For most parents, having your children grow into adulthood means preparing them for that time when they will move out on their own. As they make that transition from child to adult, you hope and pray that the investment you’ve made in your child will enable them to be independent.
But when your child lives with complex care needs, that transition seems nearly impossible. That’s why Christel and Alan Guenette were happy when their son Alexander was able to call Matthew’s House his home.
Alexander began visiting Matthew’s House shortly after it opened in 2013. He has always loved going there. For Christel and Alan, having a place where Alexander could stay so that they could get a break was much needed.
“When we did respite, we knew that Alexander was well looked after and loved. It allowed us to use that time to connect as a family and experience how others would live,” Christel says. “Alexander loved his visits and would always ask to go again. His visits never came fast enough.”
In 2018, Matthew’s House itself underwent a transition from a respite home to a permanent residence for youth aged 16-25 years, making it possible for Alexander and others to live here. Still, when the time came for him to actually make the move, it was a challenging transition for his parents.
Alexander lives with a very rare disorder that affects his whole being. He is unable to walk, he speaks on a very basic level, and is severely delayed in all ways. For his entire life, Alexander has been completely dependent on others for his care. Christel says she basically arranged her schedule – and that of her family – around Alexander’s needs. A shared calendar allowed Christel to organize everyone’s activities to ensure that someone would be home to care for him. When Alexander moved out, that calendar became unnecessary, something Christel has had to get used to.
“Now, when we all leave, going in different directions, I have a momentary panic thinking ‘who is staying home to watch Alexander?’ before I realize, it’s okay. He’s safe,” Christel explains.
For his part, Alexander has completely embraced the transition. He always had a sense that Matthew’s House was his second home and so moving there felt completely natural to him.
“During the first couple of months, when we would visit, he made it very clear that he was going to stay there when we were going home,” Christel says. “Over time, he’s begun to miss us more but he’s never wavered in it being his home.”
Just as respite stays offered Christel and Alan a chance to rest, having Alexander move out of the family home has given his parents a chance to explore a new way of being.
It has helped us settle into the role of parents of older children, like any other parents. Christel, Alexander’s mother
Not having to worry about Alexander’s care means that they’ve been able to take vacations as a couple. For Christel, who works out of her home as a real estate assistant and professional minute taker, it has given her the freedom to travel with her work. Alan works as a health care aide, so for him, this transition has meant being able to experience deep rest.
“Alan has been able to have real down time for the first time,” Christel says. “Being a care aide, he never had a break in providing care to people. Now, his stress levels have gone down and he can truly relax.”
And for Alexander, the move has enabled him to experience what others his age experience when they move out for the first time.
“This has given him the independence that he has always craved,” Christel explains. “He can do activities that he wants to do without mom and dad being too tired to take him out.”
Since they as parents are more rested, they are also able to consider doing activities with Alexander that they would not have done before, like taking him camping. As they reflect on this new phase in their life as parents, Christel and Alan are filled with gratitude.
“Matthew’s House has been an amazing support for us since it opened,” Christel says. “We truly appreciate everyone who makes Matthew’s House possible. It has made a big difference to our family.”