Home — finally — is where her heart is: Envision client happier and healthier after moving in with two women
April 19, 2016
Dana Hoff was obese, diabetic and lethargic when she entered the home of Nicole Nelson and Michelle Rice. Most of all, she was unhappy.
Hoff lived alone in a trailer when she came under Envision's care. She'd been with Envision, the Evans agency that offers support for those with developmental disabilities, for more than 20 years, but the agency finally moved her into a group home in 2012. When the flood of 2013 hit, other longtime clients who were washed out of their homes needed a place to stay. It got crowded. Nelson and Rice, roommates and close friends, agreed to take Hoff in.
The two had big hearts for worthy causes. Rice brought a dog home after she found him on the side of the road one night, near death after a car struck him. Now he runs around on three legs, ready to bound into a stranger's lap as soon one sits on a couch. They also have a couple cats and a Dachshund who competes for lap time, as well, and some chickens out back, including one, the rust-colored Shirley, who clucks at your ankles until you pick her up for snuggles.
Hoff is not a pet, of course, but Rice also has three children, including a toddler, and so really, what was one more in that already crazy house? Rice works for Envision as a direct care supervisor, and Nelson worked there for many years as an art room facilitator and agreed to be the contractor. Both understood the clients' needs. More than that, they advocated for them.
“I have my two best friends in the world here.
—Dana Hoff, Envision client
Recommended Stories For You
Envision tries to give their clients as much independence as possible. Out of the 1,400 clients who receive some sort of services from Envision, less than 25 are in host homes and 38 others live in support homes. But the flood was an exceptional case, and so was Hoff's situation. It's an unusual one, but right away, Envision could see results.
Nelson and Rice didn't put Hoff on a diet, but they introduced her to their healthy, sustainable lifestyle. Remember, the two have egg-laying hens out back, and a garden will grow in their Eaton backyard this summer. At first, Hoff wasn't sure about the new dinners — she rolled her eyes at the salad she was supposed to eat instead of the fatty but tasty processed meals — but she went along with the lifestyle changes.
She lost 120 pounds, is no longer diabetic and, in 2014, she ran the In My Shoes 5K, one of Envision's biggest fundraisers of the year.
"She's one of our biggest success stories," said Shawn Croissant, the program services coordinator.
Hoff, like most of Envision's clients, values her independence, and she spends most of her time in a guest house out back. It's not completely private — the two do their laundry there, for instance, and Shirley loves to wander in at times — but it also gives Hoff her own place. She shares it with Snowflake, a cat she's owned for years, and she just recently adopted a senior basset hound who was a little shy until Hoff gave out enough hugs and now follows her wherever she goes.
They help Hoff keep her place clean and continue to cook for her, and Nelson admitted the care can stretch well into the night, although most of the time those nights are rare. She's part of them now. They take her on their vacations. Last May, they went to Chicago, and they all walked around all day, taking in the sights. Hoff wouldn't have been able to do that three years ago.
Hoff is thinner and healthier, and Croissant believes all that is because she's happier. Hoff, even with her limited communication, confirms his theory.
"I have my two best friends in the world here," Hoff said.
So it doesn't seem to matter that Hoff hasn't trained like most would for Envision's upcoming 5K. She doesn't exercise much, though she's active and has an exercise machine in her room. She doesn't run. All that doesn't matter. What matters is she's eating well at night with a room full of cats and dogs and kids and friends. Her heart is full. Heck, maybe she'll run the whole thing.
"I'm ready for it," Hoff said. ❖