My memory gets a bit fuzzy when I try to think back to a time before living in one of Friendship’s homes. I remember in my mid 20’s coming from Paradise Valley Hospital and arriving at a new place. It honestly looked very similar to the place I had just come from. There were a lot of people – nurses, CNAs, administrative staff. But something felt different. People seemed genuinely interested in who I was and what I thought. I liked that a lot. It was still hard to adjust… to trust. Everything and everyone w[as] so new. Who were these people? How did they know so much about me?
We had a meeting shortly after I arrived. It was all about me! They wanted to know what I thought. What my life goals were. What should I say? No one had ever asked me that before. I remember talking about politics. I really like politics. I also remember how uncomfortable I was in the wheelchair that had been brought with me from the hospital. It was old and uncomfortable. That was something I would like to change as well. The guy running the meeting said, “Well, then, let’s get you registered to vote and get you a better wheelchair.” I thought, yes, let’s do that, and so, we did.
Over the years, I was able to do so much more than I had in the past. Yes, I registered to vote and voted in every election thereafter in person. Not only did I replace the old wheelchair I had arrived with, but I also replaced it with an electric version that I learned to drive myself.
Eventually I moved to a small home in the community. Almost all the staff in the home had worked with me in the other home. This place didn’t look like the other places I had lived. It was much smaller. Only five other people besides myself. I had a roommate, but only one this time, and I knew who he was at least. I had a mailbox now! I liked to check for mail every day, and it was good practice for me. Driving my electric wheelchair takes practice. I began going to self-advocacy conferences and meeting other people who understood some of my struggles firsthand. I eventually reconnected with my family! I was living less than three miles from one of my cousins, and she put me back in touch with my mom. Life was good. It was very good.
Into every life a little rain must fall, and it began to fall hard in mine. My health took a turn for the worse. So much so I had to move out of my home because they could no longer care for my heightened medical needs. I ended up in a new facility. They called it a skilled nursing facility. Something was different. No one seemed interested in what I thought or felt. I never got to use my electric wheelchair. In fact, I never saw it again. My roommate was constantly changing, and they never spoke to me.
Then one day, a familiar face came to see me. He would sit and talk – ask me what I thought, read the paper to me, and discuss politics. Did I mention I love politics? Now that I think of it, he helped me to meet the actual President of the United States! That was a great day. I even took a picture. It’s hanging in my room.
These visits were a nice break from the life I now found myself leading. I was told one day I was moving to a new facility. Thank goodness, I thought to myself. Anywhere must be better than this. The news was that it wasn’t any better. The good news is that it was closer to my family and my friends, so I was able to see them more often.
One day, my friend asked if I would like to move into a new home. Was he kidding? Yes, yes, I would. When can I leave? Soon, he hoped, and so he and I, along with my family, tried to convince the powers that be [that] I would be a good candidate for this new home. It took many months, but finally, I was told I could move. Would I know anyone? If so, would they remember me?
It turns out I knew a lot of people in this new home – my home – and they remembered me. People began to ask me what I thought again, what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go. My room was like nothing I had ever had before. It was all mine. No roommate – stranger or otherwise. I could decorate it as I liked. I even bought a huge TV for me to watch. I began reviewing current events, talking about the news of the day with everyone, and developing new interests, such as cooking.
I am currently getting a garden together to grow my own vegetables. I have so many new interests and have begun to go out into the community again. I now have people who not only take care of me, but they also care about me. It’s true – you can get by with a little help from your friends.
ResCare Community Living Client