Contributed by Kendra Schroder, Independent Living Coordinator
Independence can look very different from one person to the next. For some, independence means working with a personal care aide to get dressed, prepare a meal, and get to work. For others, independence means using adaptive eyewear while out running errands or participating in hobbies. Although it may not look the same from person to person, the ability to live life independently is a right we at PACE do not take for granted.
Through my work at PACE, I can help facilitate independence for people who feel they may have lost a sense of it in their own lives. One of the programs I get to be a part of is Illinois’s free amplified phone program through an organization called Illinois Telecommunications Access Corporation, or ITAC. I recently worked with a man who was in his nineties. He still lives completely independently at home, but has a hearing impairment and simply cannot hear to talk on the phone. This makes him feel isolated and at times, unsafe – how would he call out in case of an emergency if he can’t hear the person on the other end of the line? If his son calls to check on him and there’s something he needs, how would he communicate if he can’t hear through the receiver? After spending some time talking with him about his life, his background, and his goals related to communication via telephone, we tested phones and decided on one that worked best for him. He was amazed at how well he could hear his son’s voice on the amplified phone he chose, and he was touched that someone took the time to sit with him and talk. What he said to me at the end of our appointment really stuck: “I feel like you actually listened to me. You’re talking to me just like I’m a normal person – not talking around me, or over me, or just to my son here… Thank you for that.” For this consumer, independence meant not only communicating independently via telephone, but being given the opportunity to be communicated with – to feel as though he is a person, not just another number in the system.
We all have different paths to independence, and while the route may take different turns from one person to another, we at PACE can be here to help you navigate the twists and turns, and to lend a listening ear along the way.