CINCINNATI — Susan Koller has cerebral palsy, but that had never stopped the 38-year-old from living an active, independent lifestyle. Koller had lived in her parents’ Dayton home, where her mother and father once helped her manage her daily functions and personal hygiene. She fondly recalled spending time with her dog and commuting around her neighborhood.
“Fast forward to the pandemic, and oh, my world has changed,” Koller said.
Koller now lives in virtual isolation at the Beechwood Home, a senior living facility in Evanston. She moved in about two years ago after her father died. The responsibility of taking care of Koller was too large and strenuous for her mother to handle alone. Koller initially looked for a personal care attendant to help her so she could stay in her family’s home, but she couldn’t find anyone qualified and reliable enough for the job.
Koller said she never thought she would have to live in a nursing home for those with neurological disorders.
“When I moved in here, and even now, I look at it and I don’t recognize my life,” Koller said. “I look back on my life and go, am I the same person? Who is that girl?”
Advocates for the rights of people with disabilities or older adults who had already been struggling to find personal care attendants said things have gotten even worse since the pandemic hit in March.
Advocates explain that poor wages, and now the added dangers of closely interacting with people who are older, have special needs, and may be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, is discouraging people from taking on the job. As a result, some people who could otherwise live in the community with minimal support by themselves or with their families are resorting to the risky alternative of moving into