A KenCrest Family United Through Lifesharing
Through biological Lifesharing, George Zimmerman lives with his Aunt Harriet and Uncle Maylin in Pennsylvania.
By Sydney Kerelo
For families of people with disabilities, finding long-term care for them can be challenging, but thankfully for one Pennsylvania family, when a need arose, a family member stepped in.
George Zimmerman has a disability, and he grew up in a quiet home with his mom and grandmother until she was diagnosed with cancer and passed away. Shortly after, his mom, who is also disabled, grew concerned about whether she could care for George alone. After some discussion, deliberation, and research, she decided it would be best to have George stay with her sister, Harriet, and her husband, Maylin, through KenCrest’s Lifesharing program.
Lifesharing is an adult residential program offered as an alternative to community, independent, or supported living. It has successfully connected more than 140 people with disabilities to their Lifesharing families in PA since 1985. Some of these families have been together for more than 30 years, and others for life, and George’s case is no different.
In September 2022, George moved into his Aunt Harriet and Uncle Maylin’s home before officially becoming their Lifesharing partner in January. Since moving in with them, he’s experienced more than he ever thought possible.
He learned how to use his hands to fix things around the house and even helped Uncle Maylin build new structures, including a new chicken coop that houses the family’s six chickens.
“He’s getting to do many new things,” says Harriet. “He’s gotten to use new tools that he got last Christmas because he was helping Uncle Maylin, and he was enjoying it, so Uncle Maylin got him a new tool bag and the start of some new tools, and he’s now looking forward to helping him build a chicken coop.”
One of the main things Harriet has noticed since George has been with her is that he is starting to learn how to be an adult. According to her, when George was living with his mom and grandmother, he could never make his own choices or decisions; they were left up to his guardians, but now he can, and while it has been an adjustment for him, it’s been a good one.
“At first, George didn’t hug Maylin, but he hugged me,” says Harriet. “I think he felt like he needed permission to hug him, kind of like that. Is it okay? Is it not an okay type of feeling? You could tell that he wanted to, and at some point, he just decided that he wanted to, and he went over and just gave him a big hug, which was a happy day for us all around.”
Once the decision was made that George would participate in Lifesharing with Harriet and Maylin, the couple had to undergo several trainings to ensure they were prepared to care for George properly. They also underwent several background checks and clearances and provided several references.
As Lifesharing providers, Harriet and Maylin have access to KenCrest’s support, like 24/7 on-call emergency, ongoing, individualized training, substitute care, assistance with medical support, and team support with person-centered planning.
“Everybody [from KenCrest] has been very supportive. It’s wonderful, and everybody’s been very helpful and great with George; he enjoys all his people,” says Harriet with a laugh.
Interested in becoming a Lifesharing partner? Click the link below!