We are Team Diane! We are part of her family.”
Judith Alvarez, Support Service Professional
There is no hesitation in Diane’s fingers as they play the chord on the old, and well loved, electric organ in the corner of the living room. The familiar notes of “Amazing Grace” fill the house and a smile lights Diane’s face.
Diane Cleres, AIM Agency with Choice consumer and amateur keyboardist, declares that “Amazing Grace” is one of her favorite songs to play. She continues, listing several of her other favorite activities.
“I like to do ceramics and paint and color,” Diane said beaming.
Judith Alvarez is Diane’s organ teacher and one of her 14 support service professionals. This team of individuals, calling themselves “Team Diane,” spans an age range from in their 20’s to their 70’s. Someone is with Diane in shifts around the clock to help promote the goals of Team Diane, including Diane’s health, safety, welfare, and happiness. Every one of them is committed to supporting and encouraging Diane’s independence.
“We are Team Diane!” Judith proudly exclaims. “We are part of her family.”
Diane has some physical and intellectual developmental disabilities and she maintains her independence through the Agency with Choice (AWC) program. AWC is a person-centered, home health care service that helps people with intellectual developmental disabilities and their families and advocates. The service helps families hire, schedule, plan, and maintain Support Service Professionals under the umbrella of the Individual Support Plan.
Diane’s sister, Sharon Hogan, oversees Diane’s medical care and home living, and Sharon’s husband, Jim, is the managing employer for Diane’s services. Agency with Choice supports the managing employer, providing payroll, training, paperwork, and other administrative support.
“When we first started looking into person-centric care after our father passed away, we were pretty much overwhelmed,” Sharon said. “We had no idea if we were going to be able to make at-home based care work for Diane, since we do not live in the area. Diane so desperately wanted to stay in the family home and we knew this choice was important to her.” They approached AIM Agency with Choice for help.
“We are learning to run a business, basically, with AIM’s help” Jim said, adding that AIM was able to help them set up and maintain a team of caregivers who are committed to Diane and want her to succeed and thrive.
“What we have developed is basically an informal group home of just one, with the caregivers as the other members of the home,” Sharon said. She continued saying that the caregivers often include Diane in their lives. Some might take her to church or out to eat. Diane may invite a caregiver’s family members to join them for dinner.
“In addition to going out into the community, the caregivers, in their relationships with Diane and in sharing their interests with her, essentially are bringing the community to Diane,” Sharon said.