated systems such as wireless smart home technology, individuals are benefiting from using assistive technology in their daily routines.

 

The long answer to the question? Maybe.

Due to the history** of these federal mandates regarding CSL, this is actually a rather complex question. Currently, Medicaid and its waivers are evolving very rapidly. The funding that is available for residential enabling technology varies from state to state.

Additionally, some waivers consider very specific devices (such as a PERS or a Dynavox) to be assistive technology, but have not been broadened to include assistive technology as defined in the Assistive Technology Acts of 1988, 1998, and 2004: “Any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.”

Although it can be confusing, there are several tools you can use to find out what’s happening with assistive technology in your state.

 

To find out if your state's waivers cover Assistive Technology:

1. Go to the Medicaid website for state waivers.

2. Select your state and read the waiver descriptions. Here is one example from North Carolina.

3. As you read through the descriptions, look for:

  • Assistive technology: What’s covered and how much funding is available
  • Timeline: The time period that the waiver includes (usually 3-5 years)
  • Population: The individuals that qualify to apply for the waiver.
  • Services: Coverage of any additional fees such as monthly service fees associated with the technology.

 

To find out what technology is covered under the term “Assistive Technology” in your state’s waiver:

Ask questions of your local care coordinator and state CMS office:

  • How has the term “assistive technology” been interpreted in the past?
  • Does it include both stand-alone items (such as a medication dispenser) that support one task (such as taking medication safely) and systems that promote a more complete vision of independence for the individual?
  • Does it include assistive technology that promotes residential independence, such as sensor-based systems that work as a natural support?

 

Applying for Funding:

  • Contact your state’s CMS (Center for Medicaid Services) office to determine the process of applying for funds through the specific waiver that mentions assistive technology.
  • Work with your local care coordinator (or the entity they work for) to collect the information you need to make an application.

 

What if my state isn’t quite there yet in terms of Medicaid waivers?

There are other sources of funding for assistive technology besides waivers:

1. Some states have their own Assistive Technology programs – and their websites may list “Sources for AT Funding.”

2. Many private foundations are eager to partner with programs that promote more independence, choice, and quality of life for people with disabilities.

3. Some disability-specific agencies, such as UCP, Autism Society, or the Down syndrome Association, may have opportunities for funding technology.

Some of the agencies we work with have initially funded their assistive technology programs through private grants, and then taken the results of those projects back to the state, convincing them that assistive technology truly does make a difference, both in people’s lives and in funding the kind of support they want and need.

 

What We Know for Sure: It’s Cost-Effective and It Works!

States have begun to apply community supported living (CSL) success stories to their considerations for Medicaid funding. How they define "assistive technology" and interpret "community supported living" is creating new opportunities and new legislation in several states. The infographic below highlights a few examples of how enabling technology is becoming a widely accepted natural support for those who want to live more independently.

 

*What is Community Supported Living?

In community supported living (CSL), the individual is integrated into the community; the individual gets to select the supports; the rights of privacy, dignity, and freedom from restraint are ensured; and the individual’s independence and self-determination are facilitated and optimized.

**Curious about the history of this legislation? Read on...

In the education-focused Assistive Technology Acts of 1988, 1998, and 2004, assistive technology was defined as “…any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” These particular laws were written for the purpose of equipping schools and students with disabilities with the equipment they needed.

In 1999, however, the Olmstead decision by the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the integration mandate of the American with Disabilities Act requires public agencies (not just schools, but now also residential services for people with disabilities) to provide services "in the most integrated setting appropriate to the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities."

This decision eventually led to the establishment of Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS), the requirements of which were spelled out in the Final Rule in 2014. Because of the Final Rule, providers must enable their clients who receive services to live in a context and manner of their own choosing, as the result of person-centered planning.

One way providers try to attain this outcome is to have staff onsite around the clock. This both limits the individual who is ready for more independence, and is incredibly expensive due to 24/7 staffing costs (not to mention challenging because of the shortage of DSP’s).

Some providers, however, have realized that using technology as a natural support for clients leads both to greater independence for the client and sustainable funding and staffing models. You can read some of these providers' stories here, here, and here.

 

Want to learn more? Get in touch.

Alaska Newspaper Features Family Using SimplyHome Technology

The Juneau Empire recently published the story of Gina and Sandy, a mother and daughter who have begun to use SimplyHome technology at their remote Alaskan homestead. Read the full article or catch a sneak preview below!

Photo by Michael Penn / The Juneau Empire

Photo by Michael Penn / The Juneau Empire

Posted November 21, 2017

by Alex McCarthy

Juneau Empire

Assistive living technology helps disabled residents feel secure at home

Juneau becomes the first city in Alaska with SimplyHome service

The Frickey residence, located Out the Road, is in a picturesque spot. Snow-laden trees surround the house, the interior of which is bright, wood-paneled and decorated for the holidays.

Despite the beauty, it can be treacherous living out there, due to isolation and the bears that lurk around the property. For Gina Frickey, living in the house with her mother Sandy, cerebral palsy and memory issues made it even more dangerous.

“I would be getting up in the middle of the night, I would be trying to use the restroom and then falling down,” Gina explained.

Gina, 39, would also sometimes forget to close the doors when she went outside, leaving the family’s multitude of dogs and cats at risk of escaping — or allowing outside animals to come into the house.

A longtime client of REACH, Gina has thrived in a variety of realms, from being one of the early leaders of REACH’s shredding program to producing pottery at The Canvas community art studio. But her struggles at home were frustrating both for her and Sandy.

