What a different world it was when Sam was born 88 years ago in February of 1925. At that time, Sam was described as a child Sam as “incorrigible” and “a neighborhood menace.” This was a time when most medical professionals recommended committing someone with a disability to a developmental center, so when Sam was 13 years old the family made the decision to admit Sam to Pacific State Hospital, which is now Lanterman Developmental Center, in Pomona. At that time, Sam was diagnosed as a “low imbecile” and housed in Ward 103. In 1959 when Sam was 34 years old, he was transferred to Fairview, a new developmental center in Costa Mesa. At the time, both of these centers housed over 1200 people with various developmental disabilities.
Over the years there has been a concerted effort to develop resources allowing individuals in the developmental centers to move into the community. There is a great deal of planning and preparation involved when considering this type of move. Professionals from Harbor Regional Center and Fairview Developmental Center team up with family members, and work together to create and implement a successful plan.
In 2011, when a move into the community was discussed for Sam, there naturally was concern because he was 86 years old and had spent the last 73 years of his life in a developmental center. However, Sam had very few health concerns and even though he has become more dependent on using a wheelchair, he is able to maneuver it when necessary and can still walk a few steps. Sam’s niece Mary, his closest relative and advocate, shared this concern. She had known no other way of life for Sam and was skeptical that the move would be a positive one. After meeting the proposed service provider Louie Gonzalez, BSN, RN, and talking with other families, Mary was still cautious, but reassured.
On August 16, 2012, Sam moved into his new home, Plaza de Madrid in Cerritos. Sam has his own bedroom with a bed twice the size of the one he had at Fairview. Instead of having his meals and snacks dictated by a schedule designed to feed over 300 people at specific times of day, Sam has access to meals, food and snacks, just like you and I. Sam attends the Social Vocational Services day program in Norwalk five days a week, where he is exposed to a whole new world, and participates in a wide variety of activities. Sam looks forward to attending, and once he puts on his fedora and sunglasses, the staff knows that he’s ready to roll. Sam is quite popular at his day program and recently won the election to become the President of the Client Advisory Committee.
Mary has seen great improvement in Sam and in his quality of life. Contrary to anyone’s earlier reservations, Sam has embraced his new world wholeheartedly. He has the stamina to tolerate being out all day, and enjoys naming everything he sees. He asks for what he wants and makes his needs known. Sam sets his place at the table and for breakfast he pours his cereal and milk. Mary still keeps a watchful eye and so do the other members of Sam’s team – making certain that the quality continues.
Mary said that Sam is “Happy!” Who wouldn’t be happy? Since moving five months ago, Sam has traveled to Disneyland, the Long Beach Aquarium, the Los Angeles Museum of Natural History, the local beaches and shopping centers and most recently the 2013 Tournament of Roses Parade!
At the tender age of 88, Sam is a success story in every sense of the word and has found real comfort in his new home! When Sam arrives home from his day program he proudly announces to the staff “I’m home!” Welcome home Sam!