A place of his own

Determined David Clift ready to leave center

Determined David Clift ready to leave center

December 30, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

HAGERSTOWN - David Clift's to-do list for his upcoming move to his first apartment reflects the solo-living preparations of countless bachelors before him: Secure a microwave, coffee maker, TV, linens and dish ware. Buy frozen meals and laundry detergent. Change address with the post office. Set up phone and Internet service. Have extra keys made.

The difference is in the details, the amount of planning, the level of support and the money it will take for a man with serious physical disabilities to live on his own for the first time in 34 years.

Who will wash his back, clean his home, change his catheter, administer his medications and pour the water into his coffee maker? How will he work the microwave? And how will he open his front door?


Clift, 51, lost the use of his legs and much of his upper limb mobility in a diving accident when he was 15. He has spent more than half his life at the Western Maryland Hospital Center in Hagerstown.

In mid-January, Clift will move to an apartment at Potomac Towers.

"This place is a good place. I've received excellent care from loving and caring people, but I need my privacy," Clift said.

"For the first time, I'm going to have a place of my own. My goal is to give it a try and see if I can make it on my own. Nothing's going to stop me."

Clift's determination and excitement are shared by those who are helping him plan and pay for his move to independent living.

"We're setting him up to succeed. We're not going to let anything happen to this guy," said Linn Hendershot, communications director at Western Maryland Hospital Center. "David knows he's got a safety net here."

Helping hands

Hospital center staff members and several advocacy groups for individuals with disabilities are helping Clift secure home health care nurses and attendants, special medical equipment, furnishings and more than $57,000 in state grant money to fund the move.

"We're just so excited for David. He's family," said Hospital Center nurse Cathy Marshall, who spearheaded the effort to obtain a nearly $15,000 alternating pressure bed for Clift to help prevent bed sores.

Marshall and other health care professionals at the hospital have offered to help care for Clift at home during their time off from work, she said.

Preventing infection in a new environment will be his biggest challenge, Marshall said.

Tai Smallwood, a community living specialist with Resources for Independence in Cumberland, Md., is working with The Coordinating Center near Baltimore, Md., to manage Clift's integration into the community, she said.

A Medicaid waiver through the Living at Home: Maryland Community Choices program will cover the costs of such services as case and fiscal management, attendant care, nursing, assistive technology and medical supplies, Smallwood said. The program was launched in 2001 to help the state comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's Olmstead decision.

Approval of Clift's more than $57,000 Medicaid waiver, which transfers state Medicaid benefits into a fund for at-home care, is pending at the state Department of Human Resources, said Nancy McClelland, senior clinical coordinator for The Coordinating Center. She expects the grant to be approved as soon as Clift submits his new address.

Aid for others

With The Coordinating Center's help in securing state grants and finding other funding sources, Resources for Independence this year engineered the integration into the community of 10 people with disabilities in Western Maryland, Smallwood said.

"We definitely hope to move a lot more people. Our goal is 300 individuals with disabilities statewide," she said. "David has many health care needs. He will be the poster boy for this program if he makes it."

The independent living successes of former Western Maryland Hospital Center resident James Twyman Jr. and friend Jim Barnett, both of whom rely on wheelchairs and assistive living technology, have buoyed Clift's hopes for a successful move, he said.

"If they can do it, I can do it," Clift said.

He plans to volunteer at the hospital center at least two days each week.

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