Developing Our Own Selves, Being of Service to Others
(Portland, ME) – Being helpful to another individual brings great joy to Jennifer. For the individual who lives with her, it has meant becoming a member of a family and being encouraged to develop her own skills, enjoy life, and reach out for more opportunities.
Jennifer, an in-home LifeShare provider, welcomed Jeannie into her home eight months ago.
“Being an in-home provider is meaningful to me, allowing me to make a positive contribution to my community and the society I live in,” said Jennifer.
LifeShare in-home providers open their homes up to an adult with intellectual/developmental disabilities, where they learn skills such as budgeting and participating in community activities.
Being a "member" of a family has made all the difference for 65-year-old Jeannie.
When she first arrived at Jennifer's home, Jeannie was very anxious, according to Jennifer.
“The greatest challenges were helping her to be happy and not be overcome with sorrow, worry, or stress; she struggled to communicate her needs and feelings,” Jennifer recalled.
“She hadn’t had much freedom of choice in the past and needed support discovering and engaging in activities she enjoys.”
Jennifer’s approach to meeting Jeannie’s needs included being accepting of her, focusing on her strengths, and building from there.
Examples? Bringing beauty into the environment, such as fresh flowers, having upbeat music playing, singing, and using humor. “These have moved Jeannie from being sad most of the time to finding happiness and joy.”
Jennifer reassures Jeannie that everyone has challenges; we all are working on something.
“That has helped Jeannie to feel less overwhelmed by her own challenges, to becoming more optimistic, and being able to become active rather than to 'shut down.'"
“Community inclusion has been essential, as opportunities to explore activities and to interact with people have helped her realize she is a valuable and interesting member of our community,” added Jennifer. “She is flourishing in this environment.”
Jeannie has clearly changed for the positive in the eight months she’s been with Jennifer.
“She is literally a different person from when she arrived in my home. She is a member of my family and has had the opportunity to meet and grow close to family members, friends, and neighbors. She has experienced the give and take of friendship and how important the 'give' part is. Jeannie also realized she has so much to give; I feel successful when she inquires about a friend or wants to do something for someone."
Perhaps most importantly, Jeannie has grown into a joyful person.
Being an in-home provider has been beneficial for Jennifer, as well. “I am blessed that my family and circle of friends are very open and loving people. They have all been very accepting of Jeannie, are thoughtful, and care about her.” Her family, she added, has grown by one member.
And LifeShare has been supporting Jennifer all the way, even before she was matched with Jeannie.
“They helped prepare me by providing thorough information about LifeShare and what it means to be a good provider. They listened to me when I expressed my needs and limitations, and, based, on that, created a successful match with Jeannie."
Once the match was made, Jennifer received additional training to help develop the skills that would allow her to be a successful provider and fulfill the responsibilities of having an individual live with her in her home.
LifeShare continues to support Jennifer. “My program directors are available by phone anytime, so questions and concerns can always be answered,” she said. “The LifeShare coordinators are talented and knowledgeable and inspire confidence. They are reassuring when needed, and provide an encouraging environment."
“It is clear they care deeply about the work they do and are also greatly appreciative of the work providers do.”
Jennifer’s advice to others who may be considering becoming a LifeShare in-home provider?
“If it is something you think you might like to do, explore it.” As you do, she added, do your best to be honest with yourself and upfront with LifeShare about who you are and what it is that you can and will do, as well as what you can’t and won’t do. Try to get a clear a picture as possible about what you bring that you can give, but also, talk about your needs and limitations.
“Doing this,” she said, “allows you the best chance at finding a good match and having a good experience.”
For LifeShare staff in Maine, it’s all about relationships.
“The best part of my job is meeting both a provider and an individual seeking residential support on separate occasions and knowing immediately that they will make a perfect match,” said Maine State Director Jeri-Lynn Chambers. “I am so excited to see them share their lives for years to come!”
For more information about becoming a LifeShare in-home provider in Maine, contact Jeri-Lynn Chambers at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 207-692-2068. LifeShare in-home providers in Maine are contracted and receive an annual stipend of $31,000 plus monthly room and board.