When Diana Coulthard opened up her doors and offered to provide home care for individuals with diverse abilities 13 years ago, she never dreamed how much she’d be opening up her heart at the same time.
For over a decade, Coulthard and her family have been providing home care to individuals with diverse abilities in Kelowna, through a service called Home Sharing.
Working through Pathways Abilities Society, a Kelowna not-for-profit society, Coulthard is one of a number of home share providers who’s incredible generosity of spirit is helping individuals with diverse abilities live more fulfilling and independent lives.
“I first learned of home sharing when I was working in a group home. I’d heard the group home was going to be closing and the government was looking to provide alternate care through private home sharing services," Coulthard recalled.
"I wanted to continue helping people because that’s who I am. The possibility of being part of a team plus having more of the autonomy it seemed home sharing offered, appealed to me.”
After putting her name forward as a potential Home Share care provider, Coulthard soon found herself sharing her family home with an individual with diverse abilities.
“Home sharing really involves not just sharing your home, but basically your family’s life with another individual. Your role is to assist the individual. That may be assisting with simple things like choosing healthy foods to attending doctor’s appointments. The most important aspect of your role is to support them in living as great a life as they can," she said.
"One of the individuals I supported lived in a group home. She suffered from nervousness and anxiety. When she left a group home environment and came to live with me, she became less anxious.
"She likes having the added attention. And that’s one of the fine lines you have to navigate; the balance between providing a healthy level of attention while maintaining healthy boundaries. Really, it’s a supportive role in which the care provider models behaviours and lifeskills, which the individuals may choose to make use of in their own lives."
And while, when asked, home share providers will agree that the rewards outweigh the sacrifices, Coulthard reminds those considering opening their homes to a home sharing commitment to diligently research the pros and cons first.
“It can become complicated, especially when one is integrating a stranger into the home environment. You do give up some of your privacy. You may need to reorganize your home and life so you still have personal space. And because it can be stressful, you have to make sure you’re able to balance taking care of your needs with those of your family. You can’t look after other people if you don’t look after yourself; self care is extremely important.”
When asked what it takes to be a good home share provider, Coulthard says understanding and utilizing the concept of inclusiveness, assertiveness and self-care are essential skills. "Plus, a strong personal network of support for you and everyone in your household. In the end, I’d say the two most important qualities needed are patience and a good sense of humour.”
As our community continues to grow there is always a growing need for community members to open their homes to individuals with diverse abilities looking to gain greater independence and live more independent lives in a safe, caring and encouraging environment.
If you’d be interested in considering providing home share care for an individual with diverse abilities, contact the Pathways Abilities Society at 250-763-2602.