Don Shepley said he was “scared to death” when he and his wife left their home to live at a personal care facility.
“It’s frightening coming here,” Shepley said. “This is your new home and it’s scary.”
That’s why Shepley, who now lives at in South Fayette, took a lengthy training class this year to learn how to mentor new residents and make improvements with administrators. Shepley graduated Friday with three other residents in the state’s new PEER program to become community leaders in their personal care home.
“You gotta help them,” Shepley said of the new residents. “They don’t have all the answers and we don’t have all the answers, but we can work together to find them.”
There are currently 1,400 graduates from Pennsylvania’s Empowered Expert Residents program, also known as PEER, that brings residents through a 10-hour training session. The program educates residents on their rights, provides self-advocacy training and empowers residents to act for themselves.
Amy Shonts, assistant executive director at Broadmore, said this is the second class to graduate from their facility and has become a good way for residents to feel more involved with decisions. Shonts said Broadmore is the only personal care home in Allegheny County to offer the classes.
“That gives them someone they can reach out to,” Shonts said. “The PEER residents can show new residents how to handle the situation.”
That would’ve helped resident Mary Dell when she was transferred to a different wing of the facility two years ago.
“I didn’t know a soul, didn’t know the layout,” Dell said. “I just didn’t understand the place. I slowly learned I had to help myself.”
She graduated from the PEER program last year and is now helping others. She’s also looking forward to working with the new graduates.
“They’re all excellent,” Dell said. “They’re very good people. They’ll be a big help to help people fit in. This new team has many new ideas. Young, fresh, intelligent minds, and that’s what we need.”
She considers herself to be a mentor for others, which is in line with her life’s message.
“Do at least one good deed every day,” Dell said. “At least one.”