A solution to their problems was all the way in North Carolina. A company called SimplyHome specializes in designing in-home systems that assist individuals with disabilities, and the Frickey house recently became the second residence in Alaska to have the system installed.

Motion sensors are installed above all the exterior doors, and in multiple locations in the house as well. The system was specifically designed to make for a safer environment when Gina gets up in the night to use the bathroom. There’s a pad on her bed that senses whether she’s in bed or not, which then communicates with other sensors around the house.

The motion sensor in the bathroom knows when Gina is out of bed, and calls Gina out by name if it senses she has fallen asleep or fallen in the bathroom. To add to that, Sandy gets alerts to her phone if Gina has been out of bed or immobile for a certain period of time.

These precautions have put both of them at ease.

“Safety-wise,” Sandy said, “things are a lot better.”

...Read the rest of the article here.

In Alaska, Technology Helps Create Connection and Independence

 

In the state of Alaska, feeling connected can be a challenge, with neighbors sometimes miles away and reliable internet access often only available via satellite. Alaska is the least densely populated of all U.S. states and the state capital, Juneau, boasts a population of only 32,000.

But one service provider, REACH, has long been on a mission to connect the people they serve – many of whom have intellectual or developmental disabilities – with the services they need and the communities they live in.

REACH’s newest venture? Taking technology to the next level, to promote the independence and choice of the people they serve.

 

A New Frontier for SimplyHome

During the spring of 2017 Allen and Jason Ray (SimplyHome's CEO and CDO) were invited to travel to Alaska to speak with several providers who want to incorporate technology into their service models, to empower people with disabilities to live more independently.

Allen Ray and Jason Ray on their spring visit to Alaska.

Allen Ray and Jason Ray on their spring visit to Alaska.

One of the most excited providers they spoke to was REACH. Based in Juneau, REACH provides both services and advocacy to people with disabilities. As Sabrina Cardinal, adult service coordinator for REACH, puts it, “Our overall goal is to ensure the people we serve and other fellow Alaskans are safe and are taken care of in the home they want to be in.”

REACH recently began using SimplyHome technology in the homes of some of the people they support. After only a few months of using the technology, REACH has seen measurable results with each client. Sabrina says the staff are really proud of what REACH is doing: "Already we are seeing technology make a difference.”

 

Living at Home with Cerebral Palsy

One individual who accepts services from REACH, “Alice,” lives with her mother in her family home. Alice has a history of falling asleep in the bathroom, which has contributed to a history of falls. She is unable to get up by herself due to her cerebral palsy.

With the goal of making it possible for Alice to be as independent as possible when it comes to her living situation, SimplyHome implemented a voice prompt that doesn’t allow Alice to fall asleep in the bathroom context. Since the system was installed, Alice has not had any more falls in the bathroom, and if she does need assistance, she is able to press her wearable pendant, which sends a text message to her mother. The system has not only contributed to Alice’s overall safety, but to her privacy at home.

The SimplyHome system has also allowed Alice’s mother to have more peace of mind. Because they live in a remote area, Alice’s mother had concerns about her daughter needing help if she wandered outdoors, fell in the home or on the property, or left outside doors open (due to bears’ tendency to enter homes). Now the sensor-based system sends a text to Alice’s mother if Alice leaves the house or leaves an outside door open.  Alice also wears a pendant so that if she does fall in or around her home, she can quickly summon assistance from her mother. This has been very reassuring to Alice’s mother, enabling her to sleep better at night.

 

Discovering New Abilities

TK also accepts services from REACH, and he lives in his own apartment. Recently his care coordinator and guardian had concerns that TK was scared and not sleeping in his bed at night. They were considering taking him out of his home and looking for a group home placement.

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However, TK has lived in group homes before and he has never thrived like he does now, with the supports and independence he is allowed in his own apartment. Furthermore, despite being nonverbal, TK has made it very clear that he enjoys his independence and having his own space.

Once REACH implemented the SimplyHome sensors in TK’s home, REACH was able to obtain data showing that TK was indeed going to bed, and that he was not leaving his apartment when he was alone. The staff from REACH was able to use the SimplyHome notifications as prompts to check in with him visually (via a video home monitor system). The SimplyHome system gave the guardian and care coordinator more peace of mind, knowing that TK was okay and could be checked on if any concern arose. As a result, TK was able to continue living in the environment that was his first choice. As REACH coordinator Sabrina Cardinal puts it, “We have realized as a team that TK is way more capable than we all gave him credit for.”

 

REACH Looks to the Future

Two more people receiving services from REACH will soon have their own SimplyHome systems installed, with the goal of increasing their independence, alleviating family concerns, and optimizing staff hours to the best times of day for that individual.

The REACH technology team, from left to right: Sabrina Cardinal, Adult Service Coordinator; Jared Pigue, Adult Staff Manager; Henry Wyatt, Adult Staff Manager; Ronald Little, Adult Services Director.

The REACH technology team, from left to right: Sabrina Cardinal, Adult Service Coordinator; Jared Pigue, Adult Staff Manager; Henry Wyatt, Adult Staff Manager; Ronald Little, Adult Services Director.

Though REACH plans to expand their program as soon as they get the funding for it, right now they are “at the mercy of grant funding.” Currently they rely heavily on mini grants from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, and are applying for any other grant opportunities they can find.

 

 

Jim is the most recent REACH client to acquire a SimplyHome system. He owns his own condo and made the local paper for his success of being a homeowner. He also assists with the REACH Community Garden.

