What Is Life Sharing And Why Is It So Important?

How often do we hear “Home is where the heart is?” We all know that a welcoming home is integral to your physical wellbeing. Where you live and whom you live with can lend so much to your life, and this is no different for individuals with disabilities. This is where Life Sharing plays a vital role.

What is Life Sharing?

Life Sharing is a residential program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, where they live in the community with a host family that has been licensed and vetted. These individuals and their host families receive support from health care providers and coordinators, so they can have the best experience possible. Life Sharing offers a unique opportunity to share responsibilities, successes, and challenges that occur in the course of normal day-to-day family life.

Individuals with intellectual disabilities can seek residential programs like Life Sharing in order to achieve their personal objectives. In Pennsylvania, Raystown Developmental Services and The ReDCo Group offer such services. These Life Sharing programs provide support and supervision to both individuals with disabilities and the host families who agree to provide a caring, nurturing household.

Why is it so important?

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services notes that, “Life Sharing means living with and sharing life experiences with supportive persons who form a caring household.” Families provide welcoming, accepting environments to help embrace those living and learning with them. As caregivers, they are also teachers, advocates, and friends for the individuals in their care. Giving adults with disabilities a sense of home and independence, sometimes for the first time, enables them to feel the support they need to grow and succeed. They can discover new skills and hobbies while exploring a new community—all while receiving the support they need to succeed.

We all want a sense of community and to feel welcomed and accepted by others. Life Sharing enables individuals with disabilities to feel that sense of community. Through structured activities that enable community integration, individuals with intellectual disabilities can experience new interests and skills and discover new passions. Life sharing programs not only enable those individuals to be who they are, but to flourish as they embark on new activities and programs.

But beyond that craving for community, the benefits of Life Sharing are life changing. When participants feel confident, welcomed, and supported, their potential is endless. They have the opportunity to build relationships with individuals they wouldn’t otherwise come in contact with. Those relationships can help mold them into helpers, independent thinkers, creatives, and so much more. They model kindness and compassion; teach tolerance and patience; and encourage independence. Building relationships enables individuals with disabilities to give back to the community that accepted them. It’s a true cycle.

While these relationships are important, Life Sharing does not mean that an individual has to give up a relationship with their birth family. They can enjoy the benefits of living in a home with a licensed provider, while still keeping in contact and remaining close with their family. Intellectual disabilities do not need to hold someone back from living their best life. These adults can build relationships, be active within their community, and achieve their goals. Life sharing can be the key to unlocking success, and giving greater purpose to their life.

Pathways is one of the largest national providers of accessible, outcome-based behavioral and mental health services. Pathways of Pennsylvania has been serving communities in Pennsylvania since 1981, and is comprised of four companies: Children’s Behavioral Health, Inc., Pathways Community Services, LLC, Raystown Developmental Services, Inc., and The ReDCo Group, Inc. We believe every individual has a right to lead a meaningful and positive life, and we are changing lives, one day at a time.