Ask Our Experts: Mainstay’s Doreen Cummings Discusses the Importance of Family Collaboration

10/25/23

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Doreen Cummings is the Director of Services for Mainstay Supportive Housing. This series explores different topics related to finding the right supportive housing for your loved one with intellectual or developmental disabilities. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

 

How or why is it important that once their loved one is at a Mainstay Supportive Home, they continue being in their child’s life?

We call our model a family collaborative. It’s been that type of model since inception. Because we are not a 24/7 staff model, we really rely on the family members to do what we don’t do as part of our services. In our model, we provide daily staff, overnight supportive staff, dinner, beautiful homes, and a great community of like-minded peers. In trying to keep it affordable for families, Mainstay relies on families for the daytime hours, as well as managing their loved one’s medical, dental and medication needs.

We want family members to share their hobbies, or plan a party, or come to the house on a random night and cook dinner. We want them to get to know our team, to communicate with the staff when things are going well and when they are not going well.

It is a model for folks with mild clinical needs. If there is a clinical issue that flares up and everyone needs space from the house, we expect families to collaborate with us. We expect they will respect our decision as we figure out what’s going on and take their loved ones back to their family home.

The other piece of the collaborative is financial. If public benefits will not cover the full cost, the family needs to pitch in financially until all the benefits come into place.

 

After you explain to parents the benefits of being involved in this continued collaboration, do they feel that living in a Mainstay Supportive Home is a good choice for their child?

I love that it brings extra eyes into the model and into the house. A lot of families are fully caring for their loved one before they move to Mainstay. When they move, there is huge amount of time that is freed up for the parents. I feel like it is a perfect blend. The parents can take them home whenever they want to go home, or go on a family vacation. It’s not like you are dropping off your family member and never coming back. It’s this flow of life and everyone has their own space.

 

It’s not like dropping someone off at college for seven months and you never see them again?

This gives families a chance to let go, but still have a handle on things. It gives folks an opportunity to grow on their own. The virtual world has made the family collaborative even better because you can shop for someone’s groceries online and manage their whole bank account or manage their medication online. It’s made family collaboration a lot easier and more efficient and more realistic.

 

When you talk about family collaboration, you would also include cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings, other members of the family to come in and still have an active role in the resident’s life?

We love that. We love our extended community. When someone moves into our house, there should be a housewarming for them. This is their house now. We have seen that a lot. There’s a welcome home sign on the front lawn. They might start a small registry. They are able to have that celebration of moving out and getting their own home in a little less traditional way, but still deserved to be celebrated. The more people who are involved, the better. The bigger the community, the better.

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