Jim is the most recent REACH client to acquire a SimplyHome system. He owns his own condo and made the local paper for his success of being a homeowner. He also assists with the REACH Community Garden.

With the initial implementation of these first few systems, REACH is focused on sharing these stories with families and clients, to show that it really can make a difference. Even when not physically present 24 hours a day, families, staff, and caregivers can know if someone wanders from their home or if an unsafe person approaches the home. They can be notified if there are cooking and medication compliance concerns, so they can react swiftly if there is a fire or other emergency.

For the folks at REACH, implementing enabling technology has huge rewards. They see it as being able to make their clients’ wishes come true: to stay in their own homes.


About SimplyHome: Based in Asheville, North Carolina, SimplyHome designs and implements person-centered technology solutions for independent living, empowering clients, families, caregivers, organizations, and policymakers through enabling technology. Learn more at the SimplyHome website.

About REACH: Based in Juneau, Alaska, REACH grew out of the dream of a group of local families who wanted to organize activities for their children with disabilities. What started out as a small, family-run group meeting in a church basement has developed into an agency now supporting 400 individuals and families with nearly 300 employees. REACH is committed to creating communities free of barriers for people with disabilities. REACH, Inc. honors and respects the people they serve by promoting choice and well-being through advocacy and services. Stay up to date with the latest from REACH.

Finding His Voice: Brian Keefer Presents at PAR Conference with SimplyHome

SimplyHome attends many conferences, but the most recent one was special: the room was so full that many people had to stand. The audience seemed spellbound, and more than a few had tears in their eyes.

On October 23, SimplyHome presented at the 2017 PAR Conference. This particular presentation was unique: It featured Brian Keefer, of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Brian joined Allen Ray, CEO of SimplyHome, to talk about enabling technology and how it has given him more independence and support in his daily life.

The PAR conference took place near Brian's home in York County, PA, and the York Daily Record recently interviewed Brian to see how he was doing, six years after the home renovation TV show transformed his family's home. (SimplyHome was the assistive technology advisor on that show.)

Known for his outstanding athletic ability before his accident, Brian is now known for directing his laser-like focus on a positive attitude, hard work, and encouraging others. He completes three to six hours of grueling therapy each day, and often travels to give motivational speeches, where he talks about the power of positivity. 

As the YDR article describes, as a result of the renovation, Keefer gained his own bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room, guest room and therapy room complete with an indoor pool and underwater treadmill. His living quarters even have a separate entrance. Voice-activated technology enables him to have more independence in his own space.

“It’s neat to be able to talk to the house and have it help me out," Brian says of the voice-activated technology. "Just being able to be more independent, that’s been the most helpful thing."

Brian not only uses his voice to control the technology around his home, but he also uses it in his venture as a motivational speaker. Brian has spoken to schools, business associations, religious organizations, and a variety of medical groups.  He has also traveled to Washington DC to participate in "Roll on Capitol Hill," where he advocated for disability laws with senior legislative aides and counsel.

As a result of the hard work Brian does in therapy, his left arm is now strong enough that he can drive his wheelchair with a joystick. He is also getting a lot of core strength back, enough to be able to sit up on the couch without any help. He's also started getting “little flickers” in his leg muscles – not enough to move yet, but it’s something he didn’t have before.

Watch the York Daily Record's video about Brian here.

Read the York Daily Record's full article here.

SimplyHome Develops Voice-Activated Technology through VA Grant
SimplyHome's Chief Development Officer, Jason Ray (far right), demonstrates new outcomes with the technology developed by SimplyHome.

SimplyHome's Chief Development Officer, Jason Ray (far right), demonstrates new outcomes with the technology developed by SimplyHome.

Assisted by voice-activated technology, a disabled Veteran works from home.

Assisted by voice-activated technology, a disabled Veteran works from home.

With the completion of a yearlong project to develop voice-activated sequences for enabling technology, SimplyHome will support new outcomes of residential independence, designed specifically for Veterans and Service members.

A Chance to Make a Difference

In 2016, SimplyHome was awarded at $200,000 grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop SimplyHome's Firefly-based technology, in order to increase Veterans’ and Service members’ ability to live independently in their own homes. The grant is part of the Specially Adapted Housing Assistive Technology (SAHAT) grant program, designed to expand home modifications options for Veterans.

With development funded by the VA’s SAHAT grant, the newly completed Firefly-based platform from SimplyHome simplifies the user experience of voice commands to control enabling technology in the home environment. Rather than being one-size-fits-all, the technology is designed to support the unique goals of each client. Veterans can issue single voice commands to accomplish complex sequences of pre-customized actions.

SimplyHome has partnered with our sister company, NuCadence, to found a non-profit, No Place Like Home, in order to make sure these solutions are fully accessible to Veterans and Service members. Veterans that have been identified by the VA as having IL (Independent Living) needs are automatically eligible for our assistive technology and funding through the No Place Like Home program.

 

How Technology Sets the Scene for Success: Steve's Story

After two tours in the Middle East and several combat-related injuries, Steve decided it was time to rejoin civilian life and hone new skillsets in the business technology world. Steve runs a small business out of his home and uses SimplyHome technology to set the scene for various times of day:

“Alexa, tell SimplyHome I’m up.”

Upon hearing these words from Steve, his SimplyHome Firefly(TM) system opens the door to his home office and turns on his lights and other appliances that Steve needs for the day. The SimplyHome system can also notify his wife Emily, who works the night shift at the hospital, that Steve has started his workday.

