The Family We Choose

The Family We Choose

Jan is a Lead Direct Support Professional at our 1st Avenue home in Plymouth. Throughout her career, Jan has worked at many of our homes including Carlson (when it was located on the Hammer campus), Tyler, Cedarwood, McGlinch, Garland, Jersey, and Wentworth. 

Jan and Pat playing horseshoe

I’m sure I had no idea when I went into the Hammer main building to pick up an application in January of 1990 that I would still be here 33 years later. It was to be a second job, every other weekend, that was close to my home. It didn’t take long before I became a full-time staff and never left. I did change positions, worked at different houses, and went part time on occasion but I never left. I have stayed so long because of the relationships I made here. After all these years the individuals became like family and their families became like a family to me.

Several years ago, a local news station did a story on the Hammer Thanksgiving dinner. The lead-in for it said the dinner was about the family we choose. I liked that! Because my family lives far away I have spent most of the holidays over the past 33 years at Hammer with the Hammer staff and people we support. As we age, our families age, too. Many of the people living at Hammer have lost their close family members and have nowhere to go for the holidays. It becomes up to the staff to carry on the traditions. We are their family on holidays.

As we, staff and those we support, age we have adjusted our activities and energy levels. Which is good because there is no way I could do what I did 33 years ago! We have also had to adjust to the age-related physical changes that have often required adaptations to the living arrangements of the people we support. Hammer has always found ways to continue to support people as they age and need increased care. It may require a change of homes to better suit their needs, but they can continue to live surrounded by friends they have known most of their lives—people who are like family.

When one of the men I support lost his beloved grandmother, he decided that I would become his “grandma.” I said that was fine, but not to expect the frequent gifts of cash that his grandmother sent him! Now he calls me “Grandma,” which seems to confuse healthcare workers when I bring him to medical appointments. I’m not THAT much older than he is! But I don’t mind being called grandma. He is, after all, part of my Hammer family. The one I chose 33 years ago.

The Legacies magazine is being distributed to all those on our Discoveries mailing list. If you would like to receive a copy of Legacies and/or be added to our Discoveries distribution list, please email barbara.brandt@hammer.org. 

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