When we think of improving our lifestyles, visions of eating healthier, exercising regularly or enrolling in a college class often come to mind. A lifestyle improvement might also include topics like weight loss or smoking cessation, attending a self-help course or watching a TED Talk for those who desire a more comfortable everyday experience. But for Micaela Enciso, her lifestyle improvement came in the form of a home modification.
Enciso, who works full-time as an English Language Arts (ELA) testing specialist at Washington Elementary School, was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and lives independently in a beautifully decorated two-bedroom apartment in Phoenix. She is also a member of the Department of Economic Security (DES) Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD).
Although spacious, the bathing area in her apartment was not accessible for her and her wheelchair. In fact, each time she wanted to shower, she resorted to traveling to her parent’s house, located about a mile away. She also had to brush her teeth in the kitchen because she wasn’t able to reach the bathroom sink.
Enciso started to research options for modifying her home to meet her needs. During a conversation with her DDD Support Coordinator, Linda Chapman, she asked for suggestions.
“I was looking for any kind of resources,” she said. “I asked Linda about durable [medical] equipment like a bath chair.” This prompted a more extensive conversation about home modifications.
Home modification is a service provided by DDD and is available to members who demonstrate medical necessity through certain criteria. By making adjustments to existing structures, a home modification helps promote independence and functionality for those with physical challenges.
Chapman suggested the two of them explore possible home modifications. “Linda gave me the papers to talk to the property manager here,” said Enciso. Once the form was filled out and with property management approval, “everything started rolling into place.”
Chapman then prepared a referral and coordinated the request with DDD’s Home Modification Unit. Mike Treinen, a Home Modification Specialist with DDD, visited Enciso at her home to conduct a comprehensive assessment. “We assess the member’s accessibility to the home, to the member’s sleeping area, and bathing area, and we are authorized to do certain modifications in the kitchen area to help the member reclaim independence,” said Treinen. “We assess for barriers to enter the home and find a solution that works with the member’s abilities. We don’t want members to lose their abilities; we want them to keep enhancing their independence.”
“Our members who live independently have different needs than people living with mom and dad,” explained Treinen. “We have to take into account the member is alone because they don’t have 24 hour care.”
“[Treinen] actually assessed the dimensions of my apartment and what is accessible and what is not,” said Enciso. “He’s really knowledgeable about how much space is needed to get in and out of different places. He looked around and asked me about my needs and my medical needs. He asked questions to make sure that I needed the services and that they are appropriate for me, but he did it in a respectful manner and made sure that I understood what was going to be done. He gave a lot of details to make sure that I was comfortable with everything that was going to happen. He was just a respectful and awesome gentleman from start to finish.”
If the assessment determines a need for a modification, the Home Modification Unit contacts the member’s primary care provider to request a prescription for a medically assessed home modification. Once approved, the home modification specialist drafts the project specifications based on the assessment, then coordinates the project with the Division’s contractors.
Examples of modification that may be covered include a member’s bedroom, bathroom, the home’s primary entrance/exit and the kitchen for a member living in their own home. Other modifications could include widening of doorways, ramps and handrails.
Enciso’s modification project included a curb-less/roll-in shower, and a shower chair provided by her health plan, a modified sink with a lever faucet, and grab bars. The modifications, completed in early September, were well received.
“Everything is fabulous!” said Enciso. “I’m really happy. It’s life-changing.”
Her favorite feature of the modification is the shower. “Just the fact that I can take a shower in my own home. It’s been a great addition to my home and my lifestyle.”
“These are DDD’s members but these are my families,” said Treinen.