“Alexa, tell SimplyHome I’m leaving the house”

By saying this, Steve can turn off lights, appliances, and close and lock doors through voice commands. SimplyHome’s system design can adapt to include other devices that promote the security and safety of Steve’s home environment, especially since he runs his business out of his home.

“Alexa, tell SimplyHome I’m going to bed.”

Though Steve has limited mobility, he can use his voice to turn off or adjust any of the devices connected to his Firefly system. This voice command triggers a sequence that locks doors, turns off lights, and sets the thermostat for the evening.

 

Sample Outcomes:

Each individual Veteran will have their own goals for enabling technology, but here are some examples of outcomes that can be achieved using the SimplyHome technology:

  • Gain more control of the home environment through simple voice activation.
  • Increase independence and privacy, reducing the need for continuous caregiver presence.
  • Design the type of support they want to receive, with custom alerts or notifications.

 

Common Concerns:

SimplyHome technology can address these common concerns for Veterans:

  • Limited mobility due to artery/vein conditions, chronic fatigue, nerve damage, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, amputations, or paralysis
  • Cooking safety problems due to lost sense of smell
  • Difficulties with memory or activities of daily life due to PTSD or TBI
  • Maintaining independence with loss of hearing or vision
  • Calling for help or assistance
  • Managing chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension

 

Learn More About SimplyHome's Commitment to Veterans

 

This article was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month!

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month - also known as #NDEAM. The theme of #NDEAM 2017 is "Inclusion Drives Innovation" -- something we are passionate about at SimplyHome!

To celebrate, SimplyHome is participating in the Hire My Strengths social media campaign, which encourages anyone and everyone (with a disability or not) to think about what they're good at. Inclusion in employment benefits all of us!

Below, many of the SimplyHome staff have identified their strengths. With strengths like these, it is easy to see why SimplyHome is a great place to work!

 

How Enabling Technology Can Empower Adults with Autism
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In some ways, for the adult with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) who wants to be independent, the world has never looked brighter.

In the work world, many companies, including Microsoft, SAP, and JP Morgan Chase have updated or altered their hiring practices because they have begun to recognize that people with autism frequently contribute excellent skills to the workplace.

Many new television shows and movies feature autism: the BBC’s 'The A-word', ABC’s The Good Doctor, Netflix’s Atypical, Sesame Street’s new character Julia, and in the 2017 film Power Rangers, the Blue Power Ranger.

While the work world is slowly opening up to some autistic individuals, and mainstream American culture may finally be paying more attention to neurodiversity, for many people with autism, the challenges of attaining independence are closer to home.

Today we are exploring how adults with autism can use SimplyHome technology to enable them to live on their own in the community while meeting the challenges of everyday life.

To Cue Independence and Daily Routines:

Routines can help to reduce anxiety, provide opportunities for skill development, and promote independence. Customized verbal prompts can cute the same activity at the same time each day; inform people about coming transitions, such as “Brenda will arrive in 10 minutes,” or provide reminders of daily routines: “It is time to wash your face and brush your teeth” or “Don’t forget your keys and purse.”

Evening and morning routines can also be customized to prompt individuals to complete the same tasks or routines each day (or night) at the same time.

To Counteract Risks:

Verbal prompts can also be triggered by the opening of a door or window, in the case of individuals who are prone to wandering or elopement.

If a stove is left on too long, or if a door is left open when it should be closed, a verbal prompt can remind the individual to turn off the stove, finish cooking, or close the door.

To Provide Positive Reinforcement:

Motion and pressure sensors can also notice when individuals are carrying on their daily routine as prompted, and issue positive reinforcement, such as “Great job on starting your laundry this morning” or “Good job on going to bed before 9pm. You can get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed.”

To Provide Non-verbal Avenues of Communication:

Because an autistic person may be able to recognize something is wrong, but not be able to communicate verbally, it is vital for a person living alone (or without constant supervision) to be able to get assistance when it is needed. A panic pendant can be unobtrusively worn on the wrist to create communication options for people who are limited in using the phone or summoning assistance from a neighbor.

Learn More About Cuing Independence for Adults with Autism

Assistive Technology: A Tool for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver
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For the caregiver of a person with Alzheimer's disease, every day can be an unpredictable challenge.

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, can include cognitive disruptions such as severe memory loss, difficulty in planning or problem solving, general confusion with time and place, decreased or poor judgment, withdrawal from one’s normal life activities, and mood or personality changes.

Because dementia symptoms can vary so dramatically from one day to the next, caregivers are often unable to predict and keep up with the needs of their loved ones.

Most caregivers cite emotional stress as the biggest challenge, while physical and financial stress can also weigh heavily on families.  Eight in 10 caregivers agree that it “takes a village” to care for someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s – but more than 80% of those same caregivers said they did not have enough help from other family members. (Read More: Alzheimer's in the United States)

SimplyHome’s technology can help address the concerns of the Alzheimer’s caregiver, diminishing emotional and financial strains and creating greater peace of mind.

Additionally, remote support systems can help distribute the tasks of caregiving among multiple family members.

How Does It Work?

For the Alzheimer’s caregiver, many concerns are safety-related:

  • What if my mother forgets to take her medication?
  • What if she no longer remembers to complete important tasks on her own?
  • What if my loved one does not remember to turn off the stove?
  • How will I know if my father leaves the house, wanders off, or falls?
  • If I can’t be there around the clock, how do I know if my loved one is okay?

