United Cerebral Palsy It's much more than just a wheelchair
Editor's note: This is the first in a series of articles highlighting the agencies that receive funding from United Way of Ellis County.
Imagine being required to spend all day, every day, in the same wheelchair. It's not a very appealing situation but it's a fact of life for many disabled Kansans.
In order to make this situation more bearable, United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas -- a United Way of Ellis County agency -- sponsors a specialized wheelchair seating clinic for people with a variety of disabilities. There's much more to wheelchair seating than simply finding a sling seat that fits. Comfort is a primary concern for people who must remain seated for prolonged periods. Functionality and ease of mobility are also significant concerns. Relieving potential pressure points in order to prevent pressure sores is a "must." Proper positioning also facilitates breathing and swallowing and other physiological functions. A custom-built seating system addresses all these concerns.
For years, northwest Kansas residents have traveled to the Cerebral Palsy Seating Clinic in Wichita. The trip can be tedious, particularly for those with more severe disabilities. This year, some of those individuals will be seen in Hays for the initial evaluation, measuring and body mapping components. Thanks to the availability of space provided through LINK Inc., area residents will be able to access the UCP clinic locally.
The procedure itself might involve a body-mapping technique, which generates a computerized model of the person's back and buttocks. From this computerized model, foam inserts of the seat and back are manufactured that conform to the position desired by the client and therapist.
At the final fitting, a pressure-sensing device (that reads much like a weather map) is used to determine if there are "hot spots" where pressure is too high and sores might develop. If hot spots are located, the seating system is adjusted to correct the problem. It is estimated the average cost of treating a decubitus ulcer (or pressure sore) exceeds $35,000. More importantly, the pain and duration of treatment can be an extremely difficult experience. Posture seating is the primary method of preventing this type of pain and suffering.
There are also other less obvious variables the clinic considers. The family's vehicle needs to be able to transport the chair. The accessibility of the home could place limitations on the width. The terrain, intended area for the chair to be used or even the client's weight might require special tires or heavy-duty applications. Adaptations could be necessary to allow for additional equipment such as oxygen containers. Then there is the big question: Will the family's insurance cover the cost and, if not, where can they secure the necessary funding? The clinic does its best to address all these issues.
United Cerebral Palsy also assists families in securing other types of assistive technology. This includes items such as power wheelchairs, ramps, van lifts or minor home modifications. When more expensive items are required, UCP often can assist in identifying other resources and even might collaborate with several agencies or organizations in funding a single piece of equipment.
UCP supports an apartment complex designed specifically for people with disabilities in Wichita called the Timbers.
This HUD-funded program provides accessible apartments and support services including transportation and therapy. A number of people from northwest Kansas live at the Timbers.
In addition to housing and technology, UCP was instrumental in founding the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation of Kansas, an organization committed to developing employment options for people with disabilities. The foundation employs nearly 200 disabled people in businesses it has established in Kansas. The organization and UCP assist people with all types of disabilities -- not just CP.
The services available to persons in Ellis County are partially funded through the United Way of Ellis County.
Visit www.cprf.org or www.ucpks.org for more information.
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Rising up to the Challenge for the 2013 United Way of Ellis County Campaign goal of $490,000 will impact the lives of over 8000 people in our community. Challenges faced today can be eased with your help and our community can continue to be a great place to live.