Moving House Across the Country with a Disability, Part 1

I am a nomad. Since 2013, I have changed my home address five times, from Arizona to Minnesota, to New Hampshire, and back to Arizona. Growing up in a military household may shed some light on why I can't stay in one place for too long. Out of everyone in my family, I move the most. Out of everyone in my family, I should move the least. Having a disability typically requires extra planning for everything, and moving is no different. However, the allure of exciting job opportunities and my insatiable hunger for exploration compels me to remain unsettled.

When planning a move as a person with a disability, there is a number of crucial steps to take before setting out for your new adventure. Each move and situation is different, but the following is a list of things I did before making my most recent 2,500-mile (4,000 km) move from New Hampshire back to Arizona. Your mileage may vary...

Pre-Move Preparations

Finding a New Place

One of the first things people do before moving is locate a new place to call home. If you have a disability, there are extra considerations to be taken when looking for a place to live. I had three:

  1. Must be wheelchair-accessible
  2. Must be within my limited budget
  3. Must be within a half-mile of a Phoenix light rail station

Do you how hard it is to find accessible housing?! do. After hours of internet searches and weeks of phone calls, I finally landed an apartment that met two out of my three criteria. Let's just say that I didn't shower for the first two months after I moved. Not cute.

New State, New Medicaid

Another essential task that people overlook is researching your new home's Medicaid rules. Although there are many similarities between states, there are important differences that could be quite a surprise if you don't prepare before your move.

Before you begin anything, it's recommended to take time and understand the rules of your new home's Medicaid program. It will save you lots of time and trouble when you apply for services. Also, understand that you cannot submit an application for benefits until you are physically in the state. However, that doesn't mean you can't begin the process before you leave, especially if you have a new home address. This will cut down on processing time once you apply.

Unfortunately, I did not do this. I waited until I arrived and then visited my new friends at the state Medicaid office every day to try to expedite the process. The wait for approval can take anywhere between 45 and 90 days. I got the process done in seven. I do not recommend my course of action, but I will say that persistence pays off!

Arranging Caregivers

Another important step was to find caregivers to help me with my daily routine from the day I arrived. While there are multiple choices in the Phoenix metro area, the challenge was finding an agency that could accommodate my needs and help me adhere to my work schedule. Getting out of bed early can be challenging for many, but finding someone willing to get out of bed early enough to get you out of bed early can be even more difficult.

Again, lots of phone calls were made. I was repeatedly told that staffing wasn't available, or that agencies would only accept private pay until I had been enrolled in a Medicaid plan to cover me. Those of us who use attendant care services understand the costs involved. If you don't, let's just say that if I could afford to privately pay caregivers, I could probably afford to build a wheelchair-accessible home and have money left over to buy a round of beers for the construction crew. I eventually signed up with an agency that was willing to work with me AND was able to staff me the day I arrived. Whew! The only major issue was that I could only afford services twice a day; I typically receive care three times a day. This meant forgoing my afternoon bathroom and food break. Although it was difficult, you reading this article is proof that I survived.

Saying Goodbye

Once you have some of the major steps out of the way, you have to tell everyone on your support team that you're leaving. It is particularly important that your current team of caregivers is among the first people to know. While you will undoubtedly forge relationships with some of them over time, they also rely on you for their regular income, so generally speaking, the more notice you can provide, the better. The earlier you can let them know, the more time your caregivers and their agency have to minimize the drop in their work hours. While people will be sad to part ways, everyone will appreciate the courtesy of knowing about your upcoming move.

Hitting the Road

The easiest step to resolve was figuring out how I was going to get across the country and where I was going to stay; my apartment wouldn't be ready by the time I arrived. I had accumulated enough airline miles to get a one-way ticket from New Hampshire to Arizona and a friend agreed to let me stay in his guest bedroom until I could get everything settled.

While doing all this, I also had to get my belongings packed. You truly have no sense of how much stuff you own until you have to pack it. People with disabilities have even more things to pack, such as: mobility devices, home health equipment – it's a lot! If you can't pack it yourself, then you have to find others to do it. Thankfully, I have great friends and caregivers who helped me organize and secure everything in boxes.

Now that everything was packed, how would I get it all to the other side of the country? After considering several options, I rented a shipping pod and crossed my fingers that everything would fit. Over the course of two days, I gathered people to load the pod into what was certainly the largest 3D puzzle in Durham, New Hampshire. They all did such a great job that nothing was broken when I arrived in Phoenix! WHOOHOO!! Now I had to find people to unpack everything once I moved into my apartment...

Packed belongings ready to move

The day before my flight out of New Hampshire, I called the home health agency to confirm that everything would be set when I arrived. I also checked with my friend to ensure I still had a place to stay. Everything was set for the big move.

Read Part 2 of Moving House Across the Country with a Disability

About the Author

Tony Jackson

Tony Jackson is currently a Registration/Reception Specialist and the Power Soccer Coordinator at the Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center in Phoenix, AZ, where he coaches athletes and plays for Ability360 FC. In addition, he provides play-by-play commentary for domestic and international power soccer tournaments with Power Soccer Shop. He also started ParaSportsLive in 2017, with the goal of live streaming other adaptive sports to raise awareness of all of the amazing athletes out there. In his spare time, he enjoys discovering new music, cooking, dreaming of the next travel adventure, watching sports, and improving his graphic design skills.

Most of the stories here on were submitted by readers. Do you have a story to tell? We'd love to hear it. Submit your story here.

Date: 5/28/2019 12:00:00 AM

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