“How come I’m not crying?” Sandy wondered as she set up her son’s new room. Because transitioning your child to residential living doesn’t have to be a devastating experience! Especially when the staff are committed to making the house a home for your loved one.
Understandably, Sandy and Kevin were reluctant as they arrived at the latest living arrangement for their son, Craig. While they trusted the process, there was still a sense of dread. They had pictured a more solemn, barren home before they had toured the new group home-run operated Incompass Human Services.
Transitioning Craig to residential living was not a decision that Sandy and Kevin took lightly. It is every parent’s hope that they can meet every one of their child’s needs. But as Craig grew over the years, so did his needs. Safety concerns, behavioral difficulties, and food restrictions became more prevalent. Perhaps it wasn’t what they imagined for themselves when Craig was born, but his quality of life was their top priority. So, they reimagined their family’s reality.
The essence of this reality was captured perfectly the first time that Sandy and Kevin walked into the residence. “To whoever designed this home – wow. It was homey, comforting, and brought us a sense of peace,” said Sandy. She likened it to a vacation that they had taken in Italy. Stepping out of the airport initially and being overwhelmed with a sense of awe.
When asked if Craig felt the same way about the home, his parents explained that he uses alternative methods of communication because he is nonverbal. But they knew he was comfortable. “He sat down on the couch like he’s always lived there,” said Kevin.
Incompass group home residents are very thoughtfully chosen with the individual’s needs in mind. “We know that moving into a new home is a huge adjustment for families and their loved ones,” said Oscar Gyamfi Legendre, Assistant Director of Residential Services at Incompass. “We take pride in listening to family members and learning some of the routines of their loved ones because nobody knows our new resident better than them.”
Craig is on the autism spectrum, along with the rest of his housemates. Staff on each shift are specially trained in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and can anticipate and effectively address difficulties that arise because of the staff to resident ratio. Naturally, the acclimation to a new environment can be a bumpy one. Sandy and Kevin were proactive in making the transition as seamless as possible, creating a book so that staff could get to know Craig better. As well as recording videos of them preparing meals that are within his restrictive diet.
“Not only were they receptive to our input, but they also acknowledged that it would help to maintain Craig’s quality of life. And make it even better,” said Kevin.
They were blown away by the staff’s commitment to the individuals and their attention to detail. Along with his autism diagnosis, Craig also lives with epilepsy. This means that safety precautions are of the utmost importance. Staff arranged for Craig to have a lower bed frame to help reduce the risk of injury if he had a seizure while sleeping, and the floors were carpeted to help with impact. Ample opportunities for leisure, both in and out of the home, are provided for individuals including an air hockey table, treadmill, and a wonderful swing in the backyard for nicer days.
Sandy and Kevin credited two Incompass Care Champions for their memorable experience moving Craig into his Tyngsboro home. Legendre and Daniel Nginyayu, House Manager. As they said their goodbyes for the day, Nginyayu insisted, “Everything is taken care of.”
We could go on and on, but we’ll leave you with these words from Sandy and Kevin instead,
“We know now that we have found our son’s forever home.”
Today I want to take the opportunity to share with you the note that I sent to the LifeLinks CLASS team on Monday…
Dear LifeLinks CLASS family:
I’m not even sure where to begin in my message to you. Like many of you, I was disgusted and horrified by the senseless killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. I watched on my tv as scenes played out across Boston and throughout the nation over the past few nights that devolved into something that was heart-wrenching and anxiety-provoking. A desperate unhappiness for the country permeates my heart and thoughts.
I realize that today we’re all hurting deeply. We are outraged and heartbroken. As a community, we can stand together. We can help each other. We can respect one another. And, most importantly, we can condemn hate and discrimination in all forms.
There are some immutable realities that we experience every day here at LifeLinks CLASS that – for me – help to equalize my emotions and ground me. First, we are one organization focused on one mission of ensuring the best life possible for each of the individuals we support to be happy and safe. Second, there are many races, religions, and cultures represented in our workforce and the people and families who we support; we are all unique and we actively respect those differences. Third, all are welcomed, and all are supported.
Think about that last statement. Inclusion is a core value of our organization. And it’s not just something I put in the annual report; it means that we collectively aspire to give those individuals we support the opportunity to achieve their full potential in an environment free from discrimination based on race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or political ideology.
I know many of you right now feel overwhelmed, anxious, powerless, lonely, frustrated, and angry. We cannot separate the realities of the world from our work. We need to be open and honest with ourselves, and with each other, that there are systemic and ideologic divides right now in our country that are deep and wide. But remember that every day at LifeLinks CLASS we work in ways both small and wide to bridge those divides.
It’s a privilege to do what we do, and I have never been prouder of all of you or more humbled by the example of love and devotion that I have seen expressed during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. You have supported our individuals above all else, including your own families. You have stood shoulder to shoulder carrying a very heavy burden. You are demonstrating compassion to individuals who are at home, struggling to understand the restrictions of a lockdown.
At LifeLinks CLASS we have always valued the preservation of the dignity of life. I pledge to never waver in that commitment.
Our Annual Holiday Party was another night to remember! On Saturday, December 7, nearly 350 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities from the Greater Lowell area joined us at Lenzi’s. LifeLinks CLASS individuals from day programs and group homes attended, as well as those from the community who look forward to this festive evening every year. The chilly weather didn’t stop partygoers from arriving in their finest holiday attire – everyone was dressed to impress! Once coats were checked and attendees were situated at their tables, the fun began. No time was wasted getting on the dance floor – DJ Ray Tremblay made sure of that. Lenzi’s served a delicious full-course meal, with special thought being given to the dietary restrictions of our guests. A task that is no small feat thanks to the support of our incredible clinical team! The party moved into the lobby area as individuals and volunteers posed for keepsake photos in the accessible photo booth.
It’s important to remember that the LifeLinks CLASS Holiday Party is the highlight of the season for many. It could be they have no living family members to share the holidays with or that their families are not very involved in their lives. For them and for all, our Holiday Party is like being home for the holidays. Thanks to our generous donors who offer their continuous support, we are able to keep this party affordable for the hundreds that attend. With the help of 52 donors, we were able to raise nearly $8,000 to offset the cost of this event. Wow! We couldn’t do what we do without you!
The festivities continued with a Shared Living Meeting hosted at The Establishment in Chelmsford, MA. Our Shared Living providers came together to reminisce, enjoy a delicious meal, swap gifts and face each other in a close game of holiday trivia. What more could you ask for during this special time of year? From everyone at LifeLinks CLASS, we wish you a Happy Holiday!