Please watch this short video, where Cheryl Ryan Chan shares a story of becoming a member of a Circle for a client!
Circles of Support, also known as Relationship Circles or Circles of Friends, are the most critical element to the sustainability of a person-centered plan.
One person, even one family, cannot and should not take this on alone. Our society has unfortunately declared that seeking help is a sign of weakness. We don’t even know how to ask for help. We don’t know how to answer when help is offered. We fear the idea of being vulnerable, of opening up to help, because it means admitting we are in need.
Identifying, building and sustaining a Circle of Support can mean moving out of your comfort zone of intimate friends and family, and asking others to be part of your support base.
Many of the people I work with have parents or family caregivers who still participate in decision-making for the person receiving the plan. They are very worried about this concept, and I often have to gently ease people into understanding why it’s so important. I start by letting people know I understand their fears because I am also a parent.
I so often hear things like “I’m worried about what will happen to my loved one when I’m no longer able to care for them” or “I don’t really have any friends or family I can rely on” or “nobody can take care of him/her like I do” or “my loved one would have a terrible time without me.”
One of the biggest messages I give is to remember who the Circle is for. It’s for the person we love. The Circle is meant to ease many of the fears we just listed. If we use the time we have now to develop the Circle for our loved one, and to teach the Circle members about all the things that are important to and for the person, then we can begin to feel like they will be cared for when we are no longer able.
I also often hear things like “I don’t want to ask anyone to help, I don’t want to bother people” or “I don’t think anyone will come” or “I don’t know what to say.”
Let’s look at how we work together on this.
We use visuals in everything we do, and the Circle of Support visual is an exercise that explains the components of this concept. Beginning with the ring in the center of the circle, which represents you, each circle represents people who are part of your life but in different roles.
- The Circle of Intimacy are the people who are closest to you, those we rely on every day and those who know us best. They are people we can hardly imagine living without. Examples include parents, grandparents or other family, housemates, caregivers.
- The Circle of Participation are our friends and family members who know us well, who we can call on when we need them and who can call on us. Examples are friends at school or work, team mates or coaches, people where you workship, support staff, teachers.
- The Circle of Participation are those who we might see with regularity, who have some interests or associations in common with you. Examples are people at the gym, team mates or coaches, bus drivers, neighbors, people where you worship, customers where you work.
- The Circle of Exchange includes people who are in your life because they are providing a service you are paying for. We all have people who fit into this category; doctors, therapists, trainers, support providers, hair dressers, attorneys.
I promise to make this process as worry-free as we can, and to give you the encouragement you need to move forward to create or strengthen this important part of your loved one’s future.