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Transitions in Aging

Promoting Community Participation

Scenario #2: Catherine

Photo of woman in wheelchair holding book

  • Age: 68
  • Type of developmental disability: Cerebral Palsy
  • Type of residence: Independent home (in the house she grew up in)
  • Demographic location: Rural Pennsylvania

NEXT: Scenario #3: Robert

Notes and References

Catherine is 68 years old and has cerebral palsy. She navigates using a power wheelchair in her home and when she needs to run errands out in the community.

Catherine lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where her errands could be as far as 40 minutes away. Unfortunately, her husband passed away 2 years ago and she has since been diagnosed with depression. She currently takes anti-depressant medications that need to be filled once a month. Catherine hired a support assistant when her husband passed away, but the assistant was habitually late. She recently replaced her with a new assistant who is still learning about Catherine and her needs. The support assistant is supposed to come three times a week and assist Catherine in driving her where she needs to go.

Harrisburg tends to experience every season in its entirety; winter can be brutally cold and snowy. Catherine tends to see her support assistant less often in the winter time. Much of the time, she and her support assistant have to be cautious of where they go due to needing the accessibility of her wheelchair. She often has to go to stores farther away because closer ones are not accessible/accommodating.

In addition, Catherine is not physically active and has poor dietary habits. Catherine says she "has no motivation to cook like she used to" but that she used to throw dinner parties for friends and family and they would rave about her cooking. With regard to her current interests, Catherine explains her only leisure interest is reading. In the past, she and her husband enjoyed going to dinner, the movies, and comedy shows.

Take a couple of minutes to think about how you would help Catherine become a more active community participant.

Suggestions for community integration:

First, we could focus on Catherine's love of reading. A book club may be something of interest to her and could promote socialization with other people who love to read. Next, we could research and provide Catherine with the resources to participate in community activities, such as where to see movies, comedy shows, and where to go out to eat. In addition, Catherine may not know that she could get her medication sent to her home. This could help Catherine to avoid any issues with driving to pick up the medication in the winter time. Catherine may also benefit from a community-based driving service to get her to where she needs to go in the winter time. We could also discuss Catherine's previous leisure interest in cooking and discuss ways that she could get back to doing it.  For example, she could consider modifying her kitchen to make it more accessible.  Catherine may also be unaware of or unfamiliar with the different types of assistive technology that could help her do the things she wouldn't otherwise be able to do independently.