Independent Living Plan – It Works!

Photo with characters from TV series A-Team with the catch phrase...I love it when a plan comes together."

The Independent Living Plan is Working


By Jeff Nunham – Adult In-Home Care Supervisor
Do you remember the action TV series, The A-Team? You probably remember Hannibal, the cool leader of this special team of exceptional “bad guys” doing good. With a wry smile and little stogie, he would say,” I love it when a plan comes together”. I visited a home this week where I witnessed a plan coming together.


The Independent Living Plan in Action

We provide care for three “twenty something” gentlemen with a  coordinated Independent Living Plan. They live relatively independently in a duplex together; two on one side of the house and one on the other with the land lord. The house is a rental and has been such for a long time. The walls, furniture and floor have a certain patina on them. It’s obvious that none of the guys are concerned about keeping up appearances. The rooms are sparsely furnished with just the necessities. On the walls of the dining room are several large chalk boards with scheduling information. A care providers name and the day and time of their shift is written in large letters and the person with whom they will be working. This is the communication center. There is a spacious kitchen with a large refrigerator. It has a hasp and padlock on it for diet control. There are usually dishes in the sink and a wastebasket that needs emptying, but what I see is none of this.

Max knew I was coming to see him. He was waiting for me on the front steps. Before I shut off my car, he was calling out my name and walking across the street to meet me. We “high fived” each other and walked together to the house. For a moment, I felt like I had just met my very best friend. Max can make you feel that way.

When we climbed the steps to go into the house, Roger appeared in the door with a huge grin and an abrupt report about the change he was making in his schedule. He announced to me with great pride and joy that his care provider was going to start coming on Sunday so he could go to church. Again, I felt something. His exuberance affirmed my hopes that our efforts were making his life better. In just 48 seconds, I had been given two wonderful gifts.

As we walked into the house, Roger went to his room while Max and I joined his dad and grandfather who were sitting in the living room. WE were about to begin a “meeting” in which we would be discussing Max’s schedule and some of his concerns. I found a spot to sit on a worn and sagging loveseat. Max was sprawling on the floor and periodically interjecting his thoughts and questions about his care providers. “I like Dave and Keegan, when are they coming? When is Jon coming back?“ Max spoke of his staff like they are his family and with great affection. Again, I felt that warm sense of wonder and gratitude that I was seeing what we as a respite care agency strive for every day. Our care providers intentionally do their work by building strong healthy relationships that create a sense of safety and love in the heart of the person they serve.

This is one of our primary values. Every care provider we hire, repeatedly hears me say, “The work we do is based entirely on your relationship with the person you serve.” In just a few moments, I was witness to the success of a plan that we carry out every day of the week. During the course of our meeting, we were visited again by Roger and also, the third man who lives in this home. Through the work of our care providers, the plan to support these adults in living as independently as possible is “coming together” and I love it.

Tech Solutions for Children with Developmental Delays

Boy with tablet demonstrating tech solutions for children with developmental delays

By Tarra Boris, Child In-Home Care Supervisor

Technology has become the center of everyday life for many children. A majority of the population revolve their lives around one form of technology or another. Children with developmental delays, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), can benefit greatly with the right apps. Apps can help them build positive coping mechanisms to assist with focus, calming, and task completion. The following website and apps can assist parents and children, including those with developmental delays in everyday life.


Social story creator- Lesson Pix

Yearly membership of $36 as little as $3 a month
I have been using this website to make social stories for some time. Lesson Pix is an easy-to-use online resource that allows users to create various customized learning materials. It is quite easy to navigate around,and user friendly. You can create numerous learning materials such as bingo, coloring sheets, short stories, certificates and much more! They offer a wide range of pictures to choose from and you can insert your own text. If you’re looking for ideas of a social story or want to create your own I would highly recommend this website.

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Sensory Magma

Free- Apple App Store
This app allows for the visual sensory system to be accommodated in a mobile way. “Sensory Magma is a simple calming and relaxing visual app for people with special/complex needs of ALL ages. Magma generates lava style slow moving effects, which when combined with music from the iPhone or iPad music player can be relaxing and also stimulating.” (Sensory Apps Ltd, 2013) If working with someone who benefits from the visual sensory stimuli, it would be a great reward to be used after accomplishing or focusing on tasks.
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Give Me 5!!!!! Social Skills Multiplayer Game

$7.99-Apple App store
This social skills multiplayer game is a fun social skills App designed by a Developmental Specialist and a mom of a child with ASD. Its video learning is embedded into a gaming format. Real children are shown in real-life social scenarios covering eight areas of social skills: verbal and nonverbal communication, manners, self-awareness, situational awareness, perspective taking, emotional regulation, and gestalt understanding. There are five videos for each of these eight categories: manners, words, no words, understanding others, understanding me, calming feelings, people and places, and the big picture. It is meant to help children analyze social situations by looking for key social cues in these scenarios.
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If you try out any of these APPS or the Website, or find anything similar to share please don’t hesitate to send your comments to me at :


Cold Outside – Respite House Reminder

Baby Its Cold Outside! Or, It Will be Soon.

Respite House weekend guests, cold weather is fast approaching and it’s time to bring all the gear!
Coats, hats, scarves, boots, mittens and snow pants are an essential part of a blustery respite weekend. Going outdoors and getting exercise can help alleviate anxiety, expend excess energy, and give our clients unique experiences they wouldn’t have otherwise. Not only is it fun to be able to enjoy the outdoors during the cooler months, our licensing requires it!

Over the next few months please plan on providing your child or loved one with the items listed above. If possible, please write their name on the tag to avoid any belongings getting lost. If your child comes back from the respite house missing anything, please contact me in the office and I will attempt to retrieve it for you.

