Paula is a woman in her fifties who has lived in the same group home for many years. She enjoys going into the community, but this was not always the case. When she was first living at the house she was fairly healthy and liked to do things in the community. About 10 years ago, Paula experienced some significant health problems that made her extremely tired and depressed. She spent most of her time in bed. After an extended period, her health problem was resolved and she could start going out again, but she refused to leave her room. The staff at the house were alarmed and not sure what to do. Thankfully, a new community living support person, Gloria, with lots of energy, creativity and patience contacted The Arcadia Institute Community Participation Initiative staff. When we first met Paula she would not talk to us, but did show us her guitar. She told her staff that she wanted to take lessons. We found a Western Michigan University Student who was willing to teach her. At first, Sam met Paul at the house, but then they began to venture out to Milham Park to play in the picnic pavilion. From these first outings, Paula became more willing to go out into the community. She began going to help at St. Vincent De Paul where she started to talk to other people as she got to know them. From there she began to strike up conversations in other places like Walmart.
Recently, I attended Paula’s planning meeting. Everyone remarked how much her quality of life has improved because she is building her own community relationships and how much that MATTERS!