Living independently is what most of us hope will always be an option, but it is not the reality for some individuals as they age or often for those who are disabled at any age. “Most adults, regardless of ability or age, want to live on their own terms, in their own homes, for as long as possible,” says Ozark Independent Living (OIL) Marketing and Independent Living Specialist Terry Hampton.
As a non-residential, not-for-profit organization, OIL is a disability resource center, offering five core services: Information and Referral, Life Skills Training, Advocacy, Peer Support and Transitioning. Its mission is to empower people with disabilities to live as full and productive members of society through its Consumer Directed Services Department, which can enable qualified Medicaid recipients to hire a friend or relative as an in-home attendant, and its Independent Living Services Department serving anyone with a disability.
Hampton says, “When we talk about living independently, one thing to remember is that each of us can and should be our own best resource. Things sometimes happen – such as health issues and accidents – which are beyond our control, but there are other things we can control such as what we consume and how active we are. There are no guarantees, but maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and doing simple exercises to stay fit while also working to maintain good balance can help us remain independent as we age.”
The issue of balance is related to falling. Hampton notes that according to the Centers for Disease Control every second of every day in the U.S. an older adult falls, making falls the number one cause of injuries and deaths from injury among older Americans.
“Falls can happen because of any number of things including undiagnosed health issues, side effects of medication or simply having too much clutter in your house. Being susceptible to repeated falls is one of the main reasons people end up in a nursing home. Not having the strength to get up and down unassisted from a seated position is another reason people lose their independence. We all need to do our best to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle to be strong, both physically and mentally,” Hampton said.
OCTOBER IS DISABILITY AWARENESS MONTH
OIL celebrates Disability Awareness Month in October in conjunction with National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), which recognizes the contributions of workers with disabilities and emphasizes the importance of ensuring that all Americans have access to the services and supports to enable them to work. This year’s official NDEAM theme is “The Right Talent, Right Now.”
Hampton says, “Individuals with disabilities are often capable employees who want to work and contribute to their communities. Many of them merely need an opportunity to shine, to be empowered and given a chance to prove themselves. One of the reasons for observing NDEAM is to move from awareness to taking action. If you are someone who makes hiring decisions, why not investigate employing someone with a disability? There are resources available to assist you.”
Employers interested in hiring workers with disabilities can call Hampton or Kathy Bauer at OIL, 417256-8714, to obtain more information.
OIL is one of 22 centers for independent living in Missouri. It is headquartered in West Plains and serves Douglas, Howell, Oregon, Ozark, Shannon, Texas and Wright counties. Information about potential resources, upcoming events and other disability-related news items are regularly shared on the “Ozark Independent Living” Facebook page.