The SimplyHome Story featured in TEDxTalk

"Stay where you are." Mother Teresa once wrote to a young person seeking to make a difference. "Find your own Calcutta. Find your calling right where you are - in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces, and in your schools. You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have the eyes to see."

This inspiring story and many others were part of a recent TEDxTalk given by William Murdock, co-founder and CEO of Eblen Charities and the Eblen Center for Social Enterprise.

One of the stories featured in Mr. Murdock's TED talk is the story of Drue and Allen Ray, how they founded SimplyHome, and in the process, discovered their calling. Mr. Murdock's recently released book Find Your Own Calcutta, which also featured the Rays' story, was previously featured on the SimplyHome blog - you can read that story here.

You can hear the SimplyHome story around the 14:30 mark.

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ISI's Jeff Pagel Wins National DSP Award
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Thoughtful. Patient. Incredible Relationships. Respectful. Intentional. Encouraging.

These are just a few of the phrases that Jeff Pagel’s employer and clients use to describe him.  

Having worked in the human services field for almost 30 years, Jeff Pagel knows what it means to be a person-centered DSP, something he has just been recognized for on a national level.

Next month, Jeff will be one of two DSP’s recognized at the national ANCOR conference for how he embodies the NADSP Tenet of “Person-Centered Supports.”

Rick Bahr, COO at Innovative Services, Inc., writes, “Jeff is one of the rare people that sees the opportunity in every interaction with another person to make a difference… he puts others’ needs first and makes days better.”

In honor of Jeff’s achievement, we are including an article written for the occasion. We are proud to work with Jeff and Innovative Services! Congratulations, Jeff!


Appleton’s Jeff Pagel receives national honor for service

APPLETON, WI – March 22, 2018 – Jeffrey Pagel grew up with three athletic brothers and watched as their trophies filled his parents' home. None of them were his. Now, after a nearly 30-year career of supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Jeff has an honor of his own that stacks up with any earned in sports.

On April 17 in New Orleans, Jeff will be honored with a national award by the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) for his work at a group home in Appleton. From hundreds of national nominations, Jeff was chosen for exemplifying the tenets of a direct support professional, including providing person-centered supports, promoting physical and emotional well-being, acting with integrity and responsibility, and honoring justice, fairness, equity and respect.

Jeff has worked for Innovative Services, Inc. for the past eight years. Headquartered in Green Bay, Innovative Services was founded with the mission to give those with developmental disabilities the best quality of life in the community. It’s a mission Jeff has embraced his entire life.

“When I was in high school I worked as a short-order cook, and I had an awful boss who was cruel to everyone he worked with,” Jeff said. “I decided then that I wanted to do something good for people – to build connections and help them feel better about themselves.”

Over his three-decade career, Jeff estimates that he has worked with more than 150 individuals with developmental disabilities. They have become friends and built lasting connections.

“Recently I had some health issues and was away from work for six months,” he said. “After a few days, I felt a real void in my life. The people I work with become like family. We have inside jokes. We have great stories. We’ve made breakthroughs together.”

For Lorna, one of the individuals Jeff works with, his support has shaped her life for the better.

“Jeff got me to do my exercises and helped me walk better,” said Lorna, who struggles with chronic pain. “We made a deal that if I did my exercises, he would set up a lunch date for me with my sister.”

“Lorna gets really down on herself,” Jeff said. “She’s in a lot of pain. I tell her I know that feeling. I’ve had some health issues, I’m in pain too. I know it’s hard, but we can do this together. She responds to that approach, and together we’ve been able to change her approach from ‘I can’t’ to “I can.’”

Every individual with intellectual or developmental disabilities is unique, and hundreds of thousands of support professionals like Jeff at thousands of organizations like Innovative Services across the country adapt as necessary to help those individuals engage more fully in the community. The individuals who rely on Jeff know he will listen and understand but never judge.

