Matt*, 42, was born with Marfan syndrome, a disorder that can cause cardiovascular and skeletal problems, but it hadn’t slowed him down. In addition to working as an IT director, he was a strong, stable presence for his three boys, ages 8, 11, and 16, and his wife Amy*, 38, who struggled with depression and suicidal ideation. But in November 2019, a sudden stroke left Matt unable to work, speak, drive, or function as a parent, upending the family almost overnight. Over the next 15 months, they spiraled into hopelessness.
Jeanna Burrill, RN, Care Manager at Intermountain Healthcare Neurosciences, became concerned about Matt’s medical needs and the family’s psychological, social, and environmental health. She contacted Homespire, an Intermountain Healthcare company, to make a service introduction.
A family in crisis
When Meggan Newbold, RN, Nurse Care Manager at Homespire, entered Matt and Amy’s home in early March 2021, it was clear that the family was in crisis. There were piles of dirty clothes everywhere, the Christmas tree was still up, Amy hadn’t bathed in two months, and the children hadn’t attended school in over a year. Between Amy’s depression and Matt’s aphasia, the boys spent most of their time playing video games, with no parental guidance on school, chores, or hygiene.
Meggan reached out to her colleague Emily Redd, Homespire Community Liaison, whose background is in social work, to help the family get back on their feet. “Matt was deeply frustrated that he couldn’t provide for his family, financially or emotionally,” Emily said. “But his healing and wellbeing depended in part on stabilizing the family.”
From chaos to order
Meggan connected with Jeanna at Intermountain Healthcare to find free resources for Matt’s physical, occupational, and speech therapy. With Matt and Amy’s approval, Homespire matched the family with Alex, an experienced caregiver and current nursing student, to assist Matt with his therapy exercises.
As for stabilizing the family, Emily and Meggan first needed to understand Matt and Amy’s goals. “We asked them about their biggest concerns—specifically, what was happening before that wasn’t happening now,” Emily explained. “At the top of their list: improving the home environment and how it looked, and getting the kids back in school.” Emily created a daily schedule of chores and a hygiene routine for Amy and the boys. Next, with the help of Alex (who generously donated an extra hour of his time at the end of his first two shifts with Matt), Emily and the boys sorted through nine boxes, bins, and bags of clothes, socks, and shoes, deciding what to keep, what to donate, and what to toss.
When they finished, Emily promised that if they all took showers and did three loads of laundry by that Friday, she’d buy them a round of burgers and shakes. “When I arrived that morning, they were all sitting in the living room folding clothes, and everyone, including Amy, had showered!” Before leaving to pick up the lunch, she wanted to give them another set of chores, something Amy had stopped doing months ago. “But I knew I had to engage her in parenting, or nothing would change,” Emily said. “So, I asked her, ‘What do you want done while I’m out getting burgers?’ She gave me a list and I told the boys, ‘You have exactly half an hour to get this done!’” Sure enough, when Emily returned with the feast of fast-food favorites, the kids had wiped down the cupboards, counters, and refrigerator. As the boys tackled new chores and adopted new hygiene habits, Emily could see the spark returning to their eyes. “They’re great kids—smart, funny, and full of light—but they were sad,” she said.
Setting the boys up for success
To address Matt and Amy’s other goal—the kids’ schooling—Emily asked Amy to set up a meeting with the school counselor and social worker to discuss the process of getting the boys back into school. Amy and Emily also worked with the school to develop Individualized Education Plans (IEP) to help manage learning and behavioral challenges.
With in-person classes starting in April, the boys needed clothes to replace the cast-offs. Emily and Meggan reached out to friends, neighbors, and Homespire colleagues to ask for gently used boys’ clothing and shoes in specific sizes. “The response was incredible! After raiding our sons’ closets—with their permission, of course—we amassed an impressive collection of name-brand sweatshirts, jeans, shirts, jackets, and sneakers,” Emily said. “I think it was as meaningful for the community as it was for the boys.”
They also reached out to Matt’s children from his previous marriage to ask if they could pitch in. “We set up a family meeting and they immediately volunteered to take Matt to his therapy sessions, spend time with the boys, and help them with schoolwork and chores,” Emily said, adding that these young people are a positive, consistent presence in the boys’ lives.
Hope comes home
Matt and Amy continue to work with their Homespire team: Meggan as nurse care manager, Alex as caregiver, and Emily as coach to help Amy learn to parent, manage the family’s finances, and look for job opportunities. Meggan continues to work with Jeanna from Intermountain for additional behavioral health and rehabilitative support. “Homespire created a lifeline for this family, and we have the pleasure of seeing these good people go from hopeless to hope-filled,” Emily said.
Whatever challenges you’re facing, Homespire offers life-changing support services for you and your loved ones. To learn more, schedule a free consultation.
*Their names have been changed to protect client privacy.