x
Breaking News
More () »

Mainer switches careers to be brother's caretaker

Thereasa Brillant's brother, Rick Hall, lives with autism and just moved into a new home before Christmas.

LEWISTON, Maine — It was a bitingly cold day in late December when Rick Hall spoke with NEWS CENTER Maine. He sat in a rocking chair with a red velvet hat on, and he kept smiling with excitement as Christmas was just two days away.

"It's my favorite holiday," he said, rocking in rhythm.

Hall lives with autism and has spent years living with John F. Murphy Homes, a local caregiving service. But, Christmas this year will be spent in an apartment of his own, above the home of his sister, Thereasa Brillant.

"This year, Rick brought back the Christmas magic," Brillant smiled, sitting on a couch in Hall's living room. 

Hall's caregiver of 13 years, Brock Poulin, sat next to her. Any surface not occupied by the three of them had been used to display Christmas decorations.

Almost every decoration was a version of St. Nicholas. There were Santa posters, Santa costumes, stuffed Santas, Santas riding reindeer, and Santas posing on a shelf.

Hall picked up a Santa snowglobe and flipped a switch, drawing music out of a hidden speaker.

As for how he was able to build a winter wonderland of his own in this space, it was the culmination of a long process for Brillant.

Like many companies across health care during the pandemic, JFM lost swaths of employees over the past two years.

"It’s been hard all around," CEO Todd Goodwin said in an interview at his Auburn office. "But there have been moments of beauty and grace, and lots of positive things happening as well."

Positive things, or a silver lining, Brillant called it, came in the form of complex health policy. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services amended sections 18 and 20 of the state's home-and-community-based waiver programs, allowing those in need of care to appoint their own paid caregivers—even family members. 

In other words, Brillant could be paid to professionally care for her brother.

She quit her 30-year career in the mental health field, applied for a job at JFM, and began working in coordination with Poulin to watch over Hall.

Then, in June, they applied for Hall to be able to rent his own apartment in Brillant's building and were approved in mid-December.

Hall could move in above his sister just in time for his favorite holiday.

"It’s an awesome place for him to be—a great environment," Poulin said. "And, it’s awesome that he’s gonna be around family."

"It is such a nice feeling at the end of the day to be home, downstairs with my husband, and knowing that my brother is safe in his own apartment," Brillant said.

Safe in his own apartment, in a winter wonderland. After all, Brillant said, Rick and the Christmas spirit were a package deal.

More NEWS CENTER Maine stories