“Jeff and I have worked together for many years,” said Vicky Coulthard, Jeff’s supervisor at Innovative Services. “He is such an incredibly positive influence for everyone he works with. When he is in a home, even our non-verbal clients know that someone will speak up for them. Jeff makes sure that everyone – the individuals we serve and our fellow employees – is treated with respect.”

He also brings a lighter side to the job, sometimes coming to work with blue hair or tie-dyed shirts, and often wearing a fedora. “I like to show people the joy of this job,” Jeff says.

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Learn more about Innovative Services, Inc. , one of SimplyHome's partner providers.

An Update on David's Vision

David Maennle, whom we have previously featured on the SimplyHome blog, continues to distinguish himself as an outstanding young man working towards his goals. David has Down syndrome and uses SimplyHome technology to live in his own apartment in the community.

As a graduate of Western Carolina's University Participant program, David was recently featured in Western Carolina University's CEAP News for Spring 2018 newsletter, in an article which we are reprinting below.

You can read more of David's story on our blog:

We love seeing David work towards his vision -- Watch out, world!


David Maennle

UNIVERSITY PARTICIPANT ALUMNUS '13

Article reprinted from CEAP News, Spring 2018 edition

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David graduated from the University Participant (UP) Program in May 2013. At that time, he became a part-time custodian and EMT Helper at Graham County EMS in Robbinsville, North Carolina. David is a valued member of his work community and he has made many friends at work. Because of his loyal work record, David’s building is one of the cleanest public buildings in Graham County. He has received several pay raises, resulting in him making several dollars above minimum wage per hour.

In addition to work, David has stayed busy in other ways. He volunteers at the local nursing home. The residents look forward to seeing him each week to call out Bingo numbers. He is active in church, serving as a deacon and greeter. He has also lived in his own apartment in Andrews, North Carolina, since 2014, with the support of NC Innovations paid supports, natural supports, and assistive technology. He independently accesses public transit to get to work each day.

Because David loves anything related to emergency medical services, he is currently taking an EMT-Basic class at Tri-County Community College. He enjoys continuing his education and has as a goal to pass the NC- EMT certification test someday. This may seem to be an impossible task, but when David sets a goal, watch out!

In addition to David’s dream of becoming an EMT, David also wants to be an independent homeowner. He plans to build his own log cabin on family property in Robbinsville, North Carolina. He has been busy doing fundraising toward the project and he has already raised in excess of $25,000 toward his goal. Currently, David is researching options for building the cabin and is determined to reach this goal.

In David’s spare time, he enjoys karaoke, listening to music, learning to play guitar, and visiting with friends and family. He also is a board member of NC TASH, which is an advocacy organization for persons with disabilities. He has travelled to Los Angeles, California and Washington, DC to make presentations at national advocacy conferences and to meet with Congressional members and with officials with the U.S. Department of Education. He is also a regular guest speaker at Western Carolina University. When asked if David has a good life, his response is always, “Yes, I have a good life!”


Using technology as a natural support, Bryan Leonard hones his skills

Today on our blog, in support of the upcoming event Inclusion Saturday, we feature our employee Bryan Leonard, who also happens to be celebrating a birthday this week. Happy Birthday, Bryan!!!!

Each week for the past five years, Bryan has walked into the SimplyHome office, usually with a huge smile on his face, ready to get to work. But today, Bryan does something new before beginning his janitorial work: He checks his tablet. As he makes his way through the office, he uses the tablet to mark each task as completed, tapping an icon when he cleans a room, tapping an icon again when he resupplies paper items, tapping an icon again when he finishes vacuuming each floor. When all his tasks are marked as completed, he then uses his tablet to check his calendar, to see who his work buddy will be. Together they will finish the day with a bit of fun and hanging out.

Using a tablet to manage his own tasks is a big change for Bryan, and one that has really enabled Bryan to grow in self-direction at work.


When Bryan first began to work with us at SimplyHome, he needed ongoing training and one-on-one support. The Arc of Buncombe County, which helped facilitate his employment, secured a job coach who accompanied him each week. With that structure of training and supervision in place, Bryan began to develop the skills and confidence to complete his tasks independently.

