Waivers, Levies, and Universal Design, Oh My!

One thing I truly value about Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities (HC/dd) formally known as MR/dd is the (tremendous) availability of knowledgeable healthcare professionals, therapists, and special ed. teachers who help parents make those necessary connections to becoming their child's best advocate. And mostly, I appreciate the support and encouragement I receive from teachers and therapists because when I feel like I'm riding a runaway train, they slow you down to get you back on the track.

Just yesterday, I received a home visit from the OT/PT team through Bobbie B. Fairfax School to get information about adapting our bathroom to accomodate Elisabeth's growing needs. Later on one of the OT's sent home with Elisabeth a DVD about universal design ideas for our home. (For more information visit: http://hec.osu.edu/ud/ ) It's the first major step we've taken to actually change our homecare to benefit Elisabeth and the rest of the family.

Another program I learned about through MRDD was the "waiver" program offered through the County Board of HC/dd or the County Job and Family Services. The waiver is a way that Medicaid can pay for services to keep your child at home instead of a long-term facility or nursing home. (For more information, visit http://mrdd.ohio.gov/ )

Having a child like Elisabeth comes with so many more responsibilities than with a typical developing child. As her parents and caretakers, my husband and I take full responsibilities financially, emotionally, and physically meeting all her needs. Never once have we ever thought about long-term care for her because we thought we could manage her needs. Never once have we thought about Medicaid.

As Elisabeth is approaching her 15th birthday, my husband are experiencing the limits of caring for her. She is becoming harder to manage carrying her or walking her through the house. Even a lightweight at 60 pounds she requires the help of a strong adult to assist her in every aspect of living.

Emotionally, she is going through changes most kids go through her age, but it's more wearing on me because while I'm trying to comfort her, I can't figure out half the time what's wrong or why she's in distress. Sometimes, she can be up until 2 or 3 a.m. in discomfort or pain..

I know parenting is "exhausting" in general. But I'm not talking about "exhausting" as in the hectic lifestyles we lead naturally carpooling here and there, dealing with last minute changes in scheduling, or other surprises we find ourselves in.

I'm talking about real physical, emotional, and financially draining lifestyles of caring for a child with special needs 24/7. The wheelchairs in and out of the car. The transferring. The rocking. The lifting. The dressing. The bathing. The drying off. The waiting. The feeding. The carrying here and there. The lifting and pulling and pushing. Going to Walgreens to get a prescription filled. Getting the wheelchair in and out of car for the 50 millionth time in and out of the store, and back home.

It's amazing we haven't all left for crazyville.

Even though Elisabeths' IEP is geared at developing skill and ability working toward independence, she'll always have to rely on somebody else to do everday occupational things. Children like Elisabeth are exhausting because they need physical assistance for every aspect of their life from getting out of bed to the school bus to the school and back home again.

It can be financially draining on many families, too, because most of the stuff we need for simple, basic living is very expensive. Prices for adapted dinnerware, seating, beds, bathrooms, showers, bicycles, walkers, wheelchairs, braces, and basic age-appropriate toys are in the thousands. A simple wheelchair converted manual ramped van is the price of a Mercedes Benz. A simple battery operated communication device, again, in the thousands. Adaptions to the home is an ongoing, ever changing challenge, that requires special products that are outrageously prices. A special adapted toilet paper roll for $80.00?

That's why we need to keep Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities and programs, schools, and outreach in our community. We need to keep it fully functional and not let it go like I'm seeing with Job and Family Services. (I just heard about big layoffs there and it scares me that nobody in government sees any value of having outreach coordinators or interventionists or case workers helping families in need.)

We need to keep HC/dd (MR/dd) services, schools, and programs functioning because there's nothing out there for parents and caretakers to help educate us about the expectations of parenting a child with special needs.

And they understand the challenges we face every day. They can point out the horizon line for us when everything looks a little fuzzy...

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