Part of the Family
When Paul and his family decided to invite Mark to become a significant part of their lives through a Home Share arrangement, Paul knew that the change would have an impact on them all. While there have been some significant adjustments to make, the change to Paul’s family and Mark’s life has been positive.
A Home Share is an opportunity for a caregiver to share their home with a person who lives with a disability, providing long-term support. Mark lives with Cerebral Palsy and cognitive impairment. He uses a wheelchair to get around and requires some personal care but for the most part, he is very independent. He came to be a part of Paul’s family in 2017 just as they were moving from one home to another. This gave them an opportunity to renovate their new home to accommodate Mark’s needs. Sitting in their bright and spacious living room, Paul marvels at how much they managed to get done in a short period of time, thanks to the help of skilled family members.
“We painted, replaced floors, widened doorways and installed support bars – all in four and a half days,” Paul recalls. “It was pretty hectic but it was totally worth it.”
Paul says that being a Home Share provider has been a good change for him. He had worked for years in graphic design and advertising and was starting to experience some repetitive-motion stress. His job was stressful and since he and his wife were both working full time, it meant that they needed to find after-school care for their two girls. It was time for a change. By becoming a Home Share provider for Mark, Paul has also become a stay-at-home dad, allowing him to keep house, plan and cook meals and be at home when his girls are at home.
“My life is a lot less stressful,” Paul says. “It helps that Mark is a very quiet, amiable person.”
For Mark, being integrated into a family is very meaningful. Mark, who is 55, was abandoned by his parents at age one and spent most of his life in institution. He has had other living arrangements, including Home Shares, but Mark’s day-program providers say that he has changed significantly since coming to stay with Paul.
“They say he’s happier than he’s ever been,” Paul says, adding that it feels good to hear that. “That’s what we want, we want Mark to be happy.”
Perhaps the change in Mark is due to the fact that Paul’s family has truly integrated him into their lives. While Mark has his own bedroom and bathroom, which gives him privacy when he wants and needs it, he eats meals with the family and takes part in all the family activities. On Sundays, they go to Trinity Christian Reformed Church where Mark has been attending for nearly 20 years. Recently, they celebrated Mark’s birthday with a party and Mark also goes along to the family cabin for holidays. This spring, one of Mark’s dreams came true when he and Paul visited Disneyland.
“We spent 5 days there and it was great to be able to do this with Mark,” Paul says. “Mark loves all the big crazy rides and going through the Haunted Mansion. Disneyland is very wheel-chair friendly and that made it a really good experience for us.”
For someone considering providing Home Share support to a person with a developmental disability, Paul says that the key to success is being prepared and being open to change. Patience is also needed as you learn to know each other and adjust to each other’s routines.
“You really need to make this person part of your life,” he says. “Mark is just a part of our family.”