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The first year, Bryan’s main challenges were to identify his tasks, complete tasks in a timely manner, respect his coworkers’ work demands, and effectively communicate his observations, his frustrations, and the things he enjoyed. At the time, he was also adjusting to a cochlear implant, which greatly increased his ability to engage with others, but also presented challenges in terms of how to modulate his speaking voice and circle back if something was unclear. During this time of growing confidence, Bryan’s job coach stepped back into a shadowing role, and then stepped back again: now he just makes brief monthly visits. Open communication between Bryan, his job coach, and SimplyHome staff has supported these transitions.

Then, about three years into Bryan’s employment, we noticed a change. As Drue Ray, Director of HR at SimplyHome, puts it, “About year 3 with us, we all started to notice an increased level of maturity and interest in SimplyHome. Instead of asking someone what to do or how to do it, Bryan started offering and implementing problem-solving solutions of his own. As his confidence in his role has grown, he has continued to offer solutions to his time management and routine, and he has asked for additional responsibilities.”


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Using the tablet, the latest stage in Bryan’s growing independence, has been the most exciting for his colleagues at SimplyHome, simply because we get to watch it unfold in person.

A few months ago, under the guidance of Cameron Kempson, SimplyHome’s Director of Education & Consultation, Bryan began using the task management app on an iPad. With this new structure in place, Bryan has once again grown in his capacity to self-direct and self-advocate. Recently, he considered his various tasks and the time they take, and then modified the flow of his work in order to make himself more efficient.

Bryan has also learned to mirror actions in order to improve or modify his workflow. One day, he watched Amanda Benepe, our Intake Coordinator, add a new task to his tablet, with a photo and a description of the task. Bryan then surprised her later in the afternoon by showing her how he’d added his own task, photo, and description to his schedule.


What’s next for Bryan? He’s beginning to translate the skills he’s learning on the job to using technology at home and in the community, to self-direct his routines and manage his life outside of work.

Over the course of Bryan’s employment, the staff at SimplyHome has learned that providing flexibility to Bryan creates opportunities for him to grow in self-direction. Bryan is a true part of the team who is contributing, trusted, and held accountable for his schedule.

Community supported employment includes more than just hiring someone with disabilities. Because real inclusion means holistic inclusion in the workplace, you’ll see Bryan at our office birthday parties, staff and family outings, and our much-anticipated Christmas party.

No event is more anticipated in the office than Bryan’s birthday, which he reminds everyone about for several weeks ahead of time. This year, Bryan turns 25. He has goals for himself – his dream job is working at Ingles Supermarkets. With new skills under his belt, a penchant for hard work, and an ability to bring enthusiasm to the whole team, we are all excited to see how Bryan will continue to grow.


Find out more about Inclusion Saturday, which raises awareness for inclusive opportunities in North Carolina.

In the news: Open House to Celebrate SimplyHome's New Offices!
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SimplyHome is delighted to announce that we have officially moved in to our new and expanded offices at 48 Fisk Drive in Arden! We hope you can join us for an open house, ribbon cutting, and delicious hors d'oeuvres by Farm to Fender with beverages supplied by Wicked Weed Brewing, our new neighbors in Arden. Our open house will take place from 4-6 on Thursday, March 8. Ribbon cutting will take place at 4:15pm. Questions? Please contact our office at 828-684-8441.


Here is the latest from Asheville's Chamber of Commerce:

Leading Healthcare Technology Solutions Provider, SimplyHome, Announces New Asheville Headquarters

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (March 8, 2018) — In conjunction with the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County (EDC), SimplyHome LLC announced an expansion to their new corporate offices at 48 Fisk Drive in South Asheville. The newly remodeled 12,000 square-foot headquarters will house over 20 employees in sales, marketing, technology, research & development, and will allow for expanded manufacturing and training capacity for North American clients in the managed healthcare sector. The company will celebrate the expansion and recently completed renovations with an Open House on March 8th at 4pm.

