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.
Why do you sometimes advise parents to sell the family home and move into a new location?
Taking care of a child with a disability is a lifelong task and the more local families are to that lifelong task, the better. There are not housing models in the backyards of every community. It’s just not realistic. Being a local support to your loved one, which is lifelong responsibility, is easier on everyone. If you find that perfect housing, it is a good decision moving out of the family home and look at places closer to your loved ones.
From your experience, when families do that, how does it work out?
It works out really well. I have seen a lot of downsizing. There’s a friendship that is almost developed between the parents and the residents in a different way because everyone has their own space. Everybody has their own lives. People are getting together in more celebratory ways. I have seen the relationship lighten up.
How does Mainstay help the residents grow and prosper in their new home – both the child and the adults?
We are providing that daily support and eyes on [their loved one] from a staff member. We are also introducing all these new relationships, friendships to the resident. People in their community, their neighbors, other family members of people living with us – they are like arms wrapped around your loved one in this new life. We do more scheduled things like we have a bowling league in Norwood, we have a Friday game group, we have a gardening club, a walking group on Tuesday. We do clinical house meetings, which is therapeutic and emotionally supportive. I feel like all these things have enabled us to embrace a new resident and embrace them with open arms.
The transition for the parents can be a little bit challenging, but is it made easier knowing they are living closer to where their loved one is living?
It is a natural process for a child to move out of their family’s home. I feel that it’s not very different from a child going to college or moving out of state, I think those same feelings are happening. I do think there is more communication and more support through our family collaborative that give them a lot of touch stone points. Sometimes it’s harder for the parents, than the residents.
Do you find it’s better for the residents when the parents live closer?
I do feel it’s better when the parents live closer. It’s a way to check, have eyes on [their loved one], not let any situation get out of control. They can manage the daytime support if something is lacking in that category. They can lend a hand in medical and dental oversight. They can be part of the community, which I love.