In the coming weeks it will be fun to get outside and enjoy the autumn weather. And even more fun if everyone is dressed appropriately. Thanks for thinking ahead and checking the weather report before you pack up for a Respite House weekend.



Anna Miller
RH Supervisor

Frustrated Seniors with Alzheimer’s

Frustrated Senior with Alzheimer's. This photo represents the dynamic between a senior with Alzheimer's and the caregiver.

Helping Frustrated Seniors with Alzheimer’s

By Adult Day Services program supervisor, Alison Sarkozy
Our lives continue full speed ahead. We may have work and family responsibilities, household chores, church activities, neighborhood gatherings and friends that continue to call our attention. But for many primary family caregivers, the first responsibility is the loved one that they offer care and guidance to while some of their competencies slip away due to Alzheimer’s disease. Under these circumstances it may be harder and harder to keep up the pace of your former life.

Here are a few practical tips to reduce frustration for your loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease.

Schedule wisely – hopefully, this will make your time doing “xyz” a pleasant/productive experience. For example: if you know your loved one takes a nap at 1 pm every day, it’s best not to schedule a doctor appointment or a visit with friends during that rest time.
Let him/her help – letting a loved one take part in what you are doing makes them feel useful. For example: Preparing for dinner. Have them help retrieve ingredients or help set the table. The task might have to be broken down into simple steps.
Limit choices – having fewer options makes deciding easier. For example: Asking him/her to get dressed. Place two shirts and two pairs of pants out for them to change into. They still have the option to choose what they want to wear and feel some sense of control. Also, it might speed up the process of getting ready in the morning.
Take more time – Expect things to take longer than they used to. Also, try to do things in a routine fashion. This can help with limiting frustrations.
Try to be flexible –  If your loved one is exhibiting frustration, redirection can be helpful. Maybe even try a hug and change the subject. If you both are getting worked up, it sometimes is a good choice to drop it and try again later.
You too, as the caregiver, may be experiencing frustration. Our best advice is to breathe deeply, slow down, and really treasure the time that you have with the one you love. They are still there…don’t let your busy life overshadow them.

Office Administrator Departs

Office Administrator, Cat Love-Wilkins departs.

Fond Farewell and Best Wishes to Cat

By Executive Director, John Stuaffer

For over eight years Cat Love-Wilkins was the glue that held Helping Hands Respite Care together. And for that we owe her our deepest gratitude. As the office administrator, Cat was the steadying force as this organization went through several transitions, most notably my arrival as the Executive Director, for this small nonprofit with a big mission.

In the nonprofit world, organization leaders often must wear several hats, and as the Office Administrator Cat was no exception. When we decided to upgrade our scheduling and billing system it fell to Cat to navigate and implement this new system, for years Cat also managed much of the human resource functions, and when we were running low on toilet paper Cat was the one who would stop by the store to restock. Cat’s contributions to this organization are too numerous to list.

At this writing we are still searching for a replacement. While the temporary candidate from the temp agency looked like she was going to be a perfect fit in both skills and temperament, unfortunately after only one day on the job, we learned that while she was training with us, another prospective employer made her an offer she could not refuse. That leaves me to step in and manage some of the critical functions while the search continues for just the right candidate.


You might think that this a devastating development but I don’t see it that way. First, Cat has agreed to be a go-to resource during this transition; and second this gives me a chance to get some first-hand experience on this job function. It is true, transitions can sometimes be difficult and a bit painful, but I have to say that I am so happy that Cat has found a new job which makes her happy and we still have a friend in Cat Love-Wilkins.

Breaking Barriers Participants Marking Progress

Breaking Barriers participant Jimmy is show using a gait trainer/walker at this program operated by Helping Hands Respite Care.

It’s the Small Things that Count

By Breaking Barriers Today Supervisor, Elizabeth Krumm


Wow! I can’t believe it’s already Fall! The leaves are changing, the weather getting cooler, and new participants to welcome to the Breaking Barriers Today program.
First, I’d like acknowledge new participants who started attending BBT – Blaine, Scott, and Bethany. They’ve been a pleasure to have here at the program and I look forward to getting to know them throughout the year.


Marking Progress at Breaking Barriers

The participants here at BBT have been enjoying the program and it has been exciting to see little changes that have been happening marking their progress. Jimmy (an all-day participant) recently got a gait trainer/walker to help him get up on his feet and start using those leg muscles. Xzavier (an After School Care Participant) has been on his own learning where to place dirty dishes when we are done with snack time. This is without anyone prompting him. Blaine has been doing awesome with getting comfortable with his surroundings and has been more vocal.

As the program matures we are finding comfort in routine here at BBT. The current goal is to look at how we can incorporate individual goals for each client to help them become ever more independent. I’m excited to announce that we expect some Physical Therapy and Occupational interns from Baker College to be arriving here in January to help participants with their physical therapy and occupational training needs. In preparation over the next few months, I’ll be assessing and incorporating goals for individual participant into their plans. This will help the interns to assist our participants on working on their daily living skills.

Time at the Gier Community Center always provides new opportunities for experiences and enrichment for our participants because of the many programs that come to the center. For example, this month we were able to watch the Senior Cloggers put on a show for BBT. Our participants seemed to love the tapping of the shoes and the music playing in the background.

There are three important things that are part of the new Breaking Barriers Today program for participants: enhanced socialization, achieving new life skills, and community inclusion opportunities. Here we mark progress in small steps, but it is progress …it truly is the small things that we count.
Be sure to visit the Helping Hands Facebook page to stay up-to-date on our participants having a great time enjoying football games, bonfires, Halloween, the sunshine and crisp air during this beautiful season.