Founded in 2009 in Asheville, North Carolina, SimplyHome provides highly customizable assistive technology solutions that transform healthcare delivery for aging, disabled, and veteran populations. SimplyHome implements smart sensor technologies to provide support for independent living skills, limited mobility, medication compliance, cooking safety, and chronic health condition management. The patented technology empowers caregivers, organizations, and policymakers to achieve better patient outcomes and service efficiencies while promoting goals of self-determination, independence, and dignity.

SimplyHome’s mission of “Connecting innovation and independence” reflects a national trend in the technological transformation of healthcare delivery systems and has earned the company national recognition in the field.  In 2011, the company was featured on an episode of ABC Television Network’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, enabling a young man who was paralyzed from the neck down to become more independent in his daily life.  The company has since founded the No Place Like Home program, in conjunction with NuCadence® and Eblen Charities, to offer new and refurbished systems to disabled Veterans anywhere in the United States.

“Our mission has always been to connect enabling technology with outcomes needed to support the independence of people with disabilities, as well as those choosing to age in the place they call home,” shared Allen Ray, SimplyHome’s CEO.  “The imagination and hard work required to accomplish this vision are qualities found in the people of Western North Carolina. While we could locate our business and research anywhere, we choose to call Asheville home because of the sense of community, the work ethic of its people, and the personal values found here.”

“We are thrilled to congratulate SimplyHome on their expansion and continued success,” said Janice Brumit, EDC Board Chair.  “They remind us that business can be a force for good, improving the lives of their customers and the communities in which they live.”

“Locally headquartered companies like SimplyHome are especially important to Buncombe County,” said Brownie Newman, Chairman of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. “Beyond valuable career opportunities and tax revenues, there is measurable economic impact on local vendor businesses, philanthropic giving and the climate for innovation.  We wish the SimplyHome team much continued success.”

Interested job seekers will find employment opportunities posted at www.simply-home.com/careers and www.ncworks.gov.


The Economic Development Coalition (EDC) for Asheville-Buncombe County is a public-private partnership committed to: creating and retaining high quality jobs, community leadership, and being a resource for better business decisions.  The EDC accomplishes this mission through its four core services: business retention and expansion, small business and entrepreneurship, research, and marketing and recruitment.  The EDC is funded by Buncombe County, the City of Asheville, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and over 80 private investors through AVL 5×5. The EDC holds the prestigious distinction of being one of only 50 Accredited Economic Development Organizations in the world by the International Economic Development Council. Visit www.ashevillechamber.org/economic-development. Learn more about AVL 5×5 at www.asheville5x5.com.

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce is a member organization with over 1,700-member businesses and organizations. Chamber members collaborate with community organizations and coalitions to support the community and each other with the mission of building community through business. The Chamber is home to a 4,000-square foot Visitor Center that welcomes over 208,000 visitors per year. To get active in the Chamber, visit www.ashevillechamber.org.

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Media Contact:
Ben Teague, Executive Director
EDC for Asheville – Buncombe County
(828) 258-6130 – bteague@ashevillechamber.org

 


Meet Steve: NY Resident, Movie Buff, and Self-Advocate
  STEVE'S STORY: WATCH THE NEW VIDEO FROM  SIMPLY HOME.

STEVE'S STORY: WATCH THE NEW VIDEO FROM SIMPLYHOME.

Every once in a while, we come across a story and we just can’t stop smiling. Steve’s story is one of those. SimplyHome is honored to be a part of Steve’s quest for more independence in his community.

Watch Steve's Story.

Steve accepts services from Wildwood Programs in NY. One day, as part of an in-depth self-assessment administered by Wildwood, Steve spoke up and told his care team that he wanted to live on his own.

Though his care planning team was surprised at this revelation, they listened. As the team worked through the planning process, they realized that Steve was finally beginning to advocate for himself, to live a self-determined life – the whole goal of person-centered planning!

