Eliza's Journey to a New Place to Call Home - And How You Can Help

By Sara Porcaro | Nov 18, 2020
Shared Living Arrangements, COVID-19, Rhode Island, Disabilities, Achievement, Magic, Home, Respite, Earn Money
Eliza enjoys an afternoon at home with her mother Nancy and her dog Fabio

In Ashaway, Rhode Island, the last flicker of warm weather and a cloudless blue sky make a perfect day for a journey through the paths of one family's wooded property. On such a gorgeous November afternoon, Nancy and her daughter Eliza rumble along the paths in their golf cart, looking for the perfect little pine tree to set up in Eliza's bedroom for the holidays.
"Look, Eliza," says Nancy. Their black lab Fabio follows behind them as Nancy points out a cluster of cheerful red berries among the dry grasses and fallen leaves. "It looks like the fairies have already started decorating for Christmas."
Eliza beams at the idea and continues searching for her own personal Christmas tree. She looks up towards her neighbor's house up the road, visible through the thinning leaves on the trees, and dreams of a home she can call her own close by. Her home in Ashaway with her mother and stepfather, Joseph, is a place where she feels happy, the quiet, open countryside and the many birds at her birdfeeders bringing her joy every day.
Now, 36-year-old Eliza is looking to begin a new journey with Perspectives' Shared Living Arrangements (SLA) program, and she's hoping to find a home and home providers who share her love of the peaceful countryside--and all the inspiration one can get for crafting from the magic and wonder of the great outdoors.

A Day in the Life: Eliza's Creative Pursuits

Those who live with Eliza will notice right away her love for creating new things--be it art, homemade meals, baked treats, handwritten letters, or other crafts. In her home, her bedroom has an important fixture: her office space, where she practices her handwriting in her journal, writes letters and holiday cards to her family, colors, and does other crafts, like pressing leaves in wax paper to make into turkey feathers for her latest home decorating project. On her nightstand are books she's checked out of her local library, which she reads before bed to set the stage for a great night's sleep--and when she wakes each morning, she sets the tone for a great day with a cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal, her favorite breakfast.
"I love coffee; it's the best part of my day," Eliza says. "I really like Dunkin's pumpkin spice coffee when I go out."
A friendly and creative individual, Eliza appreciates her quiet moments in her office. She also sits in the living room with Fabio, her cat Sugar Baby, and her mother, where they knit beautiful scarves and other projects together; Eliza will hold the needles and work through the stitches with Nancy's guidance and support. Beyond that, the house's colors pop with the occasional pinks, blues, and yellows on doorframes and in the hallways, as Eliza takes pieces of wood she finds--some raw chips and others sanded half-circles brought in by Joseph--and turns them into beautifully painted rainbows. It's these cozy and creative projects that not only make her days enjoyable, but also provide an extra reward later on, as Eliza loves the chance to make others smile with a homemade gift.
"We believe the best way to lift one's spirits is to give to others," says Nancy, "and that's something we taught our kids, too."
"We believe the best way to lift one's spirits is to give to others," says Nancy, "and that's something we taught our kids, too."
Beyond that, her love of the outdoors means that trips to local farms and petting zoos, picnics in the parks, and exploring accessible trails to look at the scenery and watch animals make beautiful days ones to enjoy outdoors. And when the weather is warm and sunny, there's no better way for Eliza to get active than with a dip in the pool. She challenges herself to do twenty laps in her mother's pool to keep her muscles strong and improve her flexibility, and she values safety, always sure to swim with others nearby. Before the pandemic, she would also frequent her local YMCA to use their pool, as well. It's her favorite physical activity--one where she can move independently, as when out of the pool, Eliza relies on her wheelchair to help her get to her favorite places.

