Amy: Promoting Self-Determination

Amy: Promoting Self-Determination

While most of the participants in our Senior Services Division are the frail and elderly, our two adult day centers are serving an increasing number of younger people with disabilities.  Meet Amy Whitney.  She's 32 years old, upbeat, uses a wheelchair and is determined to walk again.

Eight years ago, Amy had catastrophic complications during the birth of her second child.

Her body shut down, her heart stopped, and she was left in a coma for nearly two months. 

Doctors didn't expect her to survive, much less have the capacity to communicate, use her limbs, or move around with assistance. Three months after regaining consciousness, she left the hospital in a wheelchair ready to face a long struggle toward rehabilitation.

For the next few years Amy's parents were her primary caregivers. But when her father passed away in 2006, and her mother became physically unable to care for her, Amy's sister Sarah stepped in.  Sarah moved Amy and her two children from a small facility in California to her home in Portland. Through a referral, they found Marie Smith Center (MSC), one of two adult day centers operated by Volunteers of America Oregon, and arranged to take Amy on a tour.

"I was struck by the compassion and understanding of the staff from the minute we walked in," she said. "They got right down at Amy's eye level and introduced themselves. They weren't relating to her as a disabled person in a wheelchair. They saw a young woman full of life and potential. It was an easy decision to enroll her there."

Sarah wanted the best care possible for Amy, and since she bears the full responsibility of caregiving for Amy and the children, she was grateful for the opportunity to have some respite and time to recharge her own energy.

"Amy has a renewed sense of hope," Sarah noted. She's eager to get up every morning knowing she has something wonderful to look forward to. Five days a week, she comes home happy and filled with stories of her day."

Our Adult Day Centers offer a wide range of stimulating activities. Along with the other participants, Amy paints in art therapy, exercises in chair yoga, and loves pet therapy.  She joins in other staff-led activities and signs up for the monthly bus trip outings. Most importantly, she's changed her attitude from, "I wish I could walk again," to "I will walk again!"  And to celebrate her new found self-determination, Sarah bought Amy a new pair of shoes.