VALPARAISO | Mark DeJesus has participated in several different programs at multiple organizations during his 48 years, but has found a true home with Opportunity Enterprises’ Enriching Possibilities Program and Respite Home.
In 2001, Mark, who has Down Syndrome and is non-verbal, began working in OutSource Solutions, OE’s on-site workshop. Working in an industrial environment with lots of other people was stressful for Mark, and eventually he stopped participating. Several years later, Mark’s behavior specialist told his mom Julie about OE’s Lakeside property, and the Enriching Possibilities program for adults with moderate to severe disabilities, which is located there. Mark started participating in Enriching Possibilities a few days each week in 2010, and he has thrived.
“Mark had some behavior issues in other programs, but the staff in Enriching Possibilities has worked with him to decrease his behaviors almost completely,” shares Julie. “He now attends five days a week, and has gone a whole year without a serious behavior.”
While participating in Enriching Possibilities during the week, Mark had been receiving in-home respite care on weekends, but was not enjoying it. Rather than engaging with the caregivers who came to his home, Mark chose to stay in his room and listen to music by himself.
“The in-home care wasn’t benefitting him,” Julie continues, “so we decided to give OE’s Respite Home a try. His first weekend there, Mark didn’t sleep, but instead waited all night by the door for me to come and pick him up. Since then, however, Mark has opened up to the staff, and participates in whatever they’re doing. He absolutely loves going to ‘camp’ as we call it, and spends several weekends there each month. Because he’s happy, I’m happy.”
Julie credits the amazing staff at the Respite Home for Mark’s success, and likes the small number of people in a home-like setting. She also appreciates the fact that each client at the home gets plenty of individualized attention from the one specific staff member who is assigned to care for them. With such personalized care, Mark doesn’t have to participate in what the other clients are doing unless he wants to.
Respite Supervisor Ryan Pyke recalls how much Mark has progressed since he started coming to the Respite Home. “The very first time Mark visited, he stayed near the front door and played with a toy, but by the end of the second visit, he felt comfortable enough to find ‘his spot’ near the kitchen at our craft table. Now, he likes to color, do crafts, and play with cards and puzzles. He has a great sense of humor, and loves to joke with our staff. The feeling is mutual, because Mark is a total gentleman, and is someone that all members of our staff want to be scheduled to work with.”
Most importantly, Mark continues to grow as a person, and is becoming increasingly self-sufficient. Pyke continues “Mark has gained independence with each stay away from home, and he experiences a growing sense of accomplishment with all the things he does during his stays.”
Julie is extremely happy with Mark’s experiences with OE, and very thankful for the progress he’s made. “Mark is very attached to me, and has been his whole life. The truth is that I won’t be here forever – parents aren’t supposed to outlive their children – and eventually he’ll have to be cared for by someone else. Respite staff members have made Mark feel comfortable and safe, and that is such a blessing to me and to him. I just want to say thank you to them for everything they do. As long as they’ll keep having him, Mark will keep going.”
OE’s Respite Services provide a feeling of relief to family members caring for loved ones with special needs, and go beyond the traditional definition of respite service to provide quality service focused on increasing abilities and socialization. Families and caregivers can take a full vacation, enjoy a weekend getaway, or utilize Respite Services for as little as hours a day, feeling confident that their loved one is in trained hands.
OE’s Respite Home in Jackson Township has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a swimming pool, and is staffed by Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Respite care is also provided weekdays until 8:00 pm at OE Main and OE Lakeside.
The Respite Services staff is made up of a team of qualified Direct Support Professionals who are CPR and First Aid certified, authorized to pass medications by the State of Indiana, and have received more than 80 hours of specialized, hands-on training in caring for individuals with disabilities. To find out more about OE’s Respite Services, contact Manager Christi Brooks at (219) 921-4065 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since 1967, OE has been a non-profit organization which works to maximize self-sufficiency and enrich the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. Today, OE serves 1,100 adults and children with disabilities in Porter County and throughout Northwest Indiana. For more information, visit www.oppent.org.