Each remote support system is customized by SimplyHome:

  • Secure medication dispensers can provide reminders to individuals to take their medications, and alerts to caregivers if their loved ones forget.
  • The SimplyHome System can be customized with verbal reminders that cue daily routines, such as reminders to brush teeth, get out of bed, wash clothes, or take medications.
  • The SimplyHome System can alert caregivers based on cooking safety concerns, such as the stove being left on for a selected period of time. Based on the activities in each room in the house, the sensor-based systems can issue alerts to caregivers. For example, if a loved one gets up to go to the bathroom at night but does not return to bed within a specific timeframe, a caregiver can receive an alert.
  • Loved ones who are at risk for falling or wandering can utilize Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) or be supported by motion-sensor based technology that can alert caregivers of potentially dangerous activity or inactivity.
  • Caregivers can remotely check on their loved ones’ activity or inactivity in the home, by using SimplyHome's secure web portal.

For the Alzheimer’s caregiver, assistive technology can create a stronger safety net for their loved one, allowing the caregiver to receive alerts when additional support is needed. These alerts can be sent to multiple family members, enabling families to distribute caregiving responsibilities and take better care of themselves – and their loved ones – in the long run.

At SimplyHome, we are walking to End Alzheimer's on September 16th –

Help us reach our goal.

 

Ready to talk? Contact us for a free assessment and plan for how we can help you support your loved one's needs.

 

Enabling Technology: Changing How We Live with TBI
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For many survivors of traumatic brain injury, life is never quite the same. TBI affects everyone differently, depending on the location of the injury. Was there damage to the frontal lobe? Loss of focus and impulsiveness may occur. The occipital lobe? Vision problems may crop up. Physical abilities, mental abilities, emotions, and personality can all be affected by TBI.

 

One of the hallmarks of TBI, however, is problems with short-term and long-term memory. People with TBI may not remember to care for themselves and for their home environment. They may have difficulty with language, speaking, remembering faces, as well as naming and identifying things.

 

A second hallmark of TBI is that planning and executive functioning may be impaired. This can make it very difficult for a person with TBI to complete tasks, follow a schedule, and adhere to a routine. Some people with TBI need prompting to complete daily tasks but also need enough time to move at their own pace.

 

Assistive technology – particularly customized remote support technology – can enable a person with TBI to take more ownership of daily life, gaining greater independence and asserting the dignity of taking reasonable risks.

 

SimplyHome's remote support technology is customized for each individual, in order to promote a wide variety of outcomes:

Establishing and Maintaining a Daily Routine

  • Verbal prompts can be customized for the home environment. Individuals can receive scheduled reminders such as, “John, it’s time to get up and get dressed.”
  • Verbal cues can also be based on sensors and time of day – if John enters the bathroom between 6-8pm, he can receive a verbal prompt such as, “John, don’t forget to brush your teeth after dinner.”
  • Many individuals currently using our SimplyHome assistive technology use the verbal prompts to help them start their day on time, leave for work at the proper time, make sure to take their keys with them, or remember to shower, wash clothes, or complete chores.
  • These prompts can be customized to occur based on each individual’s desired schedule. Routines can be adjusted as needs change, and the individual can go at their own pace.

 

Managing Medication Adherence and Chronic Conditions

  • Often people with TBI need to utilize new strategies to remember things. If the individual with TBI is taking medicine, he or she may not remember to take it on time, or may miss a dose.
  • Automated medication dispensers can prompt the individual (by utilizing a light or a buzzer) to take the medication, and alert a family member or another caregiver (by phone or text) if the medication is missed or not taken on time.
  • Individuals who need to manage health conditions such as diabetes or hypertension can be prompted to take their blood sugar/blood pressure and the measurement can be recorded using our Telehealth wellness tools.
  • When Telehealth measurements (such as blood sugar or blood pressure) fall outside the normal range, a caregiver or a family member will receive an alert.

 

  Access to Non-Emergency Assistance

  • For some individuals with TBI, a Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) is helpful. This device, which can be worn around the wrist or around the neck, allows the individual to summon help (from selected caregivers or family members) when they are in need of assistance.
  • Some people with TBI have difficulty with balance and movement; having a PERS in one’s home can promote peace of mind, just in case a fall or another emergency should occur.
  • Depending on the severity of the TBI symptoms, other people may not have emergency concerns, but simply need a way to quickly summon assistance for themselves, while maintaining independence in their own space.

 

The beauty of assistive technology is that it's not one-size-fits-all. We can all benefit from using technology to meet our goals – whether that is cooking a four-course meal, or simply using the kitchen safely; whether it means being able to start your own business out of your home (as some of our clients have done), or simply carrying out your daily routines in your own home.

 

Want to talk? We love empowering people to meet their goals for independence and growth.

Schedule a free assessment today.

 
SimplyHome Featured in the Biltmore Beacon
Photo by Sandra Barnes

Photo by Sandra Barnes

From Alaska to New York, from Canada to California, wherever SimplyHome goes, you can be sure we are working to enable people to live more independently by using technology.

Recently our Chief Development Officer, Jason Ray, spoke with the Biltmore Beacon about his ever-expanding work to empower people. For Jason, this includes everyone from his own aging family members, to Alaskans with intellectual and developmental disabilities, to service providers all over the continent:

“A lot of people who want to remain in place at their homes can’t afford full-time, live-in assistance,” Ray says. “For someone with a disability, technology can make things possible.”

The article focuses on the Ray family and how they seek to create better outcomes and better lives for people whose strengths and abilities are often overlooked.

Read the full article here.

SimplyHome's Jason Ray Honored with Business Leadership Award

SimplyHome is proud to announce that our Chief Development Officer, Jason Ray, has been awarded the 2017 Small Business Leader of the Year Award by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.  

