Editor’s note: We originally shared this story about Rich and his sister Linda in fall 2016. Sadly, the complications from Rich’s heart attack increased after our story was published. As a result, Rich died in July 2017. Linda kindly shared her thoughts about her brother and the actions he inspired her to take.
“Richard, or Richie as I called him, was a gentle, compassionate, sweet and kind person. He was always willing to help others, he was a patient and a loyal friend. He had a great sense of humor and wit. I admired him for his bravery throughout his illness and for never complaining. He had many Facebook friends from all over the world. He loved going to the movies, sports, his fantasy football league, PBS specials, Facebook, photography of nature and reading.
After Richie’s passing, I inherited a small amount of money that I decided to use a portion of to give back to Supportive Living Services. Additionally, I made the decision that a portion of my estate would go to Jewish Family Service, in memory of brother. I am determined to continue Richie’s memory through my personal generosity. I often say, ‘This one is on Rich,’ for if I always think of him, he will never be gone.”
Here is the original story:
59-year-old Rich lived a pretty typical life in Seattle. He worked as an office clerk for nearly three decades, lived in a small condo on First Hill and drove himself around the city. His sister Linda and her family lived close by in Bellevue, and Rich visited them weekly for family dinners. Very few people would have recognized that Rich was also managing depression, anxiety and a mild intellectual disability.
But when his heart stopped on the sidewalk outside his condo 10 years ago, Rich’s life was quickly turned upside down. His defibrillator sent a charge and re-started his heart, but the experience left everyone shaken. He was also no longer able to drive, and his lack of independence began to take a toll on his day-today activities and responsibilities. Medical complications followed, and Linda realized she would need additional help caring for her brother. Linda came to JFS in January of 2013, looking for a way to address the “what ifs” of his future.
Together, Linda and Rich met with Rachael Kwong, Director of Supportive Living Services (SLS). SLS provides skilled, compassionate, services for people with developmental disabilities, persistent mental illness and brain injuries. After an in-home assessment, the family and staff collaborated to create a care plan that included medical backups in case Linda was out of town, budgeting, meal planning and building community.
“I realized that I needed to step in and become his advocate, but I couldn’t do it alone,” Linda said. “This is truly a partnership with JFS, and it takes a huge burden off of my shoulders. I know Rich has a backup plan if I’m not available. All we have to do is pick up the phone and call.”
Even with family nearby, everyone agreed that it would be beneficial for Rich to have additional social connections. Rich utilizes one-on-one friendly outings through JFS. His activities are customized to his interests and have included trips to local museums, plays and free events around town. This service provides opportunities to socialize and have companionship in a way that meets his needs.
Rich works with a JFS Instruction & Support Specialist on menu planning and food shopping. Portion control and creating menus have been recent topics of exploration. A case manager helps him with his weekly allowance and, when needed, provides counseling.
“People often don’t realize the comprehensive benefits we offer,” Kwong said. “When we’re talking with a client or family, we are sure to ask about the whole scope of their lives. That way we can connect them to the full range of services that might assist them.”
This partnership between the family and JFS has been instrumental in helping Rich maintain the highest quality of life possible. His independence and sense of purpose are in-tact, as he still lives in his condo and continues to work at his longtime job. His sister and family remain central fixtures in his life. And Linda has the support she needs to continue to be the caring sibling she has always been to her brother.
By Leslie Sugiura
Savvy cook, extreme clam digger, urban gardener and mom are just a few of the titles Leslie keeps in rotation. She’s also the Director of Special Events for JFS where she spearheads the annual Community of Caring Luncheon.