Center encourages its clients to strive for full independence

Lorraine Cain watched as her son Bennie completed therapy at Walton West Transitional Living Center.

"He has really improved since he got here," she said. "Before, he just wanted to sit in the wheelchair and not do anything. Now he's already talking more, using the hand that was broken more, and you can just tell he wants to try. They're teaching him how to be independent again."

Until recently, Mr. Cain spent his time at the Medical College of Georgia and Walton Rehabilitation Hospital recovering from injuries suffered in a car wreck in March, including a brain injury, broken bones and a collapsed lung.

At the center, he has been working on therapy and relearning everyday tasks.

"What I really like is that they are making him do things for himself," Ms. Cain said. "They aren't babying him or letting him give up easily. I think that has made a big difference."

The goal of the center is to prepare survivors of stroke, spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injuries to return home to live independently, said program director Jennifer Litchfield.

"A lot of people think that this is a group home or that we take care of them and do everything for them, but the main focus of this center is minimal assistance," she said. "We're there if they need the help, but we don't want to do things for them."

Everyone undergoes an assessment in the first 10 days at the center to determine the level of "minimal assistance" needed, she said.

In addition to therapy, people learn about everyday tasks such as washing dishes, cooking and cleaning socialization skills and general safety.

The center has two programs. During the residential program, survivors may stay for four to six weeks to work on transitional skills. The day-treatment program allows people to work on skills and return home each night.

"They don't have to come straight from a hospital to the center," Mrs. Litchfield said. "They could have been discharged and when they went home realized that they may not be ready to be home yet and contact us."

However, those who come to the center cannot be living in a nursing home, assisted-living facility or similar group-living situations, she added.

Walton West also offers a monthly brain injury support group.

"Our goal is to help families and survivors meet each other, share their stories and support one another," said Patty Goolsby, the group coordinator. Some have moved back into their home life and can offer advice and support to those still in transition, she said.

The center will observe 14 years in the community on July 24, Mrs. Litchfield said.

"We want people to know that we are a resource. Just because you don't come to Walton West doesn't mean that you can't call us and ask general questions," she said. "If you're not appropriate for our facility, we'll make a referral to a facility that you are appropriate for."

For more information about Walton West, call (706) 737-9300.

Reach Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or

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