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

PRESIDENTIAL TRAVERSE, N.H. — When Dana Albrycht began planning for his annual hike, he decided that this year it needed to be big.

He chose the Presidential Traverse, a formidable string of eight summits stretching through the White Mountains of New Hampshire that includes the highest peak in the northeastern United States — Mount Washington. Albrycht, who had his right leg removed when he was 11 months old, hiked 21 miles from just before midnight on Sept. 19 to early evening on Sept. 21 when he finished — the most miles he ever logged in a two-day span.

As he planned the trip with three of his best friends, Albrycht, whose trail name is Crutchwalker, knew that he wanted use this hike to make a difference. The pandemic was having a severe impact on local and regional adaptive programs that serve people with disabilities where he lives in Simsbury, Conn., and he felt he had found an opportunity to create a fund-raiser to give back to the programs that he finds to be so crucial.

Albrycht has raised more than $7,000 through GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/f/crutchwalker-hiking-to-help-the-disabled ) and plans to distribute the donations among the following organizations and programs that directly serve the disabled community: The Hospital for Special Care Adaptive Sports Program, Children and Teens Living with a Disability Mentorship Program, New England Disabled Sports, and True Adaptive LLC.

“There was never a single moment I regretted taking on this challenge, said Albrycht, after finishing the hike last week. “I live for trying to push my body to its limits and showing others what is possible for someone who is facing some sort of obstacle, and in my case that’s having a disability.”

Dana Albrycht (center) looked out over the White Mountains while hiking the Presidential Traverse with his friends Brett Attmore (left) and Michael Thompson.
Dana Albrycht (center) looked out over the White Mountains while hiking the Presidential Traverse with his friends Brett