As part of the Hope Association’s celebration of 6o years of service, we’re sharing stories of how the Association’s services have impacted the lives of people with disabilities. Here, we’ll be sharing David and Jen’s story:
David is a gentleman’s gentleman. He’s fast approaching his 70th birthday and has been involved with the Association’s programs since he was a youngster during the early days at the Hope Training School. In many ways, David has been a first in line type of guy for almost all of the Association’s programs. As mentioned, he was one of the first Hope Association students back in the early 60s. He was one of the first Adult Activity Center participants when he graduated from the Hope School. He was one of the first people to live at our first residential home at Horizons Unlimited. He became one of the first workers to leave the Adult Activity Center in the 90s and go into competitive employment out in the community, and he was one of the first people to leave our residential program and move into his own supported living program. That’s a LOT of firsts and he’s still going strong!
The focus of this story is his involvement and leadership in the Supported Living program. By his own accounts, David shares that he was happy at Horizons Unlimited where he lived with 12 other residents from 1976 until 2001. He shared that he was happy there and noted that he shared his bedroom with 3 other guys. “It was always busy, but I wanted to become more independent.” He then started working with Stacy Thompson to move into his “own” apartment.
This was his first attempt at living more independently, which made him both excited and a bit nervous, but he wanted to give it a try. He shares that he was a bit lonely at first, but quickly developed a routine where he enjoyed good supports and developed good friendships out in the community. He worked closely with Stacy and others to set up his apartment and to get ready for the big move. His sisters were a big help, too. He moved to his new apartment sometime in 2001 and has remained in that same apartment since. Asked if he’s still lonely, he shares that he’s not. He has a lot of people that he sees on a regular basis, has his friends at local businesses, at his work, at the Community Support Services program and he has his best friend of over 60 years – Richard. They are members of the Eagles Club and have a routine of getting together and going out for dinner a couple of times a week. He smiles when he shares that people sometimes call him Richard because they’re always out together and people get them confused. It’s happened so many times that he’s stopped correcting people when they get his name wrong. Now, he just smiles J
What is Supported Living for David? Well, it started out as focusing on all areas of daily living skills: personal hygiene, laundry, cleaning his apartment, bill paying, medical appointments, social activities etc, etc…………… He initially received a lot of support from the Association, but quickly mastered almost all of his daily routines down to the point where he only received 5 hours of support a week. He tends to his own daily living skills. His apartment is as neat as a pin; in fact, better than this writer’s pad J He does everything but the deep cleaning and dusting. When asked why, he shares, “That’s what I do for my work.” “I do a good job there, but I just don’t want to come home and do it, so I pay someone else to do it.” So then, what does your Direct Support Professional / Life Skills Coach do with you? “We work on checking the mail to make sure that all of the important mail gets paid attention too – bills and other important stuff – and the rest of the clutter gets tossed.” They go over the Muskie Mail, which is a newsletter that his building managers put out that tells about special events and happenings that are going on in the area. They’ll work together to see what he’d like to participate in. Then, they do a weekly shopping inventory list; checking his refrigerator for each item, checking his pantry closet for each item, checking his bathroom for needs and establishing a grocery list. Then they do the shopping. David does all of his own cooking and clean-up. For a long time, David relied on pre-made meals through TV dinners and pre-packaged foods, but his work with Jen has focused on buying, preparing and cooking fresh, unprocessed foods. He bought a mini-George Foreman grille and now buys and prepares fresh fish, meats and other foods that he meticulously cooks according to written directions on the outside of the baggie that’s been prepped by Jen. He’s learning to try a variety of new foods and tastes, which he’s really enjoying. He doesn’t always like new things, and he’s learned that it’s okay and just doesn’t repeat it for the next shopping trip. He likes new meats, new seasonings, new cheeses, new desserts and …………………………….. He even tries new ice creams and candies J. This, too, is good because he needs to consume good calories. David and Jen note that his recent medical appointment was great because his weight was up and his numbers were really good. His doctor congratulated him on his good diet and told him to keep up the good work, which made them both happy.
He’s constantly learning new skills and is willing to make more changes than he once was. For example, he now uses Tide soap pods because they’re much lighter to handle and much more convenient. He and his friend, Richard, are working with Jen to plan an upcoming camping trip. This, too, has been a new experience because camping is different than traveling where you stay in hotels. It was different, but he likes it now.
Jen helps David with mailing out birthday and holiday cards to family and friends. He does the work, but she helps to keep things organized. She helps with medical appointments and other activities like the Seniors Plus outings. Jen and David have developed a good, trusting relationship built on getting to know each other and to listening to what David really wants and likes.
When I asked Jen what makes a good DSP/Life Skills Coach, she quickly shared that she’s a strong advocate for the people that she serves. “It’s not about what works for me, but rather what works for the people that she’s serving.” And, “I don’t believe that anyone should set limits for others.” “If they feel that they want to try to do something, then, one way or the other, we’ll try to make it happen.” “Everyone has different learning styles, and it’s my job to be creative and to find out how to best help someone learn the new skill.” “I love coming up with creative ways of teaching new skills or accomplishing tasks.” “For example, a participant that I worked with wanted to learn how to drive, so we set up a board game to learn what the signs meant and how to navigate the road etc. It was wonderful to see how well this participant learned.” Jen is always capturing teachable moments during her time with her participants. Her goals are always to help people to stretch and grow as much as possible. Part of her philosophy and practice is to determine when they’ve mastered a skill and then to back down on needed supports so they’re able to become that much more independent. Jen has been doing coaching and training with Hope Association since 2008, but has worked with people to build skills for almost all of her working life. She loves breaking barriers and not settling for status quo.
As we wrapped up our visit, I asked David if living alone was a good thing for him and if he could go back to his previous residential home, would he, and his immediate answer was, “Oh, no. At first I was lonely, but now I really enjoy how things are. It’s been over 15 years now and I’m really happy here.” He added that the Association’s many programs have been awfully good to him.
It’s important to share that David’s success has led other people with disabilities to move into their own apartments and to secure competitive positions out in the community. Way to go, David!
This is a long article, but it’s just a small reflection of the MANY wonderful things that David has accomplished – and – a small reflection of how people, like Jen, have helped him and many others to lead a rich and full life.