Monday, February 28, 2011

Canadian program tries to support aging adults with developmental disabilities

From The Waterloo Record in Canada:

KITCHENER, Canada — Tom and David Schultz worried when their developmentally disabled brother, Matthew (pictured), needed to move out of his supported residence into a long-term care facility.

Matthew, who has Down syndrome, lived there for many years and was accustomed to the home and people.

“We were very concerned,” David said. “This would be a completely new environment.”

But Matthew, 57, needed more supervision and security because he was wandering away from the David Fischer Residence in Waterloo and beginning to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

A little over a year ago, Matthew’s family moved him into the A. R. Goudie Eventide Home, just across Frederick Street from Tom and his wife Lois Schultz.

“Our fears were somewhat justified the day he moved in,” David said.

Matthew did not want to be left behind in his new room.

“He wanted to go home,” Tom said.

Matthew’s transition into his new life has been eased by Linda Walton (pictured), who’s the long-term care liaison for K-W Habilitation Services. The agency provides support services to people with developmental disabilities, including residential services, job development and community links, and has long been involved in Matthew’s life.

The position started about a year ago, responding to changing demographics of the people supported by K-W Habilitation Services. Life expectancy for people with developmental disabilities used to be 40 or 50. Community-based services and group homes means they’re living longer.

“Their quality of life is definitely drastically improved,” said executive director Ann Bilodeau.

The agency began seeing their aging clients needing to move out of a group home and into long-term care as their health needs increased and began suffering from chronic disease such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. And there are safety concerns when a person becomes less mobile and could suffer a fall or other injury.

“We don’t have the resources to do nursing care in group living,” Bilodeau said.

As clients moved into long-term care, many staff visited on their own time. Recognizing the value of that continued connection, the agency started the liaison position.

“So when that transition occurs, they’ve got a familiar face to follow them,” said Chris Gefucia, director of residential services.

Now Walton gets to know the clients who are aging and likely soon to move into long-term care. Then when the time comes, she’ll continue to visit and look after their needs, such as pursuing government support or arranging specialized transportation.

It’s an extension of the service that’s always been provided to ensure a client’s best interests.

“I think it’s very important that there’s some kind of oversight,” Walton said.

Walton met Matthew when she started the job and now meets with him regularly at the Eventide home and Kinsmen Centre in Kitchener. (K-W Habilitation Services was started in the 1970s by families and the Kinsmen service group.)

Matthew has been going since he was a teenager to the Kinsmen Centre, where he has a job in the sheltered workshop and socializes.

He continues going there three times a week, which his family knew would make his move easier because he’d still be around his long-time friends.

“They’ve all grown up together,” Tom said.

Matthew is content in his new home, enjoying regular visits with his siblings but now happy to go back to his place.

“I like it here,” Matthew said.

Bilodeau said the liaison position will make a huge difference to people like Matthew and their families to ease their worries around a move. Also long-term care homes will benefit from their expertise in supporting people with disabilities.

The demand for a liaison will only grow as the population ages and more people helped by K-W Habilitation move into nursing care and cope with serious illness. Bilodeau would like to see a place where their clients can go as they need more support, but don’t yet require the intense care of a long-term facility.

The liaison is a first step to meet the changing needs, Bilodeau said.

“That’s what we’re gearing up for. We’re getting prepared.”