Every nine seconds, someone in the United States sustains a brain injury, culminating in more than 3.5 million injuries each year*. March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, a national effort led by the Brain Injury Association of America to destigmatize brain injury, empower those who have survived a brain injury and promote the many types of support available. Vodec is certified to provide day and residential services to individuals with brain injuries.

Felicia N. and one of her completed puzzles.

Felicia N. loves cheetah print and watching movies that give her a good scare. She’s also a puzzle master, and the walls of her room display the results of her patience and determination in putting them together, tiny piece by tiny piece.

It’s been four years since the Des Moines native suffered a stroke that left her with aphasia (loss of the ability to understand or express speech) and difficulty with her balance. She was unable to move to a standing position from her wheelchair without assistance and couldn’t turn herself around to face the opposite direction.

After a hospital stay and a year in a nursing home, Felicia was ready for the next phase of her life. Returning to her Des Moines apartment and job as a housekeeper wasn’t an option, so Felicia’s care team placed her in a local group home with three consumers. While the group home setting can be an ideal match for people who enjoy the roommate experience and spending time with their peers, Felicia’s team began exploring other options that might better suit the 54-year old’s preferences and personality.

The result? A Vodec-managed host home in Felicia’s hometown.

“A host home is a home-based family first program that allows people with disabilities to live in a residential setting with the natural supports of a family setting,” said Vodec Central Iowa Services Operations Director Sheila Stoneburner. “It allows our consumers to receive one-on-one assistance with achieving their individual goals.”

Vodec host home provider Aidah Moeller said the decision to open her home to Felicia after their first encounter just felt right. “She was super happy and jovial, and I thought to myself, ‘This is my person,’” Moeller said.

Felicia moved into Moeller’s Des Moines home last June and has been making steady progress on her goals. Struggles occur, but they’re approached with patience, caring and a sense of humor. At first, communication was difficult, which Felicia found incredibly frustrating. “She had a hard time expressing herself, so we did a lot of pointing and writing,” Moeller said.

With a lot of hard work, communication has improved a great deal since move-in day, as has Felicia’s mobility. “She’s funny, engaging and likes to be independent, which is why I think we get on so well,” Moeller said.

Felicia helps with shopping, is learning to cook healthier options, folds and puts away the family’s laundry, and loves playing with Malki, Aidah’s 10-month-old son, when time allows. She’s lost 30 pounds since moving in with the Moellers and has increased both the time and distance she’s able to walk with the help of a cane.

Now that spring is almost here, more time outdoors will soon be possible. One of Felicia’s favorite places to visit is Gray’s Lake Park, a 166.6-acre urban oasis with a walking/bike path and a variety of water amenities. There’s also plenty of shaded tables – perfect for spreading out the pieces of a puzzle.

*Source: Brain Injury Association of America

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