Billy Joe loves his comfortable recliner in the Johnson family’s cozy living room. Visitors will often find him there when they stop by the house. When friends and guests enter the room, he’s quick to hold out his hand to greet them. Billy Joe, who has been non-verbal his entire life, uses a smile, a wave and a hand shake to say “hello.”
“Everybody loves Billy Joe,” says Shaunteisha Johnson, his Support Companion. “And he’s never met a stranger.”
Billy Joe has been living with Shaunteisha Johnson and her family for just eight months. The Johnsons are one of Lutheran Services of Georgia’s host home providers for its FACES (Facilitating, Advocating, Care, Education, and Shelter)program for adults with developmental disabilities. Since he moved in, 73-year-old “Joe Joe,” as the Johnson family calls him, has made tremendous strides in his social and physical progress.
Billy Joe Makes Improvements and Progress in the Face of Challenges
When he came to LSG, the case managers were given inaccurate information about Billy Joe. His health was poor, although it had not been documented, and his Medicaid benefits were inactive. And Billy Joe was unable to speak up for himself.
These challenges didn’t stop the Johnsons.
Billy Joe quickly became part of the Johnson family. They began by addressing his medical issues. Shaunteisha took him to doctors’ appointments and followed his care instructions to improve his health. It took months for Billy Joe’s Medicaid benefits to be reactivated, so the family negotiated with doctors and facilities to bill at a later date.
“During this four month period the family received no payment, and Billy Joe received no personal spending money,” says Christina Blair, Billy Joe’s case worker at LSG. “However, this amazing family never hesitated to provide for the needs and wants of Billy Joe.”
Beyond taking charge of his medical needs, the Johnson family has welcomed Billy Joe into their home as one of their own. He is loved by Shaunteisha, her husband and their four children – ages 16, 14, 12 and 9 and receives a lot of attention. At home, he’s greeted by the children when they come home from school. He attends church with them on Sundays and accompanies them on outings in the community. Billy Joe has taken a particular liking to Shaunteisha’s mother and her husband and the feeling is mutual.
The Johnsons’ Big Hearts Help and Heal
Shaunteisha only recently became a Support Companion with LSG. Billy Joe is her first FACES participant.
“I’m a people person and I have a big heart and so much to offer someone,” Shaunteisha explains.
Shaunteisha shows great pride in how Billy Joe has improved since he’s been to her home.
“It melts my heart when the caregivers at his day care center tell me how much he’s changed in the last few months,” says Shaunteisha.
Christina Blair, Billy Joe’s caseworker, is amazed at the transformation of Billy Joe in such a short time.
“During the last visit, Billy Joe greeted me with a hand shake and a smile. He did neither to anyone six months ago,” says Christina. “He even showed me how to take a selfie! He smiled and laughed out loud when I praised his progress. I believe the sky is the limit, and next month, Billy Joe might even end his life-long silence and greet me with a word or two. This family has really been able to show Billy Joe what love is, as well as make him comfortable enough to branch out into so many new experiences. Billy Joe is growing with love, and the possibilities are endless.”
If you are interested in becoming a Support Companion and opening your home to an adult with a developmental disability, please contact Lutheran Services of Georgia’s FACES department at 800-351-2066.
If you are interested in helping more adults like Billy Joe thrive in a home setting, please click here to donate today.