Non-profit works to keep disabled people out of nursing homes, amid water crisis, pandemic

Non-profit works to keep disabled people out of nursing homes, amid water crisis, pandemic
Non-profit works to keep disabled people out of nursing homes, amid water crisis, pandemic (Source: LIFE of Mississippi)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A non-profit that helps Mississippians with disabilities is working to keep members of this close-knit, vulnerable group out of assisted living facilities.

Created through federal legislation, the non-profit organization named LIFE of Mississippi has been helping people with disabilities since 1992.

“We don’t look at the dis in disability, we look at abilities,” said program management coordinator Margie Moore.

While Mississippi (and the nation) was still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, Jackson was slammed by February’s Winter storm, limiting the number one resource; water.

“Some of our members are without water in South Jackson and we’ve been supplying water and food and making sure they have everything they need,” Moore said.

Jackson is now in week three of this water crisis, which has made national headlines. Everyone is under a boil water advisory, several schools remain closed and many people are still without water.

But for someone who already lacks mobility, these difficult times are a nightmare.

“You don’t have to be a wheelchair user like myself, you could be visually impaired or just can’t get to the site and it’s a stress and a struggle,” Desmeon Thomas said, a LIFE of Mississippi member.

Thomas was the innocent victim of a robbery in 2002 and lost his mobility to walk. He said the crisis can remind a disabled person of the obvious.

“It makes you realize all over what your limitations are. It’s stressful and can even bring about depression,” Thomas added.

But Thomas refuses to give into isolation. He helps bring awareness to the challenges people with disabilities face and also encourages others to focus on their abilities.

“If they drop off a bucket of non-potable water, we can’t pick it up, but we can take time to scoop the water out,” Thomas said. “And I commend the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency because they are working with the city to come up with these kinds of solutions for our community.”

And LIFE of Mississipi says the ultimate goal is to keep members out of nursing homes.

“We work with anyone to keep you in your own home,” Margi Moore said.

During the height of the pandemic, most long-term care facilities averaged over 200 virus outbreaks.

Now, there’s an average of 61 COVID-19 outbreaks, but LIFE is staying focused on its goal.

“We want to keep our people COVID-free and independent, which also helps them to stay mentally healthy.”

LIFE has delivered hundreds of hot meals, built six wheelchair ramps, donated truckloads of necessities, hosted basic skills training, and distributed vital COVID-19 supplies, such as face shields.

If someone can’t cook for themselves, LIFE ensures they have meals delivered to their home. If someone is visually impaired, LIFE connects them to resources for the blind. And even if someone was recently injured or disabled, LIFE sends a team member to the hospital to help them start their lives all over again.

It’s not just a job for Margie, but her life’s work after her son was diagnosed with a cognitive disability at a young age.

“Homework was like pulling your hair out because I didn’t understand what was going on,” Moore said. “I worked with a teacher to develop a plan to help make sure he was getting everything he needed. He just used a different method.”

Margie’s volunteer work turned into her passion.

“They’re just like everyone else. Everyone gets from point A to point B, but we all use a different method,” Moore said. “Some people put so much emphasis on the method, but it’s not about that. It’s just about getting where you need to be.”

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