OSWEGO, NY – Every morning, when Diane Zeller enters her kitchen she is greeted with the aroma of fresh brewed coffee and a friendly ‘good morning.’
As a certified home provider for Oswego County Opportunities’ Community Based Family Care Program, Zeller has opened her heart and home to two of the program’s adult residents.
“Mary and Dee are part of our extended family,” said Zeller. “My granddaughter, Desa, and I enjoy having them with us. It is a mutually rewarding experience. It provides my granddaughter and I with the opportunity of helping others and it has been a wonderful growth opportunity for both Mary and Dee.”
Living in a big home felt a bit gratuitous for Zeller. There was just too much space and too many rooms and she was not doing anything useful with it. Being service driven and having a desire to help others, Zeller was intrigued by the idea of becoming involved with the Family Care Program.
“I enjoy service work,” said Zeller. “I’ve volunteered for the SAF Shelter and Hospice and for several years opened my house as a foster home and hosted several teenage girls over that time. I enjoyed the years as a foster home but the time had come for something a bit different. I’ve known Penny Pratt, a family care specialist with the Family Care Program for years so I called her and asked about the program. After speaking with Penny I knew that being a home provider would be perfect for me.”
Four years ago, Zeller welcomed Mary into her home where she and her granddaughter immediately made Mary a part of their family.
Mary was given her own living space and three meals a day.
Mary shares responsibilities for the daily household chores and looks forward to washing the dishes.
“That’s my job. I’ve enjoyed doing the dishes since I was a young girl,” said Mary.
The experience of having Mary as part of her family inspired Zeller to open her house and heart once again.
“Having Mary with us for three years I wasn’t sure what effect welcoming another resident into our home would have on the dynamic of our family. I’m happy to say that it’s been great. Dee has fit right in and it was a very fluid process. Dee is very independent and is a wonderful companion for Mary when Desa and I are busy,” said Zeller.
That independence that Mary and Dee enjoy helps them lead active lifestyles.
The two often take the bus for shopping and other outings including their respective day programs; Mary at Seneca Hill and Dee at St. Luke’s Health Services.
The day programs allow them the opportunity to partake in a variety of activities while their home provider is at work.
“Everyone there is very nice and I have the chance to make new friends. They take good care of me,” said Mary.
The independence that the two enjoy also allows them to join Zeller on family trips and experience things they’ve always wished to do.
“We have established and are working on completing ‘bucket lists’ for Mary and Dee. Mary had never been on a boat so we took a boat tour of the 1,000 Islands. Mary also has learned to play the piano and takes lessons twice a week. and for Dee, who loves to golf, we took her out for an afternoon of mini-golf and we are working on finding a way to get her to Kentucky to visit her daughter and her 9-year-old granddaughter who she has yet to meet,” said Zeller.
Mary and Dee are very active around their home as well.
They enjoy sharing their household chores such as laundry and keeping their rooms tidy and even helped stack wood for the home’s fireplaces.
They also spend time together watching television and playing games and even some arts and crafts projects.
“Dee is an avid baseball and golf fan. She enjoys watching sports and is beginning to get Mary interested in sports as well. Spending time with Desa is also a highlight for them as well as Desa,” said Zeller.
As part of her responsibilities as a home provider Zeller also ensures that Mary and Dee receive their medications as needed and offers support and guidance in regards to their daily schedules.
Her attention to Mary and Dee’s list of medications and nutrition has proved to be very beneficial to their quality of life.
“When Mary came to live with us she used a walker, however, with the assistance of Penny we reviewed her medications with her doctors, and improved her nutrition. As a result Mary no longer uses a walker and gets along just fine,” said Zeller.
“Penny is so supportive. She helps with doctor appointments, transportation issues, and is very understanding when it comes to managing Mary and Dee’s schedules. Penny also eliminates any anxiety as she assists with the paper work and ensures that all guidelines are met as well as providing emotional and financial support,” added Zeller.
Home providers in the Family Care Program receive monthly training on pertinent issues such as effective communication, special diet and medications, CPR and first aid, along with 24- hour staff support, and semi-annual respite (vacation allotment).
Residents also enjoy a high level of case management and administrative support.
To help ensure the success of the program, Foster-Pratt said that all participants are screened and matched with a suitable home provider who is anxious to welcome them into their home.
In addition, all home providers are certified through the NYS Office of Mental Health.
The process helps create a positive experience for both the participant and the home provider.
Home providers also have the final say as to whom they choose to accept in their home.
“We do everything we can to ensure that it is an appropriate match for our residents and our home providers. From the location of the home to the unique personalities of those involved, we see to it that it is a mutually beneficial relationship,” said Foster-Pratt.
For Diane and Desa, Mary and Dee are an ideal match.
“I enjoy visiting and playing games with them. I’m glad they share our home with us. We have a big home and Mary and Dee help us fill it!” said Desa.
“It’s a wonderful experience to have these relationships with these women,” added Zeller. “The Family Care Program has made it possible for Mary and Dee to achieve many of their goals. It’s a very rewarding experience. I found it a joy to welcome Mary and Dee into our home and offer them a comfortable and peaceful family environment. It is very nice to have Mary and Dee as part of our extended family and encouraging them to live life to the fullest. Life is a journey and I am pleased to be able to help them enjoy it.”
A certified residential program for challenged adults, OCO’s Community Based Family Care program provides these individuals with the opportunity to live and interact in their community. Due to the success and increased demand for the Community Based Family Care program there is currently a need for more home providers.
The Community Based Family Care program is currently in need of homes in the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the villages of Pulaski, Mexico, and Phoenix.
Providers may either own or rent their homes.
In addition to monthly training and staff support, home providers receive a monthly allotment of $820.48 per resident and a vacation allowance of $749 twice per year.
For more information on OCO’s Community Based Family Care program, or to become a home provider, contact Foster-Pratt at 598-4710, ext. 1094.
OCO, Inc is a private, non-profit agency that has been supporting communities throughout Oswego County since 1966. A member agency of the United Way of Greater Oswego County, OCO provides more than 50 vital services throughout 80 separate locations. For more information, visit www.oco.org