New Technological Devices Come to the Rescue for Mom, Daughter
Rockford, Illinois — Lying on the floor, Melissa Newman plays with her toys. She delights touching the colorful shapes and hearing the busy sounds of her LeapFrog pad. She listens to the songs and laughs. Melissa is healthy and happy but has to do most things a little bit differently than other 35-year-old women. When she is ready to get up from the floor, her mother scoots over a mobile lifting device and slides Melissa on. Though Melissa is small-framed, it is harder for her mom, Diane, to physically move her these days.
“It’s a struggle but we want to keep her home with us,” said Diane. “It’s a hard job to deal with special needs kids. Either you can do it or you can’t do it. Some people love it and are great at it.”
Melissa has severe Cerebral Palsy. She is low functioning and has frequent seizures. She has trouble with mobility, but with her family’s help and available new technology, she gets around and about easier.
Melissa’s day is full of activity and she is surrounded by an adoring family. She goes swimming and to a day training center. She loves listening to John Mellencamp songs and playing with her favorite toys. She also loves when her brother Kyle and nephew Kowen visit and bring their Burmese mountain dogs.
Melissa’s lifting device looks like a mini forklift but for humans. A device made by the company IndeeLift Inc. The device can be operated by her mom, who is her full-time caretaker after Melissa is placed onto the beveled seat. Her mom then presses a button to activate the electronic mechanism that lifts Melissa slowly and safely.
“We bought the device to get her out of the wheelchair to the floor,” said Diane, who is 61. “Getting her back up is the hard part. It is hard on my body to get her back up.”
Cerebral palsy is a neurological (brain) disorder that typically happens before birth. It causes the loss of normal motor function and is lifelong. There is little to no communication between the brain and the muscles, causing a permanent weakness or hindered movements. There are about 764,000 children and adults who have Cerebral Palsy, according to CerebralPalsy.org.
Some people who have cerebral palsy need care for life through family and caregiver support. However, there are many adults with CP who are independent and others still may require help with mobility or other tasks. As for Melissa, she will need care for life and mobility assistance.
The Newmans first bought the lifting device a year ago. Diane says it took a lot of practice and patience to get everyone used to how the device works and how best to get Melissa on it.
“ Melissa can sit herself up, but she doesn’t have the strength to keep herself on the device,” Diane said. So, she’s there to assist in making sure Melissa stays on the device up from the floor.
With the mobility device, Melissa moves down to the floor to play and back up into a chair or her bed. This helps save the strength of the person who helps her. Diane says as she is aging, care for Melissa is getting more difficult.
One of the more frustrating issues Diane and her family have in taking care of Melissa is that although there is technology out there to assist, it is hard to get or even afford.
“I am always scoping things out,” Diane said. “Something to get her out of the bathtub, or for swimming, ways to get her into stuff but also out. Nearly everything is made in Europe. Some technology still requires my physical energy, and that is not easy.”
As children with disabilities grow or age, new devices might be needed. Diane said there is not an equipment exchange, which would be helpful. Medicare and most insurance won’t cover certain medical aids or equipment.
Diane says she wants to share Melissa’s story so others understand CP, caregiving, and the need for more devices to assist them and their families. She also wants to help other families see some of the options and possibilities out there to help their loved ones who may face similar obstacles.
“ Our goal is to keep Melissa home with us and happy. We will adjust for the rest of our lives,” she said.
For more on mobility assistance, click here.
Christine Torres is a freelance writer who specializes in health and safety. Follow her on LinkedIn.