Vincent Thoms is a Vietnam veteran who loves the A-frame home he has in Teller County. A widower who lives alone, Vincent requires the use of oxygen for a heart problem that probably started with exposure to Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam. He tires easily and doesn’t have the stamina to handle normal housework. It was starting to look for Vincent like remaining independent in his beloved home was at risk.
“It’s hard to admit you need help. For veterans, it is awful hard.” Thoms says, as he looks thoughtfully around the interior of his home.
After receiving a flyer from the Independence Center, Vincent learned about a new program designed to help veterans remain independent in their own homes as long as possible. The program, called Veteran in Charge, serves eligible veterans who need assistance with bathing, dr
essing, transferring, yardwork, transportation, cooking, medication management, etc. Veteran in Charge is a Veteran Directed – Home and Community Based Services (VD-HCBS) program that supplements, not replaces, Veterans Administration (VA) benefits.
“This program has been key to allowing Vincent to remain right where he wants, in his mountain home as a vital participant within his community,” Ashley Billington, Veteran Coach at the Independence Center, explains. “The best part is Vincent gets to determine how he spends his monthly budget. This is huge because Vincent is the expert on his own needs.”
Veterans of any age with a disability who need assistance to remain independent in their home are encouraged to start with their VA contact for an eligibility assessment. Veterans who are interested in the Veteran in Charge program may contact Ashley Billington at The Independence Center at (719) 476-3170.
Have you seen a new curb cut or curb ramp in your neighborhood recently? If not, and you have sidewalks, those accessible path of travel tools are coming your way! Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Mayor John Suthers speak at two different events about sidewalks and curb ramps, as the city calls them. Having well-constructed curb ramps and passable (not to mention smooth) sidewalks are both critical to the independence of people with disabilities and seniors who have mobility and/or balance issues.
A small community organizing group, ACT or Access the Community Today had identified a large number of inaccessible sidewalks and curb ramps, and brought those to the attention of The Gazette last year. A front page article featured Sharon King, a wheelchair user, trying to navigate a crumbling curb ramp and potholed street. It appears that the City had not been following the law over the years, which states that when streets are repaved, curb ramps must be added or repaired if existing ramps are in place and need it. Missing curb ramps should be added at intersections where only one or two exist. In short, make the public path of travel usable by all people as roadways are repaved or added.
What a difference a year, a vote, and advocacy makes! With the passage of 2C, the voters of Colorado Springs sent a message to improve our roadways. One of the provisions of 2C was that 45% of the funds were to be used for improvement or installation of sidewalks, curb and curb ramps, as well as gutters. This equals about $25 million a year for the next five years to be spent on these items. Using just 2C funds, Mayor Suthers stated at our ADA Celebration in July, that 114 new curb ramps had been created, 99 curb ramps repaired, and 3 miles of sidewalk laid. In addition, through a “variety of funding sources”, more than $4 million was spent in 2015 that resulted in the construction of more than 500 new or reconstructed ramps and 10 miles of sidewalk.
I sure hope your personal path of travel through this city is getting better! A tip of the hat, the flash of a wheel, and the bark of a guide dog to Mayor Suthers and City staff in every department for their commitment to improving the walkability of our city for everyone, including the disability and senior communities.
Amber Turner, 35, originally studied health sciences and received a BA from UCCS. Her goal was to be a high school athletic director. The birth of her son in 2007 set her on a different course. Born with a rare genetic condition called Townes-Brocks syndrome, Cortland required round the clock care. Life began for Cortland in the NICU for 6 weeks, but soon transitioned to having Amber not only as his mother, but as his medical caregiver.
In 2009, Amber became a paid caregiver for her son through a Medicaid waiver program. This allowed her to receive reimbursement for the nursing care she was giving her son. Becoming a paid caregiver required taking CNA classes and getting certified as a CNA.
After working as a CNA caregiver to her son for seven years, Amber began working at The Independence Center as Home Health Assistant. Amber’s ambitions began to shift from health sciences to medical advocacy.
She has a vision to become a medical advocate for parents with children in NICU. She bases this on the need she felt when Cortland was in the NICU. What was particularly difficult for Amber during that time was the fact that she had to navigate Cortland’s medical diagnosis and care, while trying also to simply be Cortland’s mother. This sadly caused her to miss enjoying and recording several early milestones in her son’s life.
Of the chaotic time when Cortland was in NICU she said, “I unfortunately felt like I was on an island alone with Cortland,” and her vision is to change this for anyone else who goes through a similar situation. Through tuition reimbursement at The Independence Center, she plans to pursue her nursing degree as a stepping stone into medical advocacy. Ultimately, her passion for caregiving for her son has given her a new direction for a fulfilling career.
Find out what’s going on and how you can get involved by receiving our email updates and quarterly newsletter.
You can choose to receive care from our staff or a qualified caregiver of your choosing.