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Transitions in Aging

Promoting Community Participation

Scenario #5: Lucy

Photo of woman in wheelchair at table

  • Age: 55
  • Type of developmental disability: Cerebral Palsy
  • Type of residence: Community home
  • Demographic location: City

NEXT: Sense of Belonging

Notes and References

Lucy is 55 years old and has cerebral palsy. Lucy is single but has an abundant amount of family members living in Philadelphia where she currently lives at a community home.

Lucy uses a power wheelchair that has assistive technology for communicating attached. While her care support can provide her the necessary assistance to participate in her desired activities in the community several times a week, Lucy is hesitant to go out into the community due to chronic pain and fatigue. Family members come see Lucy when they have time off of work and school (usually twice a week).

She can navigate the city using public transportation (i.e., subway, bus, train, taxi). However, she may need assistance with utilizing resources that are accessible for her wheelchair. Even when the weather is poor, at least one form of transportation is running. The city has made accessibility changes but still has a long way to go.

Lucy used to enjoy going to sporting events with family and friends and visiting the beach. More recently, she finds enjoyment in watching movies and keeping up to date on her favorite sports teams through the TV and the newspaper. Lucy often complains of pain due to joint contractures and muscle strain, problems which constitute a "bad day." She has begun to have epileptic seizures approximately once every three weeks. She is often confused, emotionally upset, and in pain after the seizure passes. Lucy tends to isolate herself for a few days after a seizure because she is physically exhausted and embarrassed. Her doctor has discussed the possibility of starting medication for the seizures with Lucy and her family and she has recently agreed.

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

Suggestions for community integration:

In the hopes that Lucy's medication helps to alleviate some of the pain and emotional upset caused by her epilepsy, we could encourage Lucy to go out in the community at least once a week. Perhaps the staff could plan community outings to allow Lucy to attend some sporting events. Of the utmost importance is having a discussion with Lucy to learn about what exactly she would like to do on her good days, so that Lucy can be excited about the trip. On the days that Lucy is not willing to go out into the community, we could encourage Lucy to participate in some light physical activities at home to build up her strength and reduce pain. Providing Lucy with leisure education might help her expand her leisure interests and engage her in different activities at home or in the community. Additionally, we can engage Lucy in online support groups for people with cerebral palsy so that she can share her experience with others and learn news/information related to her conditions. This would also help Lucy to establish relationships with others and build a sense of community.