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Assistive Technology: Bringing Life Back Into Balance
For Cheryl Houtz, life might have felt as though it were suddenly thrown off balance. At 57, she had recently quit working after a diagnosis of Fibromyaligia. She applied and was denied for Social Security Disability and shortly after, experienced a stroke that resulted in an inability to walk or use her left arm and hand. Her insurance company, claiming the stroke was due to a pre-existing condition, left her without health insurance, and she was released from the hospital without any outpatient therapy, supports, or assistance.
Cheryl and her family became involved with Disability Network/Southwest Michigan (DN/SWM), a Center for Independent Living. Through their connections in the community, DN/SWM was able to connect her with a local home health agency, who offered to complete an assessment and provide some therapy at no cost. These therapy sessions and some extra support from her daughter, allowed Cheryl to begin sitting up, talking, and even standing for the first time in month. She was working hard to regain her strength by stretching and reaching, but still found many things beyond her limits. Assistive technology came into the picture when she received some device demonstrations of items in the Michigan Assistive Technology Program’s Small Changes, Big Differences kit, which include devices to enhance community living. She was shown items like a dressing stick, a, zipper pull and a car slide (transfer aid) but was most impacted by the reacher.
For Cheryl, the ability to reach a magazine off the floor, get something off the end table, or even pull the covers pull her covers up over herself meant a great deal in terms of her independence and her ability to control her environment during a time when so much seemed out of her control. She purchased a reacher shortly after the demonstration and is contemplating getting the other devices she tried as well. She still faces a long journey on her road to recovery. Yet, it many ways, assistive technology was a major factor in bringing her life back in balance.
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