At Community Living Hamilton we express our five organizational values using the word G-R-E-A-T. These stories illustrate how those values come to life as we help our clients Build Great Lives.
G – Growth that Exceeds Expectations
New Partnership Promotes Independance
Thanks to a unique new partnership with McMaster University, Community Living client Robert is now able to take the bus to get anywhere he needs to go. Robert was one of 11 clients chosen to take part in a program that uses Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) to teach specific skills that would allow him to live more independently.
Participating clients were partnered with a small group of third and fourth-year Psychology students who would help them identify skills they wanted to learn. Using ABA principles, the students then worked with their client for one hour, three times a week to help them develop those skills.
For Robert, being able to confidently plan his transit trips was the skill he wanted to learn. “I wanted to know how to go from one place to another,” he says.
Before working with the students, Robert could take the bus alone, but relied on the bus driver to tell him when to get off and what bus to transfer onto. After working with the students, his trip planning skills, which were first assessed at 10 per cent, improved to 70 per cent. Robert is now able to use the online trip planning tool, route maps and schedules to navigate around the city.
“Now I know I can get to my doctor and dentist appointments or go wherever,” says Robert proudly. “I come to the day program at 191 York five days a week to hang out with my friends.”
Other clients who participated in the program learned skills including, meal preparation, budgeting, one-on-one and group conversations skills, and reading. In addition to acquiring these new skills, participants also demonstrated higher self-esteem, excitement to show off their new skills and an increased motivation to learn.
Based on the success achieved by participants, Community Living Hamilton extended the partnership for 2019-20 allowing more clients like Robert to access this valuable learning opportunity.
R – Respect for All
Respecting Don’s Last Wishes
In the summer of 2018, long time Community Living client, Don, was diagnosed with late stage Lymphoma. While doctors had initially hoped they could treat it successfully, his cancer did not respond to treatment and the focus quickly shifted to palliative care.
In spite of his deteriorating condition, Don expressed a strong desire to continue living at Delancey residence, a place he’d called home for over 15 years. Honouring his choice, the staff went above and beyond to accommodate Don and keep him living comfortably and safely at the residence for as long as possible.
“Don was an important part of our community, he was like family” says Rhonda Sultana, Manager, Client Services. “We made significant adjustments in order to respect his wishes and keep him with us here, even as his health worsened.”
Staff monitored his condition, daily then hourly towards the end, his pain levels and how much he was eating. They assisted him with taking his medication and transported him to his many chemotherapy, radiation and doctor’s appointments. When Don began having issues swallowing, the staff went out and bought pudding and would crush his pills and stir them in to make it easier for him.
“What Don loved best about living at Delancey, was the camaraderie,” says his sister Donna. “He really appreciated filling that father figure role and looking after the younger guys.”
True to form, when Don did finally have to transition to Emmanuel House for end-of-life care, his biggest concern was how “the gang” was doing in his absence. Showing compassion not only for Don, but for all those who had grown close with him, the staff made it a priority to schedule trips so his housemates could come visit him during his final days.
“The staff at Delancey took such incredible care of Don,” says Donna. “It was comforting to know he was in such great hands.”
Don passed away peacefully on May 15, 2019.
Green Bench Helps Calm Kentley Resident
Like most women her age, 45-year-old Laura enjoys life’s simple pleasures, like getting her hair done or going to the market to buy flowers. To see her sitting patiently as she gets a manicure and pedicure, you’d never know that just a year ago this type of excursion would have been impossible.
Laura, who moved into Kentley residence in late 2016, is now comfortable living in her new home, but that wasn’t always the case. Up until recently, behaviour issues made it difficult for her to go out resulting in her spending all her time at the residence.
“From her first day here it was clear Laura was a social person,” says Residence Manager Keston Roberts. “She’s funny and curious and you could see she was looking for peer acceptance and to be part of our community, but her behaviours were creating barriers.”
Determined not to let the challenges she was facing stand in the way of her happiness, the staff made a concerted effort to ensure her participation in social activities and group outings.
They also noted that Laura gravitated towards a small bench with green padding located under the window near the main entrance. They observed the calming effect that sitting at the “green bench” seemed to have and developed a strategy to use it as a safe space she could visit when she was feeling upset or anxious.
Gradually, through the use of the “green bench” and the efforts of staff to integrate her in group activities, Laura’s behaviours have subsided. Not only is Laura better able to regulate her own behaviours, but she will now remove herself from situations that make her agitated.
“The change has opened up new opportunities for Laura and dramatically improved her relationships with her roommates and with staff,” says Keston. “She has made incredible progress and we are all so proud of her.”
Laura now regularly takes part in social activities and excursions out in the community. Whether it’s a visit to the salon or a trip to the community centre to get some exercise in the pool, everyone, including Laura, knows she can handle it.
E – Excellence and Safety in Everything We Do
Focus on Friendship
When April came to pick up her son Connor after a weekend at the Children’s Respite Program at Charlton, what she saw brought her to tears.
Connor and another young boy had the toy cars and parking garages set up on the floor and the two of them were laying there playing together. For most parents that scene wouldn’t have been particularly notable, but it was enough to get April choked up.
“It’s hard to explain the overwhelming feeling of relief and of happiness and excitement I had that he had a friend,” says April. “When he first began attending, he was experiencing some transition issues and was resisting even getting out of the car.”
