The process to get an Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) device took nearly a year for an Illinois skilled nursing facility. But the effort was worth it after it helped a 32-year-old resident with multiple sclerosis communicate with his son again. 

“Everything about his stay here is better because of it,” Jonas Hoedebecke, administrator for Accolade Healthcare at Paxton Senior Living, told McKnight’s

Accolade Healthcare, a 75-bed skilled nursing facility based in Paxton, IL, made a rare accomplishment for a nursing home when its insurance company approved payment for the device, which costs about $20,000. 

The facility sought it for resident David Braemer, who isn’t able to use his voice due to the disease. The device allows a person to generate speech by simply using his eyes, explained Jackie Meyer, a speech language pathologist for Renewal Rehab.

The process to get the device included writing, reporting and conducting assessments for the insurance company before submitting documents earlier this year. The provider had to wait about six months before its insurance provider made a decision on whether to pay for the device. 

“Without the effort that the team put in, he wouldn’t be in the position that he’s in now and his quality of life wouldn’t be as good as it is,” Hoedebecke said. 

Meyer said she’s not aware of any other facilities in Illinois that have the device. 

“It was definitely a longshot,” Meyer told McKnight’s. “It’s just kind of known that that’s impossible. You don’t really get them.” 

“It was a huge victory for me, and I think, for the whole facility actually,” she added. “Everyone’s excited about it.”

Since its arrival in September, the device has been life-changing for Braemer, who is now better able to communicate with his family, including his son, Alex. 

Hoedebecke said Braemer’s morale is improved and he’s now “cracking jokes and telling stories, so it’s great.” 

“His quality of life, if it was a six before, and it’s a 12 on a 10-scale now,” he said. “He’s happy, he’s joking and he’s really able to show his personality.”