Several of the SimplyHome staff attended the May 15th event (the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Asheville Chamber and Economic Development Coalition), which took place at Asheville's Omni Grove Park Inn, to see Jason receive the award in person.

Small Business Leader Award Jason Ray
SimplyHome's Customer Service Team Member Michelle Russell

The Small Business Leader of the Year Awards program recognizes two individuals who clearly reflect quality and dedication in the operation of business in the Asheville area and provide leadership accomplishments including innovation, initiative, and civic responsiveness.

Jason Ray is this year's award recipient in the category of 16-50 employees for his dedication in serving people with integrity and using innovative technology to provide solutions.

Jason Ray and the SimplyHome Team
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Jason and Jayme Ray pose for a picture at the Award Dinner
Sky High Growth Award 2017

In April of this year, the Asheville Chamber of Commerce also awarded SimplyHome with the Sky High Growth Award. This is the sixth year SimplyHome has garnered this award.

One Person, A World of Difference: Congratulations to Xia Xiong!
Xia Xiong, Wisconsin's DSP of the Year

When Meg Anderson remembers the beginning of her son Grant’s journey with autism, she uses phrases like “when he was a year old, we lost our son” and “he began to regress into his own world.”

She remembers feeling helpless in the face of Grant's challenges, behaviors, and frequent hospitalizations: “We were at the end of our rope. We were exhausted. We had nowhere to turn.”

But one day a county support worker was able to create some solutions for Grant’s needs, by helping him move into a shift foster home with an amazing staff of caregivers.

As a parent, Meg felt that this was all she could hope for. She was grateful and pleased with the solutions that allowed her son to be safe and cared for: “As a parent, there is nothing more vulnerable than putting your special needs child in the care of others. Nothing.”

One member of the caregiving staff, Xia Xiong, went above and beyond to make a difference in Grant's life.

Xia was recently honored as the Wisconsin DSP of the Year at the 2017 ANCOR Conference, after being nominated by Meg’s family and by Innovative Services as a truly phenomenal DSP.

According to Meg, when Xia became a member of Grant's team, that's when everything changed:

“With Xia, I got so much more than I merely hoped for – I got what I dreamed of. I dreamed of staff that would love him and care for his emotional health – even when at times he is hard to love. I dreamed of staff that would look for innovative solutions to problems as they arose – because we knew that there would be problems. I dreamed of staff that would use their creativity and compassion to improve Grant’s quality of life – not just maintain it. I dreamed of staff that would always look at the positive in every situation – even when I was at my lowest.

From her hand-drawn signs around the house helping remind Grant of daily procedures, to her willingness to try new things to better Grant’s life – like taking him swimming or building him his own Advent calendar, to her ability to look past his extreme behaviors to protect his emotional well-being, even when he is at his most unlovable- Xia epitomizes the type of caregiver every parent dreams of for their child. She doesn’t come to “work” every day – she comes to “Grant’s house” and works to make his life the best it can be every single day. She makes the team stronger. She makes life better for Grant – and she makes life better for me because I know my son is not just kept safe, but cherished and protected. She is his advocate and his champion.”

Grant

Xia's fellow staff at Innovative Services, Inc., have also recognized her outstanding approach to working with her clients:

“Xia was instrumental in preparing Grant to spend a portion of Christmas with his family last year – the first time he had spent any holiday with his family in years. Xia assisted with developing social stories as a learning tool to prepare Grant on what to expect.

Xia has helped Grant to build relationships with his peers at school as well as to manage relationship transitions when his primary educator changed. Outside of school, Xia is involved with Grant in the community, helping him to pursue his interest in swimming.

When Grant began struggling with his perception of law enforcement, Xia was part of the team brainstorming positive interactions in safe environments.

Xia has also developed tremendous relationships with Grant’s family, as well as with the rest of Grant’s care team.

Xia has championed safety protocols within her program, and develop a method for buckling and unbuckling Grant in vehicles to minimize risk – a creative approach which has been recognized as a best practice to be shared with other organizations.

A talented artist, Xia develops chore charts to help Grant as he learns additional responsibilities. She also updates Grant’s communication board and feelings board as his capabilities expand.

When working with Grant, Xia encourages him to be active in his choices. She presents him with new skills to advance, such as lacing his shoes, but keeps an easier alternative of Velcro shoes available, in case he becomes overly frustrated.

Although Xia primarily works with Grant, she is willing to step forward wherever there is a need. She understands everyone needs something, and she takes the time to figure out how to provide for other’s needs, tuning in to each person, asking the right questions, analyzing body language, and searching for the silent signs. She is able to mold herself into the support that each individual needs, even when she is supporting multiple people at once."

According to Rick Bahr, Innovative Services, Inc.'s COO, Xia exemplifies ISI's core values in her efforts to support people living the lives of their choice: “Xia makes our organization better, and her service has made a difference for the people she supports. Our organization is eternally grateful for Xia and our entire team of direct support professionals, managers and others who redefine what is possible each and every day."

Congratulations to Xia – thank you for empowering others through your amazing gifts and heart of service!

Enjoy this story? Follow SimplyHome's Facebook page for more stories about empowering people with disabilities to live with greater independence and self-determination!

Introducing Jessica - Our Newest Customer Service Expert!
Meet Jessica

An expert on bullets? A former resident of Kenya? Or a homebody? Meet Jessica, the newest member of our Customer Service team at SimplyHome.

Jessica has already made a big impact and has proven herself to be a quick learner and excellent team player! We sat down with Jessica to ask her a few questions about herself.