For kids with special needs, forming relationships can be especially challenging. In fact, a recent City of Hamilton survey polling parents of children with special needs, found one of their greatest concerns was that their children didn’t have any friends.
Recognizing the opportunity to fill that need, the staff at Charlton put extra emphasis on helping the kids they care for make those connections.
“Often times they miss out on social cues and don’t always know how to be a friend,” says Tina Paddock, Direct Support Facilitator. “Developing those skills by teaching things like being patient, taking turns and sharing, has become a huge focus.”
Connor, now 8, goes to the Respite Program for a scheduled visit once every few months, but is also on the cancelation list, so can sometimes attend more frequently. It hasn’t gone unnoticed to April that on those bonus visits Connor’s friend is often there.
“Obviously we have to balance the needs of all our families, but we also recognize how important friendship is to these kids and we do our best to nurture that,” says Tina. “If there is an opening when Connor’s friend is going to be here, we’ll reach out and see if he can join us.”
Over the past year Connor has made other friends at Charlton. As his circle of friends has grown, the program has become a place he now gets excited about and looks forward to going.
"It always feels great to pick Connor up and hear from the staff that he had a great weekend," says April.
A – Abilities First
World-Class Abilities on Full Display
Last year was a banner year for Community Living Hamilton’s Drum Corps. Not only did 2018 mark the 15th anniversary of the Drum Corps, but also saw the team compete in its highest profile competition to date. Founded in 2003 to perform at the organization’s 50th anniversary celebration, the group has evolved to become a 40 member unit and is recognized as the first ever all-inclusive Drum Corps.
“When you watch the Drum Corps play you see only abilities, not limitations” says Robyn Garnier, Direct Support Facilitator, Drum Corps member and founder. “This is an incredibly accomplished group who have competed against the best of the best and won numerous championships.”
While Corps members have grown accustomed to performing at events across southern Ontario, an invitation to compete at the 2018 Drum Corps International World Championship in Indianapolis presented an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up. In August, members traveled by bus down to Indiana to show what they were capable of and break down barriers by competing head-to head against the world’s best drum lines.
“To be there competing in Indianapolis, and in our first battle to face-off against the reigning world champion Calgary Stampede Band, was such a feeling of pride and accomplishment,” says Robyn.
Committed to serving as ambassadors for inclusion, the Drum Corps also scheduled a visit at Noble of Indiana, a local special needs service organization, ahead of the competition to perform and hold an education session. The visit provided the chance to get in some valuable practice time, as well as connect with the clients at Noble and teach them what it takes to be a Drum Corps member. The group at Noble were eager to try out the drums and quickly picked up skills under the guidance of the members.
It wasn’t all business however, as members also got the chance to enjoy a little rest and relaxation during their down-time. Some notable highlights included, catching a show at The Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, including a meet and greet with the cast, a dinner out at the Olive Garden, shopping, swimming in the hotel pool and prime seats to watch the Drum Corps International World Championship finals at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“The whole trip to Indianapolis was an incredible experience,” says Josh, who has been playing with the Drum Corps for approximately 10 years. “It has been a lot of hard work and getting to play on that stage was a dream come true.”
The Drum Corps wishes to thank the many sponsors who made the trip to Indianapolis possible including: Community Living Hamilton, Dream Cymbals & Gongs, Yamaha Canada, Woodshed Percussion, Los Cabos Sticks, Healthcare & Municipal Employees Credit Union, Mohawk College, CUPE 3943, Promoland and other private donors.
T – Trust and Integrity
New Apartment, Fresh Start
For many people, the transition to living independently isn’t always easy. It’s a struggle that Supported Independent Living client Michael is well aware of. Michael fell on hard times after the death of his wife five years ago, and is in the process of putting his life back together.
“She was the centre of my world,” says Michael. “She’s what made all my puzzle pieces fit together and once she was gone it was like half my puzzle was missing.”
Wayne Lynch, who operates three lodging homes in the Hamilton area, has a long standing relationship with Community Living Hamilton, having had many clients as tenants over the years. He’s seen tenants suffer setbacks or struggle to maintain their progress and has long recognized the need for a transitional housing option that offered more basic supports for tenants.
Wayne also owns a number of apartment buildings in the city, including a 6-unit building located a couple doors down from one of his lodging homes. For years, Wayne had been tinkering with the idea of using the building to create a unique independent living option where tenants also had access to the supports of the nearby lodging home, including prepared meals, medication support and more.
“I have a very healthy respect for Community Living Hamilton as an organization,” says Wayne. “So, when one of the units in the building became available last year, and I saw the chance to test this new model, I reached out right away.”
Wayne connected with Supported Independent Living worker Mary Lanosky to let her know he had a unit he was remodelling and asked if she had any clients that would be a good fit.
“When Wayne explained what he was trying to do, I immediately thought of Michael,” says Mary. “Michael was the perfect candidate for this type of arrangement because he was already living independently, but his existing housing situation was less than ideal.”
Having the trust of community partners like Wayne often creates opportunities for Community Living and its clients. In this particular case, it meant that Michael was able to move into a clean, newly upgraded apartment that offered rent below market value and additional supports at no extra cost.
“This is a place I can be proud of and invite friends to,” says Michael. “Since moving in I am under so much less stress. I can sleep at night knowing everything is going to be OK.”
Things are working so well with Michael that Wayne has plans to convert the remaining five units in the building to accommodate other clients who could also benefit from the extra support.