Lifesharing is a group of people who choose to live together. In the context of Many Hands, it means that people with and without intellectual disabilities live together in a mutually supportive home and accompany each other through life. Just like living together as a family, the connection is deep – it is a partnership in living. Everyone has personal space but also enjoys a strong common life.
Caregivers or Professional Advocate Lifesharer (PALs) are mostly (60%) young adults; gap year, AmeriCorps volunteers, farmers, recent college graduates, interns, and people who want to make a difference. The remaining workforce consists of those who are middle-aged or looking for a change in life, seeking more social connection with others. Share when and why you launched your organization.
Lifesharing is a big factor in shifting the work from just a job to a much more fulfilling calling for the caregivers. This approach is key in attracting and retaining high quality staff. PALs will receive room and board as compensation for work performed, along with a stipend and full health benefits. This will allow someone to spend their time giving and learning, without going into debt to live. The time working at Many Hands will count towards the years of service needed for the federal Student Loan Forgiveness Program. There will also be an incentive for PALs to stay with Many Hands through a severance package offered after five years of service. It is not for everyone, but by offering unique benefits we are attracting different employees than the usual direct care worker, which will help with attracting the kind of staff we need.
Our main source of funding is through Medicaid HAB Waiver offered under the Medicaid Home and Community Base Services (HCBS) program. The overseeing region 6, which evaluates if an organization qualifies for HCBS, had us fill out a detailed survey. At this point no issues have been identified and they do not Pre-approve anyone. A more isolated housing and services organization in our county, called St. Louis Center, has been approved and Benjamin’s Hope in Ottawa County, which is using the same funding stream as Many Hands, is approved. There are clear guidelines on receiving funds and as long as we follow them, no issue is expected with the local Washtenaw County Community Mental Health (WCCMH).
First and foremost, these homes are the Resident’s home and the PALs are invited housemates. If someone’s needs change to the point that they need services of a nursing home, we are not qualified for that medical level of care. As long as someone is not aggressive to themselves or others, they are a member of the community. We will not be able to properly support aggressive individuals. Of course, if this is a new behavior every possibility will be made to ascertain why the change and address it, medical or environmental. We will have “retirement” options as residents age.
We want individuals to enjoy the actives, if someone does not, we will find a different activity that they do enjoy. We are not the right option for everyone, if someone mostly wants to watch tv all day, Many Hands will not be a good fit. We strive to be an option for those individuals who want to be an active member of the community. We will have “retirement” options as Residents age as long as their health permits them to continue to live with Many Hands.
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