Are you new to Asheville? What is your favorite thing about Asheville so far?

I have been here about three years, although I do still refer to myself as being new to the area. I think my favorite thing here is how active everyone is.

Whether it's with animals, the outdoors, charity work, or the breweries, everyone seems to have a "thing" that gets them out of the house and into the community. As a natural homebody, it inspires me to stretch my comfort zone and get involved.

What's your favorite place you've ever lived?

Kakamega, Kenya

When you aren't working, how do you like to spend your time?

Either at home with my cats, or out at a pub with friends.

What is the strangest/oddest job you have ever had? Do you have any unusual skills on your resume?

I spent a summer inspecting bullets. They were re-packed shells used by a local police department for practice on the range.

What's been the best thing about your first week at SimplyHome?

Everyone has been so sweet and so welcoming, really making this an easy transition for me.

How do you define success?

I'd define success with another hard-to-define word: Happiness. Being successful is being happy - Loving where you live, having the freedom, both in finances and time, to be with friends or family, traveling, and loving what you do so that it doesn't feel like 'work'.

Welcome to the SimplyHome family, Jessica!

Stay up to date with the latest from SimplyHome - Like our Facebook page!

A Hero's Fight for Independence: Meet Charles

A Life of Adventure

From jumping out of planes to ministering to soldiers who are dealing with the realities of war, Reverend Charles Pittman has lived a life characterized by courage and devotion.

Now retired from being a United Methodist minister, Charles received his first church appointment at only 19 years old. During his 48 years of ministry, he also served on active duty as an Army chaplain in Ethiopia and Thailand. Upon returning to the United States, he served in the Alabama-West Florida Conference as an ordained minister.

Later in life, Charles was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which the VA says is a direct result of spinal trauma during his time in the military. Due to the damage to his spinal cord, he has limited mobility. Now a resident of Brooks-Howell Home, Charles receives occupational therapy (OT) as part of his support needs. The OT Assistant who works with Charles at Brooks-Howell realized that Charles' support needs could be best addressed by a combination of natural supports, assistive technology, and community relationships.

Connecting with Support

Accustomed to fighting for freedom, Charles was determined not to let his disability take his own independence. He longed to be more active and mobile throughout the Brooks-Howell community. Through the No Place Like Home program, Charles received an iPad that was mounted on his wheelchair. His new tablet gives him more freedom to move around the community and to connect with friends and family through his touchscreen tablet.

“I like to go out in the sunshine. With my iPad, I can listen to music. It has been a great help to me because I can use it on the go. I’m not bound to my old computer in my room all the time,” said Charles.

SimplyHome, Community Homes®, and Eblen Charities founded the No Place Like Home program with the mission of ensuring that Veterans and their caregivers have the opportunity to access technology that will support their independence and create a new sense of freedom. Nothing can replace being independent and feeling at home, especially for Veterans who have had to leave home to serve their country and who, like Charles, may be living with disabilities as a result of their service.

Get Assistance; Give Assistance

The No Place Like Home program offers new and refurbished systems to disabled Veterans anywhere in the United States. If you would like to learn more about how you can access technology, go to the Giving Back page, email us at info@simply-home.com, or call 1.877.684.3581.

Make a Donation -Whether you would like to make a monetary contribution to the program or donate your system, your support will empower a Veteran to live a life on their terms.

About Eblen Charities

Founded in 1991, Eblen Charities is a non-profit organization whose outreach through its numerous programs has helped thousands of families each year with medical and emergency assistance. Eblen Charities is based in Western North Carolina and offers more than 70 programs to assist families in a variety of categories, such as health, housing, energy, education, and emergency assistance.

About Brooks-Howell Home

Brooks-Howell is a nonprofit, charitable Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) located in Asheville, North Carolina, and supported by United Methodist Women of the United Methodist Church. Originally established as a retirement home for United Methodist deaconesses and missionaries, it has evolved into a community that includes local residents from Western North Carolina, clergy and spouses and service personnel from other denominations.

Top 10 Ways to Embrace More Person-Centered Language
Does Language Matter

It's 2017, and the language we choose -- in particular, the terms we use to describe people who differ from us -- has never seemed more important. Every day seems to bring another news story about cultural and social divides.

Language, however, does not only create barriers -- it can also build bridges. That's why we are taking time to revisit the idea of language being person-centered, especially as we continue to work with people in the disability community.

Want to use empowering, respectful language? Here are ten ways to make your language more person-centered (besides, of course, simply using a person's name!).

10. Take time to eliminate outdated and offensive words from your vocabulary.

Some of the terms used to describe people with disabilities are outdated, offensive, and considered slang. Need some examples? Here is a great place to start: Terms to Avoid When Writing About Disability.

9. Avoid using the language of disability to describe potentially negative traits.

When people in our culture feel that there is a slowness in understanding something, they often describe ourselves or others as “retarded.” Don’t understand what the big deal is? Read more: Eliminating the R-word.

When we feel that someone is distracted or not very focused on a task, we may describe them as being a “spaz.” In the United States, many people do not realize that this term is derived from the word “spastic” – an alternation in muscle tone that is seen forms of cerebral palsy. In other English-speaking countries, however, both words are used as derogatory terms for people with disabilities.  Read more: The origin of "spaz."

When we use disability-related language to describe negative traits, we promote the view that people with disabilities are somehow defective or abnormal, a view that contributes to the isolation, oppression, and maltreatment of people with disabilities.

8. Take time to understand why individuals may prefer person-first language (PFL) over identity-first language (IFL), or vice versa.

