At age 23 and pregnant Michelle Fridley narrowly missed a buggy in upstate New York and hit a tree instead. As a result of the auto accident and spinal cord injury, Fridley became a quadriplegic. Fridley is an example of one of the many young people who have been seriously injured or disabled, requiring substantial medical care -- care that could be given at home -- but instead face being forced into nursing homes.
A Civil Right to Home-based Care
Federal law states there's a civil right to being cared for at home. As National Public Radio reports, "unnecessary institutionalization of people with disabilities" is discrimination, according to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Olmstead case.
But in Fridley's case, there's more on the line than just her right to home-based care. If forced into a nursing home, her ten-year-old daughter won't be able to live with her.
Fridley almost went to a nursing home right after the accident -- the staff at the hospital warned her that she'd be a tremendous burden on her mother -- but her mother took her home and cared for both Fridley and Fridley's daughter.
The Center for Disability Rights
Then Fridley found the Center for Disability Rights and this organization helped her find her own apartment with home care provided 20 hours every day. Here, Fridley can live independently and says she's "never been happier."
But since the law requires states to pay for nursing homes but not home-based care, and Congress has yet to make it a requirement, Fridley faces the ever-present risk that she'll be forced into a nursing home if funding dries up.
And for those like Fridley who have suffered such severe injuries, worrying about losing her ability to be with her daughter at home should be the least of her concerns.