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Guide to Understanding Independent Living Resources

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Sometimes MS symptoms can progress to the point that they significantly interfere with daily life both within and outside the home. When this happens, accessing independent living resources can increase a person’s ability to live independently and productively in the community, while maximizing choices, dignity and freedom. Two types of organizations that act as a single point of entry for a variety of services and support are:

Aging Services

Aging services are primarily government and nonprofit agencies that connect people with services and support; although some of these resources have a senior age requirement, many also serve people with disabilities of all ages. Here is some additional insight into some of these resources but other resources in the category should be explored also.

  • National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) offers a comprehensive scope of services including connections to:
    • Aging & Disability Resource Centers - ADRCs serve as single points of entry into the long-term services and supports (LTSS) system for older adults, people with disabilities, caregivers, veterans and families.
    • Home & Community-Based Services – HCBS refers to services and supports that are provided to people in their homes or offered in the community including home-delivered meals, home health care, homemaker/chore services, transportation, caregiver support services and much more.
  • Eldercare Locator is also available to people with disabilities over the age of 18 and offers information and resources for support services, housing information, insurance and benefits, and transportation.

Centers for Independent Living (CILs)

Centers for Independent Living are private nonprofit agencies that provide community resources, training for independent living, peer mentoring, advocacy work and support for transitioning into community life. Examples of the types of programs and services that may be found through CILs include:

  • Connecting with home modification vendors
  • Assistance in finding possible funding for durable medical equipment to maintain independence in the home
  • Transportation referrals
  • Transitions from nursing homes and hospitals to one’s home

Independent living can be maintained through accessible, affordable housing. Even fairly simple changes to your home, such as grab bars or other bathroom modifications, widened doorways, ramps and better lighting, can help you conserve energy, be more efficient in your daily tasks, and avoid dangerous falls. In addition, knowing your rights as a renter is important for people with MS as the disease imposes mobility and other challenges. The financial impact of MS may make it difficult to cover the cost of significant home modifications such as installing a ramp or building an accessible bathroom. Or, you may be concerned about housing discrimination because of your disability. Find additional home modification and accessible and affordable housing resources in the Find Doctors & Resources category, Mobility & Accessibility Resources.

Service Dogs

An additional resource for some individuals in maintaining independence is a service dog. Service dogs can help with balance or vision issues, pick up things dropped on the floor, open and close doors and much more.

A service dog may be right for you if:

  • You are at least 12 years of age
  • Have a physical disability or anxiety disorder such as PTSD
  • Reside in a stable home environment
  • Are physically and cognitively capable of participating in the process of training
  • Can independently command and handle a service dog
  • Can meet the physical, emotional, and financial needs of a service dog
  • Have no other dog in the home (other animals as pets are permitted)

Additionally, both non–profit and for-profit organizations train service dogs. This may include training for the person with a disability who receives the dog and periodic follow-up training for the dog to ensure working reliability. You are encouraged to work with an experienced, reputable service dog organization or trainer.  Carefully check out  the organization, ask for recommendations, and make an informed decision before investing funds or time to acquire a trained service dog. 

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