The Support Eliza Needs to Live the Life She Loves

From when she wakes up at 9 AM to when she goes to sleep at 7 PM, Eliza is always with someone--be it her mother in Ashaway, or her father Greg and his wife Laura in suburban Boston--as she needs the support of others to help her ensure her needs are taken care of. Being in a wheelchair, the homes she lives in need to be able to accommodate her. Wheelchair ramps and accessible bathtubs with low steps and a stool are just a couple examples of how Eliza's home with her mother and father have been outfitted to help her live her life. She needs support when it comes to her daily living skills, such as dressing and brushing her teeth, and she requires physical support from others when transitioning to and from her wheelchair. For her safety and well-being, it's also important to her that she always has someone in the home with her in case she needs help with something.
"Because of Eliza's disability and lack of balance, she needs to have someone nearby at all times," says her father Greg. "However, she does do activities like watching movies on her own. I think someone that works from home, or someone who can be home with her all the time, would be a great fit for an SLA home provider for this reason."
Laura agrees: "She's a big fan of theater and live events, and she loves movies like the Lion King or other shows on Netflix. Giving critiques or any abstract thought is difficult for her, but she'll let you know if she likes something or if she doesn't. She's generally happy with anything that others want to do, though, and is always cheerful; 90% of the time, she's smiling."
Another thing that's important to Eliza is a daily routine, especially because she has trouble thinking of activities she'd like to fill her day when asked to do so herself. She thrives best in a structured environment, where she knows what she has ahead of her to look forward to. Be it an event, which she may prepare for with an afternoon nap depending on how late it is, a holiday gathering with family, or just a general schedule of crafts and other activities for the day, Eliza is always happy to stick to a plan created for her and make the most of her day. She especially enjoys doing activities with others, such as cooking and baking, but requires hand-over-hand support when doing tasks like cutting vegetables. In terms of what she likes to cook and bake, Eliza is adventurous, willing to try new foods, experiment with new recipes, and talk about food with her fellow chefs in the kitchen.
Greg's wife Laura says, "Eliza loves food. She'll eat just about anything you put in front of her--though she's not so much a fan of Brussels sprouts, tuna, or potatoes." She also notes that Eliza is "very complimentary of food others make."
Of course, her love for the holidays is unmatched. She adores Santa Claus, setting out cookies for him the night before Christmas, and she's always got an eye out for gifts that she knows her loved ones will enjoy. Nancy and Eliza often like to check the thrift shops for unique and interesting gifts, and they get started on wrapping early in the season at her office--as well as doing other festive tasks, like making gingerbread cookies and planning their holiday decorations. All of this, naturally, is the kind of cheer Eliza finds best when shared with others--especially her family and friends.

The More, the Merrier: Eliza's Family and Community

"Eliza approaches the world with a very loving and trusting attitude because of her experiences with family and friends," says Laura. "She grew up in a happy and supportive space, and her family is extremely important to her."
Between her immediate family, like her parents, step-parents, and brother Zach, and her extended family on Greg's side in Chicago and on Laura's side, there's no shortage of living support in Eliza's life. Her brother is important to her, as not only is he Eliza's only sibling, but also someone who has the same disabilities, and therefore relates to her experience and how she lives her life. They enjoy spending time together when possible, as Zach doesn't live with Eliza, and around her home are several pictures of them together as kids and adults.
Eliza also enjoys receiving cards from her aunts and uncles, visiting her nieces and nephews in pre-pandemic times, and, when she was participating in residential services, visiting her mother and father on the weekends. These are all important pieces of her social life, and one can expect that Eliza's family will always be in touch wherever she goes. Her relatives will be happy to know she's in a peaceful, organized environment that allows her creativity to thrive.
"My daughter is incredibly sensitive, intuitive, sweet, and polite," says Nancy. "Kindness is what makes her tick, and she'll be successful in a place that has good daily structure, with people who include her in the activities they're doing."
With so much love around Eliza, her many creative talents and interests, and her love for adventure with the great people in her life, she's sure to bring a bit of sunshine anywhere she goes, and we wish her the best in her search for a new place to call home. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming an SLA home provider, you can find out more by reaching out to Senior Director Dale Smalley at dsmalley@perspectivescorporation.com, or by calling Perspectives' main office at (401) 294-3990.


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