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“I only had the best experience with ILC.”

When Andrena walked through the door of Michelle’s new home, there was instantly a feeling of warmth in the air.

“I had been anticipating when I would see you again,” Michelle told Andrena after settling down in her living room for a conversation.

Years ago, Andrena and Michelle shared a very special connection, brought together by Michelle’s mother, Sonja, and the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region.  Andrena was Michelle’s attendant, but even more so, she was a friend.

“Most of the people I had were a great fit, but they were really great fits,” Sonja said, describing the rapport between Andrena and her daughter.  “She was able to bring the best out in Michelle, and provide a peer level of support.”

Being a primary caregiver for a loved one with a disability can be a very rewarding experience, but caregivers need to take care of themselves as well.  Using the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region’s in-home respite program, caregivers can take time for themselves while an ILCWR attendant staff member spends time with their spouse or family member.

“I know that I really needed that time,” Sonja recalls, thinking about Andrena’s visits to her home.  “It was getting to the point where, between work and home and having another child who needed my attention, it was just becoming too much.”

Before approaching the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region, Michelle, who has cerebral palsy, was receiving only modest support from a handful of other organizations in the community.  But once Sonja connected Michelle with ILCWR, she noticed a major difference for both of them.

“It was a very, very important piece in my life to relive stress and get a break, Sonja said, as she would use the time to exercise, visit with friends, go shopping or even catch up on sleep. “Even knowing that someone would be coming was comforting for me.”

Michelle remembers her experience with the in-home respite program as being very comfortable as well.  She fondly recalls going for walks, visiting Tim Hortons, playing UNO and watching the Toronto Blue Jays on TV.

One of Sonja’s fondest memories is of Andrena recording herself reading stories to Michelle, and presenting Michelle with a CD of the recordings as a Christmas gift.  “It is one thing she will never forget,” she said.

These days, Michelle has moved into a community home, and Sonja is no longer her primary caregiver.  But Michelle still looks back fondly on the time she spent with Andrena, and Sonja has not forgotten the impact that the in-home respite program had on her life.

“I’m certainly grateful for what they did for me,” she said.  “I only had the best experience with ILC.”

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