Doubly Rewarding - Sisters Share the Same Passion
Sisters often share a lot in common…but these two pairs of sisters share the unique lifestyle of being LifeShare shared living providers. All four share close bonds with the individuals for whom they provide care. Close family ties balanced with independence in the community are the hallmark of each of their stories.
The sisters assist the individuals living with them to truly live their best lives, helping them achieve goals that are meaningful to them and to live as independently as possible. Family life makes this possible.
Julie and Elaine
Julie and Alan decided to marry when Alan had been Wayne’s shared living provider for three years. Alan asked Wayne’s permission to allow Julie to move in. Wayne happily agreed and they’ve all formed close relationships over the subsequent 25 years that they’ve been together as a family. Both Julie and Alan have worked in the mental health field for many years and they were the first LifeShare family in Maine when the organization expanded to that state.
Wayne has worked weekend mornings at a local restaurant near their home for the past 18 years, and he applied for and earned the position on his own. When not working, he attends a day program where he is involved with his peers doing many fun activities.
From left to right, Elaine, Shirley, Wayne and Julie pose for a family photo.
“We live three blocks from town,” Julie explains, “making it very convenient for Wayne to walk into the community where he is well known and liked by many of the merchants and employees of the businesses. They all treat Wayne with much respect and friendliness.”
Wayne collects marbles and may have several in his pocket on any day. He enjoys sitting on the front porch with his radio when the weather is nice, and, “I like to work on my crafts, painting and coloring,” he says.
“I try hard to let him make his own choices and do things for himself when I sometimes want to do them for him,” Julie says. “I know that with patience and kindness he can do so much on his own. It’s really worth the wait when I see the look of achievement and pride on Wayne’s face after he has accomplished something.”
Living with Julie and the family was her daughter, who has since grown and has a teenage son of her own. When the boy, Julie’s grandson, was a baby, Wayne got to hold him – the first time he had ever held a baby – and he was so excited! Julie says she has loved “seeing the joy he has experienced during these times and seeing new things and new places through his eyes.”
About a mile away, Julie’s sister Elaine resides with Shirley. When Elaine’s husband became ill she took an early retirement to care for him. When he passed away, Julie and Elaine talked about shared living.
“I knew this would be exactly what I could do and that I would find fulfillment and joy while helping someone,” Elaine explains. “I am also a Day Support Provider four days for a twenty-hour week,” she adds.
The sisters have a very close relationship and enjoy doing things together with Wayne and Shirley, who are also very close.
“Over the years we have all shared many meaningful, fun times,” says Elaine.
The sisters also have each other’s support for trainings and advice, and make suggestions to one another when thinking of beneficial strategies.
Shirley rides independently on a public transportation bus to and from her day program. She likes to make decisions independently, such as how she spends or saves her own money, and she likes to sew, make crafts and paint.
“Shirley verbally expressed that she wanted to know what the words said in her Bible and she wanted to be able to read them,” Elaine told us. “I took her to a literacy class and she learned to read. She now likes to go to the library for books that she can enjoy and read.”
“Through counseling, having the right medication, love and support, Shirley is living a happy lifestyle,” Elaine explains.
Shirley says about her life, “I like my home and my room and my yard. I like my friends and day program. I like shopping.” A favorite activity of Shirley and Wayne’s is going out together to eat fried clams.
Kate and Karen
Identical twins Kate and Karen own a duplex where they live with Emily and Kerri, who moved in on the same day just about two years ago. Both shared living providers, these Rhode Island natives work together providing the teaching and assistance to Emily and Kerri based on their schedules and strengths.
The day starts early with breakfast, daily plans and medication monitoring. If Emily or Kerri has a doctor’s appointment, Karen will likely assist as she has retired and Kate is still working full time. With the assistance of their life coaches, Emily and Kerri maintain very full schedules volunteering in their community, participating in various classes and activities, and running errands. At the end of the day, they all meet back at home for dinner preparation and eating together while discussing the day and its stories. Some evening chores get done, then they are much like any other family, watching TV, watering the garden, enjoying crafts or reading.
From left to right, Kate, Emily, Kerri and Karen take a minute to pause for a picture.
Kate is also an artist and enjoys working with Emily and Kerri on art projects. Painting was the most recent endeavor and Emily gave her first painting to her mother for Mother’s Day.
But it wasn’t always a simple, well-adjusted family life together. When the ladies first moved in with Kate and Karen, there were difficulties.
“One of the most challenging things to overcome was helping Emily feel safe day to day,” says Kate. “But it’s a joy to hear her say she is ‘very happy she lives with all of us.’”
Emily agrees. “I no longer have to live alone. I am much happier and have stayed out of the hospital.”
Karen explains that it was a little more difficult with Kerri, whose symptoms escalated when she moved in with them.
“I started to question myself and everything…was this the best place for Kerri? It was a rocky start. Kerri has multiple medical as well as psychological issues, which usually ended in hospitalizations. The LifeShare team worked with me to help manage Kerri’s issues. They helped me, Kerri’s mom, Kerri and a behavioral consultant develop a behavioral plan. This is what made the difference. I was able to keep Kerri out of the hospital with this plan and team support.”
Kerri is less moody most days than she used to be, and makes eye contact more frequently. “My life is now more fun and exciting,” she says.
The closeness of family
All of the sisters spoke about how welcoming their own families and friends have been to Wayne, Shirley, Kerri and Emily. They are remembered on birthdays and holidays and are included in family outings and vacations. They also shared that the four individuals’ relationships with their own biological families have improved, too.
Kerri even tells Karen, “Emily is like a sister I never had.”
LifeShare’s primary goal is to empower people to be more independent through support and teaching. In addition, these two pairs of sisters share their warmth and closeness to provide stable, shared living arrangements for those who need them. In doing so they have improved lives while strengthening bonds, including their own.