   Steve talks with Anne Murphy, Director of Home and Housing Development at Wildwood Programs

Steve talks with Anne Murphy, Director of Home and Housing Development at Wildwood Programs

Fast forward several months.

Through the creative support of Wildwood Programs and assistive technology by SimplyHome, Steve has fully embraced community supported living. He goes to the movies with his friends, participates in events with the local VFW, and cooks on his own at home, all with the natural support of enabling technology.

  Steve enjoys cooking for himself.

Steve enjoys cooking for himself.

For both Steve and Wildwood Programs, this transition to community living required a willingness to take a risk. But they both see it as a risk worth taking. As Anne Murphy, Director of Home and Housing Development at Wildwood Programs, puts it: “If we're not given the opportunity to fail, then we're never given the opportunity to grow.”

At SimplyHome, we call this idea the “dignity of risk”: the opportunity to succeed and make mistakes and the invitation to learn and grow from those experiences.

SimplyHome seeks to empower and partner with organizations, both with assistive technology and our transformative educational services, as we navigate the transition to Community Supported Living (CSL) together.

Ready to learn more? Want to empower your organization? Check out our Education & Consultation Services page.

Wondering how much this type of transition to independence in community costs? When Steve moved from an IRA to a supported apartment, service costs dropped from over $86,000 to less than $28,000 annually. This is a typical example of what we see with our partner-providers at SimplyHome, when technology is implemented as a natural support for people who desire independence, in coordination with (not eliminating) staff supports. To read more about states who have done a Cost Savings Analysis, read our recent blog post, "Does My State Have Funding for Enabling Technology?"


About Wildwood Programs:

Working collaboratively with individuals, families and the community, Wildwood Programs empowers and enables children and adults with neurologically-based learning disabilities, autism, and other developmental disorders to lead independent, productive and fulfilling lives.

Learn more about Wildwood.

SimplyHome's Story Featured in "Find Your Own Calcutta"
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SimplyHome is delighted to announce that our very own Drue and Allen Ray – and the story of the companies they founded, including SimplyHome – are featured in a brand-new book released by WestBow Press, Find Your Own Calcutta: Living a Life of Service and Meaning in a Selfish World.

The book was written by William Murdock, Executive Director of Eblen-Kimmel Charities. SimplyHome has been able to partner with Eblen in the past in many ways, including to provide assistive technology through our No Place Like Home Program.

Murdock includes the story of how SimplyHome founders Drue and Allen Ray found their purpose. The two met in college and their careers quickly became satisfying, but they were not content to rest with mere success.

Drue had seen “what service and compassion could do in others’ lives, as she had cousins with disabilities and learned in those young years to understand and not to be afraid of them, like some others her age were.” Both Allen's and Drue’s parents had also impressed upon them the importance of giving. As Drue remembers:

“I was told early on what Anglican cleric and theologian John Wesley said, ‘Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.’ And that was how we learned to see the world.”

Find Your Own Calcutta includes many other inspiring stories from the lives of the many people Bill Murdock has come into contact with, and additionally, notes from his correspondence with Mother Teresa – where the title of this book comes from.

Asked why he wrote Find Your Own Calcutta, Murdock says:

“This book is written in the spirit of optimism and in the hope that the stories and thoughts that this volume contains would inspire those who may read it and to take heart, knowing that a life of meaning is so much closer than we might think."

Find Your Own Calcutta is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and wherever books are sold.

 


About William Murdock

William Murdock is the co-founder and CEO of Eblen Charities and the Eblen Center for Social Enterprise located in Asheville. He has been named an outstanding scholar in social enterprise by the National Biographical Institute of Cambridge England. His work with the Eblen The Children’s Pharmacy won national acclaim in winning the Peter F. Drucker Award for being the most innovative nonprofit program in the country and has been featured both nationally and globally. In 2014, he was awarded the Mother Teresa Global Prize for Peace and Leadership along with the noted author Dr. John Maxwell.

More information on Find Your Own Calcutta is available at www.findyourowncalcutta.com.

 

 

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

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.