Paul Lemieux is family liaison 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.
Why is family collaboration important?
It really sets us apart from other programs. People will go to a group home run by the state, and you don’t hear from families that often. In the programs we operate, we encourage the family to be there. It’s vital to have that interaction. The family is part of the program. As parents, you are caring for your loved ones for at least up to 22 years. It is a very big step from being cared for on a daily basis to “I am going to live independently.” The transition isn’t successful if the family is not involved. We will reach out to the family for advice; it is a partnership. We consider ourselves to be an extension of your family and that is what makes our program so successful.
Family members are welcome to come by for meals and activities. Do you find the collaboration between the families and residents benefit all the people in the home?
It’s human nature that we all worry about our person. There is a very active parent group that cares about everyone in total. I think that is really advantageous. If there is an issue, that is how an issue is identified. We welcome family input. Is there something new we are not aware of? We have one family member who leads activities on a monthly basis. That doesn’t happen if parents are not talking to each other, not talking to us. This is all about communication. If your loved one is in a home or sharing with a roommate, you want to know what’s going on with that roommate. You now have an extended family.
If family members are not sure how to approach that collaborative effort, can Mainstay help?
This position, liaison, was created for families to work through me and our Director of Services, Doreen Cummings. Just let us know. The only way we know is through communication. Mainstay is not a huge organization. There is not a lot of infrastructure. You want to get somebody. There’s Doreen, me and Susan Horner, our COO, that’s it. You want to get to somebody, there are three people at your call.
In terms of the family member living in the supportive home, do you find they thrive more when their families are more involved?
Yes. We do have a lot of people who go home on the weekend. They go on vacation with their family. They are still part of their immediate family. They just have an extended family. It’s life. We are giving people with intellectual disabilities, as normal as possible, life as any of us would want on a daily basis.