Sheena and Shirley know this challenge first hand and serve as a testament to the incredible difference a few lifestyle changes can make. Sheena has been with Progress for many years, and due to a few staffing changes in the past year, Shirley became her new live-in companion. Sometimes it just takes the right person to motivate change.
“In high school I weighed 223 pounds, had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and was gaining weight. I had terrible headaches that were related to high blood pressure,” Shirley explained. She made big lifestyle changes back then and lost the weight, incorporating exercise and healthy eating in her daily routine. “I love helping people feel better about themselves.”
Before coming to Nashville, Shirley lived in Houston and provided care for another woman with disabilities. The individual she supported in Houston had low self-esteem, and felt like nobody listened to her. “She felt like nobody cared, so she didn’t care about herself. You have to love yourself.” Shirley made it her mission to improve the person’s self-confidence and self-worth, and succeeded.
When Shirley moved to Nashville to be closer to her daughter, she brought that same desire to help people better themselves to her role at Progress. In her new role, Shirley would be supporting Sheena, and was advised of the challenges that lay ahead. In the past, Sheena experienced difficulty connecting with other staff and had developed a bit of a reputation. Confrontations with providers were a regular occurrence, but things changed practically overnight when Shirley came into the picture. “I tell everyone, don’t go by what people tell you, you have to get to know people first,” Shirley explained. That mindset paid off in a big way, and Sheena has made major improvements over the past year, both physically and mentally. Sheena is happier, friendlier, more outgoing, and seems to have a new outlook on life.
When Shirley and Sheena started living together, they made small tweaks to their routine. On the weekends, they began to incorporate walking as a part of errands, like going to Dollar Tree, Walmart and Sam’s Club to get extra steps. After walking became a bigger part of their lifestyle, Shirley encouraged Sheena to give the community gym a try. “Sheena had never done anything like that before, so we started small.” Before long, visiting the gym became a regular occurrence, and Sheena started to look forward to riding the stationary bike and walking on the treadmill. “We tried walking a little further each time. I am a healthy eater, so Sheena learned to enjoy eating healthy food that I cook. We have our treats, and if we overindulge, we just walk a little extra.”
“Shopping is my favorite exercise.” Sheena added.
The change in Sheena is like night and day. She’s lost over 50 pounds and no longer needs a CPAP machine to sleep. Sheena is more confident now, and is proud of her accomplishments. “Exercising was harder than healthy eating at first, but I feel good now.” Sheena gets along great with her roommate, is very easy to work with, and has confidence to do more to take care of herself. “She cleans, washes and folds her clothes, she’s more open now,” Shirley explained, “She can make eggs in the microwave, and we’re taking more baby steps in the kitchen.”
Sheena and Shirley have no intentions of slowing down anytime soon. The healthy changes introduced into the household are there to stay, and exercise and healthy eating are practically second nature now.
“Shirley makes really good food,” Sheena said with a smile.
“I know how hard it is to suffer with weight.” Shirley added, “But health is a big part of our lives now.”
Shirley’s patience and understanding has helped Sheena stay the course. “I love my ladies, I enjoy my job. If I feel bad, they’ll say, Miss Shirley, you need to go take a bath. We take care of each other.”
When asked what she would say to anyone considering working with people with disabilities, Shirley’s response was, “Give it a chance. Just try it. One day you’ll need someone to take care of you. If you love to help people, this is a great job.”