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Supported Independent Living: We All Need a Hand in Life

Every gift given helps people like Cheryl live independently, making life a little easier through the good times and the hard times.

It was late November when Cheryl found out her husband had caught COVID. He had been in the hospital for several weeks and although they were separated, Cheryl visited him regularly. He called Cheryl and told her about his test result after she had just returned from visiting him. She then got herself tested. The result was positive, but she did not experience symptoms. 

For her husband, it was a different matter. Within days she was getting phone updates from the ICU telling her the situation was bad and that she should come see him. She felt stuck because public health orders at the time were to isolate for 10 days. “I told them I couldn’t go because I was isolating at home”, Cheryl said, “but they kept calling. Finally, I asked my parents to visit him. They were with him 10 minutes, and then he was gone. And then the guilt set in.

Cheryl struggled with the grief of her loss and the guilt that she wasn’t able to be there for him at the end. That’s when Supported Independent Living really stepped up for her. Recognizing her need, Caleb Wee, the manager for SIL arranged for extra hours to support her. “Because SIL is mainly funded by donations, we have the flexibility to offer more hours to people when things like this come up. It was a tough time because our SIL staff were being pulled into serving in group homes at that point, but we made sure Cheryl got the extra hours she needed.”

For Cheryl, that extra support every week made the difference. “SIL has been a personal help to me because it gets all that off my chest instead of harbouring it. If I didn’t have the help that I have now, I wouldn’t be able to get through it. My support workers have been a good, strong blessing for me.”

SIL also helps people with everyday issues that come up. Cheryl talked about other situations where her support worker has been a help: finding and moving to a new apartment, sorting out issues with room mates or at work, and “just being able to offer suggestions, it’s different than when it comes from family”.

Cheryl on an SIL excursion to a Canucks game. It was a few years ago, but she is looking forward to COVID restrictions lifting so that SIL can have their hockey games, their bowling nights, dinners and other get-togethers. She said, “I know we all miss those outings, and I would like to see them happen again.”

The social events and trips organized by Supported Independent Living are another important service for the people SIL serves. Typically, SIL organizes 6 or 7 excursions for the 19 people it supports, but over the last two years, these social events have been disrupted by COVID. Early December, before the Omicron variant tightened restrictions on gatherings, SIL organized a Christmas dinner at the Spaghetti Factory and excursion to see the Christmas lights at Lafarge Park in Coquitlam. For Cheryl, it was a welcomed chance to reconnect.

As Cheryl said, “It’s hard for all of us because we like to interact with each other. And these outings are the only time we get to do that. If I don’t connect with some of the people that I used to connect with, it’s like, where is that part of my life gone?”

Caleb said, “We know how important social connection is. We are actually looking to expand our service by offering more group related activities which include life skill workshops, self advocate groups, and drop in sessions. We are also hopeful that we can return to the group activities SIL was offering before the pandemic, which includes excursions, holiday events, and bible studies.”

Cheryl has been receiving Supported Independent Living services at Bethesda since 2013. She works part-time cleaning at the Bethesda provincial office, lives independently in Abbotsford and can often be found at her closest Tim Horton’s.