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“BETTER TOGETHER”: More Than A Motto

Updated: Mar 22, 2019


Clarence and Alees with their caregiver, Fay.

We are “BETTER TOGETHER.” Just ask Clarence, Alees, Fay, Lisha, and the Community Living team at 979 Dickinson St., Springfield. For the past two-and-a-half years, Clarence and Alees (pronounced Uh-lees) have been matched with Fay, their primary caregiver, who provides emotional support and companionship for members who live with intellectual or other disabilities. While Fay is the primary caretaker, she also relies on Lisha, an alternate caregiver, and John, a direct care worker who takes Clarence on weekly outings to the movies, retail stores, and on walks.

“It’s a really good match for them. Better than what we could have expected,” said Eileen McKeever, program manager of VIABILITY’s Community Living program in Springfield.

Several years ago, Clarence and Alees found themselves in quite the predicament. Their beloved caretaker, Rudy, had passed away and none of the new guardians assigned to the sibling pair were working out. There was a fear the duo would be separated or forced to move out of their family home on College Street, which their late mother had left to them. With no other family and only neighbors checking on their well-being, it wasn’t enough. They needed more.

Clarence, a man in his 60s, battled high blood pressure, struggled with his weight, and was a borderline diabetic. He has intellectual disabilities, a speech impediment, and a limited vocabulary. Due to his building frustration with his living situation and not having a caregiver who understood his support needs, Clarence became combative.

Alees, also in her 60s, is unsuspecting, impressionable, and overly trusting, which often proved detrimental in instances of neglect or boundary issues.

“There was a real uneasiness, during the changes,” said Leonor Maagero, senior living coordinator who’s been a case manager to the siblings for about five years.

The Community Living team had found several caretakers, but none were the right fit. Furthermore, other prospective caregivers had changed their minds midway through the application process. The search continued for well over a year.

One day, a caretaker came into the building looking for work. With her, she brought her friend Fay. Fay wasn’t looking for a job, but opportunity found Fay. After passing a background check, a home visit, and filling out the necessary paperwork, Fay met Clarence and Alees. Soon, their visits became more frequent until one day, the siblings moved in to Fay’s Springfield home. Now, they’re a family.

“With Fay, it’s home. She’s made Clarence and Alees part of her family. She includes them in family functions, as do Fay’s grownup daughters who live down the street,

- Eileen Mckeever, Program Manager of Community Living

Additionally, Fay has supported the pair’s hobbies. Clarence loves to cook, read the newspaper’s weekly color inserts, and is meticulous about cleanliness. Alees focuses her attention on her appearance, making sure her accessories match her outfit. She also enjoys knitting and painting with watercolors.

Leonor said the pair have found happiness. Clarence has lost significant weight by cutting back on sugar, salt, and sweets. Both thoroughly enjoy Fay’s home cooking.

“They get a lot of attention. We were really fortunate to find Fay. There’s an excellent collaboration between Fay, Fay’s alternate Lisha, and John, Clarence’s part-time direct care worker. None of this works without the other piece,” Eileen said.

If you would like to be a caregiver in our Adult Family Care Services program, please call (413) 733-1240 or go to VIABILITY.org. We offer several benefits, including a stipend, room and board, and time off for vacation. You may qualify if you are already providing care, support, and companionship for a loved one, or have a spare room and a desire to impact another person’s life in a meaningful way.