Sometimes a crisis happens. We’ve all been there. We can often prepare for that single crisis and move past it. What if you are experiencing multiple unexpected events almost all at once? How do you pull through? Would you need help or support? Would you ask a friend or neighbor? What if your resources are simply exhausted? Maybe The Caring Place is that neighbor to help you lift a burden or two as you prioritize each crisis?
First, there’s a pandemic, then a loss in income, then a loss of a place to lay your head at night. This is the typical order of events last two years for many folks dealing with a crisis due to the pandemic. The story of Connie and Mike feels like a horrible “as advertised on tv” promotion gone wrong, with the expected, but additional and insensitive, “but wait, there’s more!”
In 2019, Connie received a breast cancer diagnosis. The diagnosis required a lot of research and help from her husband, Mike. If you’ve been through a cancer diagnosis, you can probably relate. There are many doctor’s appointments where you are told lots of information, and then you have to go home and research it all and make decisions about the best treatment. All the while, you are dealing with weakness and sickness. Connie’s support system with Mike was so important after the year they just shared tackling cancer. In 2020, the pandemic limited work options, especially for families with weakened immune systems. Connie couldn't’ work and Mike needed to work remotely so that he could be there for Connie. Options were limited. However, the year wasn’t done handing out catastrophic blows. Father’s Day weekend of 2021, Mike and Connie were cutting trees when Connie fell off a ladder. Mike, once again, was a caregiver. Connie could barely move to feed herself and certainly not drive. It felt like they were starting over at square one with health problems. Mike was a caregiver 24/7. Next, the couple was asked to move out of a family member’s home. They had to find a new place to live.
Mike and Connie said they arrived at The Caring Place when they thought “it was at the end of the world.” As Connie put it, “The Caring Place helped with food, bills, and happiness.” Connie credited Kathleen, their Case Manager, with bringing happiness with her smile every time they had a meeting. Through the Case Management program, Connie and Mike were supported with rent and utility assistance. They regularly checked in with their Case Manager to review goal checklists and their finances. Gas vouchers ensured the couple could make critical health appointments and meetings with their Case Manager. The Caring Place referrals also helped them obtain prescription eyeglasses. As we reviewed the past year, Connie shared, “I thought no one cared, but here, The Caring Place made us happy. We thought it was the end of the world, but it’s not.”
Connie isn’t able to work yet, but Mike was looking into remote work options so that he can still care for Connie. One of the wonderful things about Connie and Mike is their tenacity and perseverance through every trial. On their own, they sought out affordable housing, knowing they had The Caring Place’s support. They found it in Granger. Another barrier for Mike and Connie was the accessibility of the Internet for health appointments and work. Mike resourcefully assisted in getting the Internet set up at their apartment when the installer was not prepared.
Connie and Mike have cultivated a community in their new apartment. The couple chatted about the 5-10 neighbors they have gotten to know and socialize with. It was clear the neighbors were helping one another and looking out for each other. For Connie, that connection was part of healing, “It makes me happy because I have friends to talk to.” The couple agreed they needed ways to relieve stress and also talk to other people, so having good neighbors was a lifeline.
Mike says, “Getting help is such a relief. When things are all over the place and luck is not anywhere in sight, you get disoriented and you start to break down.” Case Manager Kathleen Hopkins shared that their relationship has created accountability. She believes Mike’s relief comes from the partnership The Caring Place has with Connie and Mike. She showed Mike and Connie a checklist filled with green checks. They were goals Connie and Mike had set for themselves when they began Case Management. Kathleen said, “As you start to meet those goals, all those green checks, you are lifting your own burden. The intention of the program is to work with you as you complete a change that you want to make, then that skill is yours now and forever. You have the ability to make a change and sustain a change. That really shows in the plan you created and the work you have done.” Mike agrees that the visual chart is a great help. “If you need me to get something done, write it down, and I’ll get it done.”
The Caring Place is proud to be that supportive partner through Case Management services. For Mike and Connie, a little support as they made goals to increase their quality of life made a clear difference. They went from feeling helpless and hopeless to being filled with happiness and a heart for others.