Contributed by Justine Chubb, Senior Communications Specialist
Meet Maggie, a busy stay-at-home mom living with her husband and three young girls (ages 10, eight and five) in New Westminster, BC. Their bustling household is like any other, but with a bit of a twist. They’ve opened up their home to John, a 34-year-old man who lives with a developmental disability.
Ten years ago, Maggie had just given birth to her first daughter. She made the decision to stay at home full-time to raise her children and not return to work. With family expenses and a mortgage to pay off, she looked for alternative ways to make some additional income. Maggie was aware of the different kinds of home living supports for individuals with disabilities and the opportunity seemed like a natural fit. Maggie comes from a background of working with children and families, her house had an independent suite available and her family had been looking for a way to give back to their community.
John was first introduced to Maggie and her family through posAbilities, a non-profit community living organization that receives funding from the provincial government and offers a wide variety of services, including residential support. One model is Shared Living, a residential option in which an adult with a developmental disability shares a home with someone who is contracted to provide ongoing support. Maggie recalls the initial screening process like it was yesterday. She was visited by Louise (now the Manager of Shared Living) and they discussed the matching arrangement over pizza. Maggie felt an immediate connection to Louise given her compassion, knowledge and perspective on people. She appreciated the time Louise took to ensure that John’s wishes were met and that his personality, preferences and requirements for support were going to fit with her family.
John has now been living in the suite of the house for the past 10 years. He leads a fairly independent life – he keeps himself busy during the day, takes care of his suite and helps out the family if he’s around. While Maggie leads a very busy life herself, they have weekly check-ins where she’ll pop downstairs or he’ll come up for a visit and sit at the bar while she cooks dinner. If there’s ever a time when John needs more support, they book a time to sit down together over a cup of tea.
While John maintains a fairly independent lifestyle, he is always welcome to participate in family events and celebrations. Maggie has fond memories of them opening their Christmas stockings or doing Easter egg hunts together. She’s loved watching her daughters and John grow up together. Maggie shares, “They see John as just another member of the family as it’s all they’ve ever known. He’s very caring and respectful of my girls, a true gentleman.”
While the family has built and established these relationships over the years, there was a lot they had to learn about each other. One of Maggie’s biggest challenges was overcoming that John doesn’t always fit her agenda. “He’s his own person and the choices he makes are his own. We can guide and teach him, but just know that he might not automatically fall into your agenda. I’ve had to relinquish control over the years. I’ve learned to live with his choices and do my best to support and love him through his decisions, even if they haven’t always been the best.”
Maggie and John
Maggie’s family has also struggled to support John through some unhealthy relationships and when they found out he was going to be a father for the first time. Their support had to evolve to John’s changing needs, and while there was a lot of unknown for everyone during this time, they got through it. The ongoing support from the Shared Living team has also helped, knowing they aren’t completely alone. “They have always had a hand on my shoulder. Not only do they care about John’s needs, they care for my family and always have our best interests at heart.”
Regardless of the challenges faced, they wouldn’t have it any other way. “This has never felt like a job or contract, it feels like we’re doing the right thing and helping somebody out.” This experience in particular has been so unique for Maggie’s daughters, as they see firsthand how she supports John and they emulate that. She adds, “There’s no better way to show my daughters kindness, inclusiveness and love.”
What does she have to say to families who may be interested in life sharing? “If anyone has space in their home and is looking at what to do with it, consider this. You really get to share your home and life. There’s a sense of satisfaction of giving back to your community. It feels like a blessing to have John in our lives.”
Are you interested in sharing your home and life with a person who has a developmental disability? We welcome people from all cultures, socio-economic groups and family structures. Our person-centered residential model offers an opportunity for individuals to achieve an ideal balance of support and independence based on their unique goals and preferences. Support is flexible and evolves according to the individual’s changing needs. To learn more, please visit https://posabilities.ca/shared-living/ and contact Louise at: 778-945-3368 or [email protected].
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