While the coronavirus pandemic drove life as we knew it to a halt, caregivers all over the country have stepped up to meet the needs of folks with disabilities so they could remain independent.
We chatted with Sharon and Jim Hogan in May 2020, while Pennsylvania remained largely shutdown, to learn more about how things changed with how Sharon's sister, Diane, received care.
Read their story from our May interview below.
Every afternoon Diane sings with one of her direct support professionals and exercises with another, all through FaceTime. While the COVID-19 pandemic has ground in person activities to a halt, Diane’s days are just as bustling as ever, with singalongs, bible stories, nutrition classes, and a new favorite—cooking classes.
In April, Diane’s sister, Sharon Hogan, and her husband, Jim, appealed to the Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) and Service Access and Management, Inc. (SAM) to allow Diane’s caregiving services to continue virtually during the pandemic shutdown. They brought her to Virginia to live with them temporarily, hoping to prevent Diane from feeling isolated during the shutdown in Pennsylvania.
Sharon credits everyone on Team Diane with keeping strong bonds with Diane even while apart from her regular caregivers.
All members of the 12-person team reunited for a ZOOM call after the move, and despite the physical separation, Diane feels as connected to her caregivers in Pennsylvania as ever. “She really is keeping bonded,” Sharon said of Diane’s relationship with her direct support workers. She meets with about 6-8 direct support professionals on a regular basis.
Diane, who usually resides in West Lawn, PA, continues to enjoy virtual church services at her home church, West Lawn United Methodist Church, while staying with her sister and brother-in-law in Virginia. She particularly enjoys the singing and takes some time to color while she listens to the service.
Explaining to Diane about the pandemic and wearing masks presented a challenge for Team Diane, because they didn’t want her think of the coronavirus as the same as the flu.
With the abrupt changes to daily life and the shutdown of businesses, this virus was tricky to describe to Diane, as nothing as disruptive as this pandemic has happened within her lifetime. Sharon began calling the coronavirus the “Wacky Virus,” an apt name for the virus that turned the world upside down.
The Wacky Virus has also presented an opportunity for the sisters to spend quality time with each other. “I haven’t spent this much time with my sister since we were kids,” Sharon reflected. They have their ups and downs, as sisters do, but their bond is growing stronger during their stay together.
One of Diane’s caregivers, Emily, began offering to teach Diane how to cook, in addition to their regular crafting sessions. Diane lets Emily know what she wants to cook, and Emily finds a recipe. Jim assists Diane with her cooking as Emily teaches over FaceTime. Karen, another caregiver on Team Diane, is teaching Diane sign language.
Diane is especially fond of the cooking classes. With Jim’s assistance, Diane measures ingredients, adds them to the bowl, and mixes them around. When Diane made Shepherd’s Pie, she learned to brown the onions on the stove.
Diane’s cooking repertoire is growing every week as she learns to make stuffed peppers, cherry pie, blueberry pie, quiche, egg custard pie, cheesecake, chocolate chip cookies, and more.
While it may seem like COVID-19 has brought the world to a standstill, Diane has had the opportunity to bond with her sister and the rest of Team Diane while learning new life skills she chooses.
In light of the pandemic, Sharon shared the wisdom of her parents. “You are not driven by your circumstances,” she said. “You must make the best of your circumstances.”