Life changes forever for a family who’s been hit with the diagnosis of a chronic health condition. And for some families in Nebraska, that same diagnosis may mean that adaptations and specialized equipment are required moving forward. This equipment can be expensive, and families don’t always have access to insurance or other financial assistance to help offset the costs. Fortunately, several of Community Health Charities of Nebraska’s (CHC-NE) 22 member charities offer equipment loan programs to make sure that families have access to this valuable support.
United Cerebral Palsy of Nebraska’s (UCP) Tech Tools, a developmental technology library, offers adaptive technology libraries at seven popular locations in Nebraska, including Omaha, Gretna, Lincoln, Norfolk, Kearney and Grand Island. Hundreds of adapted tools and devices are available for loan for children, teens, adults and professionals at no cost. Among the many items at these libraries are a variety of adaptive toys ranging from the baby stage up to children and adults, and the toys can be used as therapy needs progress.
“Donors to CHC-NE help make this possible by providing the funds across the state to purchase the toys and make them readily available to these families,” said Carole Urbom, Central Nebraska Rehabilitation Services, who represents UCP on the CHC-NE West Central Board of Directors.
“I’ve checked out the toys to families in the past and it was so wonderful to see the smiles on their faces,” said Carole Urbom. “Some families would come in and they’d want to purchase a toy for Christmas or a birthday but the adapted toys are so expensive, so if they didn’t know if they liked them or enjoyed playing with them, it was really an investment. The families got to try it out and see if their child liked it and then they could purchase the toy.”
Tech Tools in Nebraska began in 1994 under the name Tech Tots Toy Library. UCP recognized the need to provide these specialized toys to families and professionals at no cost, said Anne Brodin, Director, Finance and Services at United Cerebral Palsy of Nebraska. “Play is an essential component of development. As children engage in play, they practice and master specific physical, psychosocial, emotional and creative skills necessary for understanding and interacting with the world around them. Toys can be useful for engaging the attention of a person with special needs and even more useful for teaching other developmental skills along the way.”
A second library in Kearney will be opening in late spring or early summer. “UCP of Nebraska is extremely excited to offer this additional location in Nebraska,” Brodin said. It will be located at 2707 2nd Avenue, Suite B.
Two other CHC-NE member charities offer equipment loans, as well. Muscular Dystrophy Association of Nebraska (MDA) maintains an equipment lending program, comprised of donations received from the community. During Care Center visits, a physician may recommend durable medical equipment for registered clients to use in both the home and community to increase independence and safety, said Angie Connell, Executive Director, MDA. “If a piece of equipment is recommended, MDA may pay for repairs such as a new battery or minor modifications to ensure the best possible fit for the client. The equipment is delivered directly to the home or care facility, and the client is welcome to use the item for as long as needed.”
Some of our clients may need a wheelchair until their insurance approves the request, Connell said. Other clients may not be able to afford the amount due after insurance deductibles and co-pays and will choose to just utilize our equipment lending program. “This is a very utilized and valuable program for our clients. Typical items in inventory for use are wheelchairs, hospital beds, hoyer lifts, bathroom aids and walkers. This program has served many individuals who have all experienced increased independence as well as recreational and social opportunities.”
Additionally, The ALS Association Mid-America Chapter maintains an equipment loan program with items ranging from larger equipment like power wheelchairs and electronic communication devices to small things like button fasteners. “The equipment we offer is designed to provide an easier, more comfortable means of living for everything from communication to simple everyday tasks like bathing and eating,” said Sally Dwyer, Director of Programs and Services, The ALS Association. “Our equipment loan program is available to any client free of charge. Through our loan of equipment, we are able to offer state-of-the art technology to clients who might not qualify for insurance or assistance to obtain necessary equipment.” In 2017, 583 pieces of equipment were loaned out across the Mid-America Chapter’s service area, and currently, 235 pieces of equipment are being used in client’s homes.
Jerry Schenck of Grand Island, who served as CHC-NE Campaign Chair in 2015, used this equipment loan program after his wife, Sandy, was diagnosed with ALS in April 2010. With assistance from the ALS Association Mid-America Chapter, he was able to keep her home and serve as her caregiver for two and half years before she passed away. “They set us up with all kinds of things to make it easier,” he said.