The Essence of Life
The Essence of Life is a philosophy that the Integra family has adopted. It helps us think about life for Individuals with developmental disabilities in the same way we think about life for ourselves, our families, and our communities. It is about finding creative ways to break down barriers and help the people we support meet their own goals and realize their dreams.
The Essence of Life is also about empowering the Individuals we support to make informed choices, decisions, and exercise control over their lives while a culture where all Individuals with disabilities are respected and valued as interdependent members of society:
I will have opportunities to be part of a family.
I will have opportunities to have good friends.
I will have opportunities to live in a neighbourhood where I am welcome.
I will have a place to call home.
The Essence of Life is made up of key areas that include statements of personal values, living culture and guiding principles. These statements are used as tools to ensure the Individual is at the centre of all agency activities, plans and decisions:
I will be part of all meetings.
I will be part of all discussions.
I will be part of all decisions about my life.
I will be part of all decisions about my future.
I will be part of all decisions about my home.
The Essence of Life statements are developed through a collaborative process which include individuals, their families, friends, and staff. The statements form the foundation of living documents that are constantly being revised to address the changing priorities, values, and choices of residents:
I will be supported in choosing a life that is important to me.
I will be supported to be the best I can be.
The statements include three areas that focus on different aspects of life but are written in a way where they work together. They are:
Personal value statements include a focus on twelve life domains and are derived from the personal experiences, preferences, culture, and beliefs of residents. The statements reflect directly stated or implied expressions of what is uniquely important to each person and include input from important persons involved in the resident’s life.
Value statements are supported by action strategies to ensure the functional application of each statement. Once the statements are in place, they are used to guide and direct all plans and decisions regarding each person’s life.
Examples of Personal Value Statements:
I value the relationship I have with my family and the love and support they give to me and one another.
I value being with people I know, and they are willing to help me feel safe and loved.
I value a quiet home, sharing it with one other person who cares about me and I care about them. Someday I would like to retire and live in Kelowna close to my brother.
I value helping around the house and relaxing in the evening, listening to music and watching TV. I have no desire to attend a day program or get a job.
I value people respecting the privacy of my room and personal possessions.
I value having my own money and bank account and would like to go on a holiday to Australia.
I value a casual lifestyle and enjoy spending time alone and sometimes going out with friends or family.
I value looking good and dressing the way that I want to.
I value going to bed late on weekends and sleeping in the next day.
I value choosing the food that I eat and want my choices to be included in daily menus.
I value using the bus on my own and feel I am capable of doing this without staff support.
I value people being close to me and talking to me rather than about me.
I value having a relationship that might lead to marriage.
I value involvement with my community and want to continue being a volunteer.
My values are important to me and they must be considered in all discussions, plans, and decisions regarding my life.
We understand that it can be difficult to bring a group of people with differing values, beliefs, and life experiences together and create the essence of home and family life. Living Culture Statements are created through the input and participation of all members of the home. What emerges from this process are statements that reflect the wisdom of the group in determining what constitutes the cultural foundation for daily life within the home.
Once the statements are in place, each member of the home assumes personal responsibility in using the statements to shape the quality of the home’s living environment, internal/external décor, relationships, actions, choices, and decisions.
Examples of Cultural Statements:
In our home the living environment is welcoming including warm lighting, inviting scents, and soft and soothing sounds.
In our home the living environment including furnishings and internal décor reflects the choices, values and culture of the residents.
In our home we come together as family where people do things together.
In our home residents and staff are thought of and treated as equals.
In our home everyone greets each other when we arrive and offer positive assurances when departing.
In our home strangers are welcomed and we encourage and support resident’s visitors including family and friends.
In our home activities are based on the choices and priorities of residents.
In our home we acknowledge special events and take part in group and individual celebrations including meals.
In our home we incorporate humour and laughter as part of our daily interactions.
In our home we attempt to limit isolation of others by communicating and ensuring everyone feels included and involved.
In our home we learn from one another and let each person know how we feel by offering positive dialogue.
In our home we are open to other’s problems and fears and provide warm and caring support.
In our home we are committed to daily gift exchanges through acknowledgement of the special qualities each person brings to our home.
Most families live, work, and play together with informal expectations regarding their individual and collective interpretations of relationships, values, choice, safety, security, respect, trust, rights, and equality. In service delivery systems, individuals are often placed in random groupings and these living arrangements, described as family homes, all too often only provide the basic essentials of care and personal support.
Our Guiding Principles are designed to encourage service providers to consider a new approach to supporting individuals, one in which the principles ensure agency plans and decisions are consistent with the values, lifestyle choices, and future plans of residents. Compliance with the Guiding Principles is measured by value based criteria.
The foundation for being part of community, neighbourhood and family is a sense of well-being and a place to call home; a place where a person is welcomed by people they love and respect and where everyone feels a special connectedness and friendship amongst members of the home; a place where a person can fulfill wishes and desires; a place of refuge, security and safety and a place a person can remain as long as they so desire.
The Essence of Home is being able to:
Live in a neighbourhood that is safe, has good transportation routes and is void of noxious odours and loud noises
Live in a neighbourhood where I feel welcome
Live in a community that has the services and resources I need
Live in a community where there is easy access to shopping, theatre, restaurants, etc.
Choose where I want to live
Choose with whom I want to live
Choose roommates if I so desire
Secure my own room and places to be alone
Secure my own possessions
Secure free access to all areas of my home
Participate in what goes on in my home and personal life;
Develop and maintain a sense of belonging; connectedness rooted in the essence of family
Determine how my house works
Be involved in the selection of staff
Determine with whom I wish to share my home with and not be restricted from living alone or with persons without disabilities.