A Helping Hand in Supported Independent Living

Pete and Annette. // Photo by Aubrey Hoffert

Supported Independent Living client Pete Peterson receives additional support to help him remain independent while living alone.

By Sydney Kerelo

In the 1990s, Pete Peterson lived in a BARC Developmental Services group home he shared with several other individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. With friends around and 24/7 care, Pete was set for life, but it wasn’t what he wanted. He craved independence, to do what he wanted when he wanted without needing to rely on anyone else.

At first, BARC’s didn’t support him moving out independently, but after careful consideration, they rethought their decision, and helped Pete move into an apartment. It was on the second floor, and as a wheelchair user, it became challenging for him to navigate. So, Pete switched his provider agency to KenCrest and joined the Supported Independent Living program for a better quality of life.  

In 1993, KenCrest found Pete a new apartment that worked for him, not the other way around, and he’s been happy ever since. But as he ages, he’s found that he can no longer do certain things as easily as he once could.

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“Last year, around Christmas, Pete took a nasty fall,” says Annette Hanks, Pete’s former Community Connection Coach, who has been with him since he began with KenCrest. “He fell in the middle of the night trying to transfer to his wheelchair and couldn’t get back up. He stayed there until I arrived in the morning and found him lying on the floor.”


Annette and Pete together at the Supported Independent Living picnic. // Photo by Aubrey Hoffert

When Hanks walked into his apartment that morning, she found Pete lying on the floor, awake but whimpering, with blood everywhere from his foot that had been cut. Upon seeing him, Hanks immediately called 911 and sat beside him as they waited for the ambulance to arrive. She didn’t know if he was hurt badly or where another injury could be, so she sat beside him on the floor and rubbed his back, reassuring him that she was there. Once she was with him, Pete felt safe and fell asleep until the EMS arrived.

“That was an eye-opener for me because he had never fallen when transferring to his wheelchair before,” says Hanks. “Pete and I have been together 20 years, and naturally, as we get older, things change; things that we used to do easily have become harder. He used to be able to transfer easily to his wheelchair, but in the last couple of years, it’s become harder for him to do so, and that’s okay; it’s a part of life. So, we needed to look at what we could do to help him remain in his home and in Supported Independent Living, but make things safer for him as he ages.”

So, with the help of KenCrest’s Enabling Technology department, Pete was given a Personal Emergency Response system that he wears around his neck to press the button and call for help in an emergency. He also has a door opener that allows him to push a button, and the door will open and shut, making it easier for him to roll in and out. He was even open to installing a device to turn his lights off and on in his apartment without touching a light switch.

However, Pete’s most significant advancement this year was his new electric wheelchair and manual shower wheelchair from Bryn Mawr Rehab. Now, he can wheel directly into the shower, whereas before, Pete used his manual wheelchair in the bathroom but would transfer to a shower chair while bathing. But as he’s aged, it’s become more challenging, and having a chair he can roll into the shower with has helped him immensely.  

“[KenCrest Nurse Liaison], Jodi Bliss went down to Bryn Mawr Rehab with us each time we got his wheelchairs and helped Pete, and I adjust to them,” says Hanks. “She’s also helped him with his bed transfers at night, helping him learn new ways to do them so they are easier. She even suggested that we get a bed rail to assist him in getting in and out of bed.”

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According to Hanks, having a nurse available for individuals in Supported Independent Living was incredible because they didn’t always have that.  

For over 20 years, Hanks and Pete worked together in Supported Independent Living and have become incredibly close, even referring to one another as family. Recently, Hanks retired from KenCrest, but is determined to continue her friendship with Pete outside the Organization by visiting him regularly.

Hanks began working at KenCrest in 1988 in a community group home where three women lived. One of the residents in the house she worked in had no family, so Hanks became her family, literally. Shortly after she began working in the home, Hanks became certified as a Lifesharing provider and officially became Kathy’s family until 2021, when she passed away. After she passed, Hanks began working with Pete in Supported Independent Living in a fuller capacity,  providing him with 19 hours of support each week.

“I personally feel blessed that I’ve had 20 years to work with this outstanding individual,” says Hanks. “I have been the one that has been blessed to have worked at KenCrest and do what I love, working with folks and helping them find creative ways to continue their life’s journey.”

Have you considered joining KenCrest’s Supported Independent Living program, or want to join the KenCrest family? Click the link below to learn more and apply today!