The Perfect Fit: Family Caregiving and Supported Community Connections

A little more than a year ago, Sonja and her family moved her brother, Mark, into her home. Mark lives with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) and had been residing with a Host Home Provider (HHP), as part of Evergreen Service Provider’s residential program, for about ten years. When his HHP announced she planned to retire, Mark’s sister looked into Colorado’s Family Caregiver Act.

This legislation provides broader choices, in terms of where and from whom services are received, for Individuals who are already receiving services funded by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF). Eligible family members who meet state requirements can be paid for providing this care. With Evergreen’s help navigating the process, Sonja and her family applied and were approved to become Mark’s caregivers. Family Caregivers must meet the same criteria, complete the same training, and provide the same services to IDD persons as Host Home Providers.

While Sonja took on the Family Caregiver role, her son Ethan became his uncle Mark’s SCC coordinator. Outings and enrichment activities, referred to as Supported Community Connections (SCC), are often managed through agencies that offer day programs. Through Evergreen’s SCC program, a family member or friend may be appointed to coordinate SCC activities for an IDD adult. As with family caregiving, Ethan had to meet criteria and complete training to qualify for this position.

Together, Sonja, Ethan, and Mark plan Mark’s SCC activities a month at a time, tailoring them to meet Mark’s specific needs and likes.

Mark is a Special Olympian, currently participating in bowling. He was previously involved in track events and is considering an upcoming 5K. Mark’s older sister is also very involved in his life and has even coached his Special Olympics track team.

Sonja describes Mark as “a good talker and a bit of a philosopher.” He has always had a special interest in weather, and Ethan has taken him to several programs at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder. While in the area, they have done a little hiking in the Flatirons. Some of their other activities include visits to the Denver Botanic Gardens, Elitch Gardens, Wings Over the Rockies, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and Wheat Ridge Recreation Center.

Mark sometimes finds it challenging to tolerate new experiences. One of his objectives is to become more comfortable with new places, meet new people, and develop new skills related to functioning within the community.

To work towards this goal Mark and Ethan go to restaurants where Mark orders meals and to the mall where he can interact with store clerks. An element of this objective is to help Mark get to know and communicate comfortably with people who can be natural supports for him – someone he could turn to for help – such as store clerks, security guards, and police officers. Mark is usually accompanied but does go for walks on his own. Knowing who he can turn to and how to connect with them is a great skill, should he ever need assistance.

As Sonja says, “Mark wants to help,” and has worked for a company called SustainAbility as a recycling technician for ten years.  He understands and appreciates the benefits of recycling and recognizes that he is giving back to his community through his work.

His sister feels that his involvement in the community is good for him in that he has contact with people other than his peers, which challenges him and gives him the opportunity for success. But she believes it’s also good for the community to get to know Mark and his capabilities. He and his family embrace the opportunity to be advocates and champions for IDD Individuals.

Combining family caregiving and SCC management for Mark has proven to be a perfect fit for all involved. Mark loves being with his family, benefits from the insight and care that is often unique to family and is thriving as his special needs and interests are addressed. Sonja shared that, “Having Ethan accompany Mark on activities and drive him to appointments saves me time and means that I never have to look elsewhere for respite,” and allows her to help her sister care for their aging parents.

Ethan loves what he does with and for Mark and has grown from the training he’s received in order to be Mark’s SCC coordinator. This experience has opened his eyes to a possible career path. He’s had offers from other people to do similar work. For example, a family has expressed an interest in hiring him to provide activities for their epileptic son. But Mark comes first.

Sonja said, “I feel that I hit a goldmine with Evergreen Service Providers. I so appreciate the opportunity to have made this happen for my family. I want more people to know about the family caregiver program.”

This is an example of the perfect fit that Evergreen Service Providers strives for. Executive Director Barbara Myers said, “There is no greater reward than witnessing the positive changes to lives that occur when the situation is right for everyone involved. We are grateful to have the opportunity to be part of this meaningful work and to be associated with such loving and giving people.”

If this situation might be a fit for your family member or loved one, visit our Family Caregiving page to learn more.

We greatly appreciate Sonja and her family for sharing details and photos of Mark’s activities and how family caregiving works for all concerned and enriches their lives.

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Evergreen Service Providers
5460 Ward Rd # 230
Arvada, CO 80002
PHONE: 303-431-0306

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Evergreen Service Providers is a small, non-profit, 501 (c)(3) agency. Based in Arvada, Colorado, we’ve been serving Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities since 1991.

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Evergreen Service Providers
5460 Ward Rd # 230
Arvada, CO 80002
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