The theory behind person-first language (PFL)—saying “a person with a developmental disability” rather than “disabled person,” or a “person with quadriplegia” rather than “a quadriplegic” – is that it emphasizes the person, not the disability: “By placing the person first, the disability is no longer the primary, defining characteristic of an individual, but one of several aspects of the whole person.” Continue reading about PFL.

While it’s important to be familiar with PFL, keep in mind that many individuals prefer identity-first language (IFL). In identity-first language, “disabled” is a “perfectly acceptable way for a person to identify,” because PFL may unintentionally create negative attitudes:

“Consider how PFL intentionally separates a person from their disability. Although this supposedly acknowledges personhood, it also implies that “disability” and “disabled” are negative, derogatory words. In other words, disability is something society believes a person should try to dissociate from if they want to be considered a whole person. This makes it seem as though being disabled is something of which you should be ashamed. PFL essentially buys into the stigma it claims to be fighting.”

-Emily Ladau at Think Inclusive

Two examples of communities that generally tend to prefer IFL are the Autistic Community and the Deaf Community. Many individuals in the Deaf Community capitalize the “D” in deaf to indicate being Deaf as a culture and identity. Read more about IFL.

7. Recognize cultural assumptions: The Religious Model

In the United States, our language is deeply affected by four major models of understanding disability: the religious, the medical, the educational, and the social.

The religious (or superstitious) model of disability gave rise to phrases like “afflicted with” or “stricken by” or “suffers from” a disability – reflecting a belief that disability somehow resulted from divine judgment or that the person was a victim or somehow morally deviant.

This way of thinking has also contributed to the devaluing, oppression, and isolation of people with disabilities. These terms also assume that a person with a disability is suffering or does not have a high quality of life. Read more about the Religious Model.

6. Recognize cultural assumptions: The Medical Model

The medical model of understanding disability promotes language that sees people with disabilities as “patients” with a “sickness” or “disease” that needs to be “cured.”

This way of talking about disability has also contributed to the isolation and oppression of people with disabilities, because disability is labelled as contagious or dangerous. Again, there is an assumption that a person with a disability is suffering or is a victim. Read more about the Medical Model.

5. Recognize cultural assumptions: The Educational Model

The educational model tends to promote language that sees people with disabilities as needing supports or assistance to become more like “the rest of us.” This view values or devalues people based on their capacity to adapt, “promotes low expectations of people with disabilities, and assumes unequal relationships.” Read more about the Educational Model.

This way of understanding disability often contributes to more isolation and the loss of rights, particularly in academic and professional settings. This view of disability also leads others to assume a patronizing role of “helpful teacher or parent” around people with disabilities.

4. Strive to understand the Social Model of understanding disability.

In contrast to the models above, the Social Model views disability as a mismatch between a person’s traits and their environment, and teaches that human culture turns natural traits into disabilities. A person’s disability can “become less severe without anything about their brain or abilities changing, if their environment accommodates their needs.” Read more about the Social Model.

This model of disability places the need for adaptation not on the individual with the disability, but on the environment and culture.

3. Re-examine the stereotypes our culture promotes about disability.

How many times have you seen a person with disability portrayed on television as inspirational? Or as dangerous to others? Or as a person without any flaws?

Laurie Block, in her article Stereotypes About People with Disabilities, describes six common stereotypes to be aware of. She describes one such stereotype as the idea that a person with a disability is a “superhuman,” triumphing over adversity in a way that serves as an example to others. Another stereotype is that people with disabilities are “holy innocents with special grace, with the function of inspiring others to value life.”

2. Choose to care about the preferences of other people, rather than just caring that you are “correct.”

In the end, our attitudes are more important than our choice of language:

“While terminology is important in shaping viewpoints, attitudes are even more important. Most people with disabilities are less offended by occasional outdated terminology than by obvious paternalistic or patronizing attitudes … Sincere respect and equality are easily recognized." (Read more from Disability Info)

Language that is respectful IS possible – but only if we are willing to slow down, examine our terminology, learn to be better listeners, and transform our own attitudes.  Not sure where to start? If possible, ask the people with disabilities who are already present in your life, and then start listening. A commitment to listening demonstrates willingness to put another person’s preferences, desires, and priorities first.

1. Remember that language is more powerful than we can imagine. 

During the worst eras of disability history, people who did not have disabilities chose terminology – usually words referring to inanimate objects—to describe people with disabilities, in order to dehumanize or separate them from the rest of society.

During the 21st century in the United States, people with disabilities were labelled as “undesirables,” “morons,” “degenerate,” “defective,” “lunatics,” “idiots,” “unfit,” and “feeble-minded.” These dehumanizing and objectifying terms were used to justify mass sterilization, institutionalization, oppression, and murder. During the eugenics era, the United States was a principal actor in promoting the “perfection of the race” through these forms of oppression.

These eras of history should compel us to pay closer attention to our language and our attitudes. If we do not know why we have so many conversations about language and terminology, and if we do not educate ourselves on disability history, we will not understand the power of language, and we will be at risk of repeating many terrible mistakes as a culture. What we teach our children and how we expect others to speak about disability can deeply affect every aspect of life, from access to a life in community to access to a voting booth or civil rights.

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Lastly, don't forget: One of the most empowering, person-centered uses of language is to simply use a person's name. 

For further reading:

Learn more about identity-first language and person-first language:

Learn about using more respectful, empowering language:

Learn more about the different models of understanding disability:

Challenge your own assumptions + visit important moments in disability history: