Say hello to Nancy and Vicky! Vicky’s supported by HMEA and has been living with Nancy for the past year through our Shared Living program. We spoke with Nancy about the process of becoming a Shared Living Provider, and how it feels to be a companion and mentor to one of our supported individuals.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a case manager/employment consultant. My job is to help people in the community get back on their feet; whether they need jobs, housing assistance, resources, or access to English courses, I basically hold their hand through the process.
Prior to being a Shared Living Provider, I was a foster mom for 10 years. I also have a biological daughter, and we have a huge extended family.
Why did you want to get involved with the Shared Living program?
When I was a foster mom, my daughter and I both enjoyed having kids in the house being a part of our family. In the past, I’ve also been a PCA (personal care assistant) to individuals with disabilities. I really enjoyed this role because I felt like I was helping someone who genuinely cared and valued what I was doing. That’s why I looked into becoming a Shared Living Provider. I was doing the work already as a PCA, and the Shared Living Program would allow me to open up my home and do the work there.
How did you get involved with the Shared Living Program?
I met Barbara Taylor and Chris Collard, who are part of the Shared Living team, in November of 2021. When I was introduced to Barbara and Chris, I explained that whoever I was matched with was going to be a part of my family. I’m an outgoing person, and I wanted the supported individual to travel with me, be able to do activities, and participate in the community with me.
A month later, I was matched with Vicky. The experience with Vicky has been amazing since day one!
How did HMEA support you in the transition to being a Shared Living Provider?
I had applied to a couple other companies to be a Shared Living Provider, and the reason I went with HMEA is because of the level of support they gave me. Barbara is an amazing human being. She has worked with me one-on-one right from the beginning and walked me through the entire process. She gave me instructions on what to do and introduced me to Vicky and the other candidates.I felt like it was a very smooth process.
What’s a typical day with Vicky like?
When I first started working with Vicky, it was very hands-on since I didn’t know her that well. I would wake her up in the morning, help her get dressed, do her hair, brush her teeth, and help her shower. Since her arrival, she has become a lot more independent; she gets herself dressed, brushes her own teeth, etc. She still needs to be prompted from time to time, but she has become more independent overall.
Monday through Friday, Vicky attends HMEA’s day programs in the morning and afternoon, and usually gets home around 2:45 PM. If she behaves well during the day program and at home, I offer her different rewards. For example, she loves swimming in the pool where I live, so we’ll head down to the pool once or twice a week. We all go for walks to take the dog to the park. I also have a lot of family activities like birthdays, weddings, and baby showers. I take her to all these events.
She does really well being out in the community so, once a week, I try to take her out to dinner, and we do brunch on Sunday mornings. One of the biggest rewards we’re working towards is a trip to Disney. She loves Mickey and the princesses, so we hope to make it to Disney in December.
What’s the most rewarding part of being a Shared Living Provider?
For me, it’s the mutual love that Vicky and I have for each other. I have learned so much about her – for example, Vicky has the most amazing laugh! Even if you’re having a bad day, you have to laugh with her. It has brought so much happiness to me and my daughter.
Vicky’s so lovable. She’s always giving me hugs and showing affection. Being able to do things in the community with her, and the love and care that my family members share with her, has been priceless.
Another rewarding part of being a Shared Living Provider is the independence HMEA gives you. When I was a foster mom, I had numerous people coming in and out of my home on a weekly basis, including probation officers, lawyers, and therapists. As a Shared Living Provider, I do have monthly check-ins, but I also have 24/7 support from HMEA. I can reach out to them with any concerns I have and they’re willing to help.
Finally, I appreciate that HMEA allows you to work full-time while being a Shared Living Provider, and that the individuals can also participate in the day services programs. When I was a foster mom, I didn’t have that option.
Have you noticed a shift in mood from when Vicky first came to your home?
Absolutely! In the beginning, we were both trying to get to know each other. She had previously been with a provider for almost four years and was stuck in the house due to COVID for two of the years. Being out and about in the community was a new experience for her, since she didn’t get out much with her former provider. It was a learning curve for both of us, but I think she appreciates it, and she works really hard.