Alaska residents Thomas and Frank were simply going about their daily lives when tragedy struck and permanently altered their worlds.
A volleyball coach and a father, Thomas
was paralyzed following a slow-speed motorcycle accident on his way home from a softball game in 2003. Frank suffered a seizure
in April 1998 which led to the discovery of a
plum-size tumor in the front part of his brain
that required intensive surgery.
Since their life-changing incidents, both
men share much in common, including a
Both have found aid through Access Alaska—one of Alaska’s four centers for independent living (CIL) — that is focused on helping
those with physical, mental, or other health
issues live an independent lifestyle rather
than living in a nursing home or care facility.
Access Alaska covers the southcentral
and interior regions; the Independent Living Center serves residents in the gulf coast
region; Southeast Alaska Independent Living
(SAIL) focuses on the southeast region; and
the Arctic Access center provides independent living services for northwest residents.
The four CILs work with all ages and all disabilities to provide five core services: independent living skills, peer support, advocacy, transition support to move out of nursing homes
and assisted living, and youth transition to
adulthood. While they can help residents acquire needed assistance with finding a place to
live, the centers don’t own or run housing.
The Independent Living Quest
“We help you identify what your indepen-
dent living goals are,” explains Doug White,
executive director of Access Alaska. “So, it
could be housing, employment, transport, or
it could be improved quality of life through
Enhanced quality of life is exactly what’s
been provided to both Thomas and Frank.
“Independent living is everything to me.
Being able to be here [at home] with my
wife and kids is the best thing in the world,”
Thomas shares in a video on Access Alaska’s
website. He receives personal care services
that help him with daily needs from bathing
to brushing his teeth. He’s been able to continue his coaching passion and has an active
social life with family and friends.
“I’m a happy camper as I can do whatever
it may be. Independent living has made life
just about normal,” he says.
For Frank, who is an Access Alaska client
and employee (he serves as the center’s durable equipment manager and ensures donated
medical equipment is put back into the community to help those in need), the CIL services
have played a big role in his ongoing recovery.
“My independence looks different than
everyone else. No one really knows from my
outward appearance that I’m dealing with
challenges,” he explains in his video story.
The CIL advocate says the hope and support
provided is critical to those wanting to live
independently. “When you can give someone
hope when they have none, that’s a great job,”
Frank Box, manager of the durable medical equipment loan closet at the Anchorage Access Alaska
Image courtesy of Access Alaska