Consumer Accomplishments
  • Donna Finds Her Forever Home
    Where Community Living Becomes a Home

    At 45, Donna came to her Crescent, Pennsylvania community living home at NHS after the death of her mother in 2009. The youngest of six, she was diagnosed with Down Syndrome as well as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, causing repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety. In Donna's case, she is very particular about consistency in her schedule, her eating habits and hand washing. During the day, Donna attends the NHS New Venture Day Program, a community-based service that offers specialized activities intended to enhance skill development and independent living. She participates in many of the organized classes including music, yoga, arts and crafts, and cooking. Her family, particularly her sisters, is very involved in her life, visiting often to take her out. "We are a very close-knit family," Said Debbie, Donna's older sister. "Finding the right home for Donna was very important to us."

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    In the Spring of 2013, Donna began to struggle. Instead of her usual bright and excited self, Donna was showing signs of being very reclusive and withdrawn. She did not want to participate and did not sleep well. The staff at NHS noticed the change in her behavior, and worked together to identify the issues. After meeting with her support staff and changing her medication, Donna is back to her old ways.

    Shawna Farney, the program specialist at NHS New Ventures, works with Donna each week. Along with Donna's Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), the team has created a new Individualized Support Plan (ISP). An ISP is an annual, self-directed strategy aimed to engage Donna and increase her quality of life. Donna is a very active adult, so with this year's plan, the team identified photography as a great way for her to explore her environment and share it with her friends and family. In addition, she is creating two scrapbooks that will tell the story of her adventures. She purchased a camera and receives regular coaching on its use and care. Monthly, Kim Trout and Kim Thompson, her favorite DSPs, take her to the craft store to buy supplies for her scrapbooks. Weekly, Donna sits down to create her works of art out of her photography.

    In addition to attending her day programs, Donna is also an avid volunteer. In her spare time she folds bulletins for her church in Portage, Pennsylvania, shreds paper for animal bedding at the Humane Society, creates cards and crafts for a local senior center during the holidays, and fold bags at St. Vincent DePaul. Donna lives with two other women at the Ranch, their nickname for the home they share in Crescent. The trio vacations together every year at Glendall Lake for Donna's birthday. Family and friends also make the trip for the end of weekend party.

    "For the first time, I know Donna feels like a real person," said Debbie. "She does her own laundry, cleans for herself, cooks her own food. She has her own space. She has blossomed so much from the young, reclusive girl I grew up with to the social butterfly I know today. I feel blessed to know that NHS is here for her and I don't know what we would do without them." Being active and involved in her community has made Donna so much happier now that she is living on her own. NHS has recognized that with extra consideration and support for her diagnoses, Donna can live a happy and full life.