June 11th, 2021

Are We Still #BetterTogetherWR?

By: Terral McBay, on behalf of the FamilyHome/SIL Team

In a year where we have been confined to our homes facing multiple lockdowns, we find we are challenged by the banner hashtag of being #BetterTogetherWR. Yes, this is still a statement we live by, but after a year of not being able to have time away from those closest in our lives, do we still feel we are #BetterTogether? Maybe we are feeling sentiments of #GetMeOuttaHere or #MyFamilyIsAnnoying

This year, families in FamilyHome have truly captured the heart of what it means to be family. Families have done more than simply survive during a global pandemic, they have deepened relationships, been creative, held together, and built new routines in the absence of all that used to be normal. That doesn’t mean this hasn’t been a year of changes and transitions. Here are some highlights from a truly “unprecedented” year.

The Journey

In March 2020, our Coordinator Team shifted to working completely virtually. Throughout this time, Families and Direct Support People have carried FamilyHome with their unwavering support, care and commitment to meaningful relationships. When masks and hand sanitizer were hot on the scene, the Coordinator team made deliveries of PPE packages to ensure everyone had an initial supply of protective items for day to day life. Coordinators have also shifted our regularly scheduled visits to video chats and have worked to maintain Ministry compliance in a virtual world. In some respects, we see people more than we did before as video chats often replace phone calls. It has been lovely to see people more often, and also to read facial expressions and check in more deeply with families and people we support.

As with all families, we enjoy time apart. This helps strengthen our families and gives us all a bit of a breather. This year, families and those we support have not had much of this and are holding firm. We acknowledge how hard it is to constantly be at home with each other and see the same few faces – day after day, after day, and still caring for each other no matter what.

Our Direct Support People, who are the backbone to our essential service supports, have been a bright light throughout all of this as they continue to “show up” both virtually and in-person. They have been extremely adaptive in finding new and different ways to connect, and find things to do in a community that is locked down from all previous activities.

Resiliency

This year, FamilyHome Providers have developed a deep sense of resiliency that has fostered a new sense of what it means to be family, and to navigate an unknown world that is absent of all that was “normal.” From family movie nights and cross country Zoom calls, to birthday celebrations with loved ones and finding fun activities at home, these families continue to dig deep to create meaning and opportunity in a year full of restrictions.


Endings & New Beginnings

Over the past year we also saw some people move within FamilyHome. Americo moved out of his home of 20+ years to live with his longtime Respite Provider, Stephanie. He still calls his former family almost daily, as the relationship they have together is still very strong. Gord also moved from a family he lived with for more than five years and has moved in with a new provider who he met through a family connection. He too is able to maintain contact with the family he just left.

In the Supported Independent Living Program (SIL), we are excited to welcome two new people this year to begin building a network of support to help them thrive in the community in their own apartments.

One exciting update is that we developed a new staff position to help support the work of FamilyHome, SIL, and eventually, other programs at Extend-A-Family. We have designed and successfully hired a Recruitment & Networking Coordinator. This position will help us recruit new families to the FamilyHome Program, as well as helping people we support develop more fulsome and intentional networks of support. We are excited to welcome Tristan into this brand new role!

Final Goodbyes

Sadly, we remember the lives of two people who passed away this year. We are honoured to walk with people on their life journey, and mourn when we part ways. This year we remember Ang and Randy and stand alongside their families who will miss their daily presence.

In a year of disconnection and physical distancing, while we may feel stress on missing many relationships in our lives, we are very thankful for the families and support people who continue forward every day in creating strong and meaningful relationships. Yes, we are still #BetterTogetherWR. We hope soon that we can expand our circles to be together with friends, family and our community.