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Staying Connected In Challenging Times

When faced with a crisis, the members of the Nonotuck Resource Associates Inc. community pull together, relying on each other to get through. They find solutions to challenges and help each other manage problems. During the coronavirus pandemic, that means Nonotuck’s Shared Living and Adult Family Care families are finding new ways to stay connected.

In Shared Living, an individual, couple or family shares their home and their lives with a person with a disability. The individuals involved develop authentic, loving and respectful relationships of mutual dependence, each bringing their own strengths to the household. Adult Family Care (AFC) keeps families together by helping immediate or extended family members provide a safe, nurturing home for people with disabilities.

The coronavirus pandemic has presented new challenges to many Nonotuck families. Activities people used to participate in outside the home have been canceled or moved online and family visits have been curtailed. As physical distancing has cut off outlets for social interaction, trusted relationships have taken on added importance. Those connections play a vital role in the mental health of all members of a Shared Living and AFC families.

Missing outside activities was particularly hard for Carlos. At his day program, he connected with friends, his girlfriend, a case manager and others. Through the program, he spent one day a week working in food service at a local college, so the pandemic and need to stay home meant Carlos also missed his co-workers and a job that gave him great pride and satisfaction. The day program was a big part of his daily routine, and his enthusiasm for his activities helped him do well in the rest of his life. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, Carlos was focused on how much he missed his girlfriend and his case manager, and worried about not being able to work. Then he reached out to his provider, his family, supporting staff, case manager, and clinician for support. He began connecting at least once a day, either through phone calls or video chats, with a clinician or his case manager. With their encouragement and with engagement from his provider, Carlos was able to establish new routines and work on developing good habits for self-care. These include getting enough sleep each night, eating well, exercising, talking to people, and focusing on the positive. With support, he is now coping well with the ongoing physical distancing requirements.

Carrie and Angela, who have lived together in a Shared Living arrangement for 20 years, have found new ways to stay connected to the outside world. Virtual apps allow them to celebrate birthdays, attend church, and have family get-togethers, including virtual parties. Carrie uses a communication device, so face-to-face contact is essential for her communication. The virtual visits also give everyone the visual reassurance that the people they care about are safe and healthy, providing valuable peace of mind. Online resources are also helping Carrie continue working on her day program goals, including the development of a cookbook.

Another family is also using technology to stay in touch with friends and family. Brenda, 62, now uses Facetime, Facebook and social media to keep in contact with people she loves. Brenda had been attending a day program in Sterling, and developing a new daily routine was a challenge for her. But with her provider’s support, Brenda has adapted to a new schedule and discovered new hobbies. She now enjoys baking, doing puzzles and playing games on her iPad, and going for neighborhood walks. Brenda has difficulty communicating, so the family takes her temperature regularly to detect any illness, and everyone is careful to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer.

Like so many families in our communities during the pandemic, Nonotuck’s Shared Living and AFC families are moving ahead with love and genuine caring, maintaining the connections that enrich all our lives. You can learn more about Nonotuck’s Shared Living and AFC services here

“(Through shared living) people with a disability experience a real transformation and discover confidence in themselves; they discover their capacity to make choices, and also find a certain liberty and above all their dignity as human beings.”

—Jean Vanier

Caregiving with Love:
Guide for Shared Living Providers

Learn how Nonotuck developed a love-based ideology of care. We started our shared living program as an alternative to group homes for people with disabilities. Instead, Shared Living creates genuine life transformation for people with disabilities, as well as families and communities. The true power of caregiving is found through hospitality, authenticity, and love.

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