Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Harsh Reality

As most people know i work at a group home for people with intellectual and/or physical disabilities. Well i was working this weekend, and the individuals i work with cannot understand any basic understandings past the age level of a 5 year-old. Well, at work we received a phone call telling us that one of our residents' father passed away two days ago of two brain aneurysms. When i got this phone call, i realized that telling this news to my resident would mean nothing to her since she cannot understand something so tragic. This really got me thinking about what the life of an individual with an intellectual disability. This resident will never understand death, or the happiness of accomplishment for that matter. Maybe this individual is lucky to never have to experience those feelings of loss or tragedy. Then again, she is missing out on the opportunity of experience and happiness.
Another thing to consider is the fact that it is common for individuals in group homes not to have their families involved in their life. This resident has not seen her family in over a decade, and the first time they want to see her now is because her mother is in town for the funeral. I don't want to be mean or judgemental because i know life can be rough, and it would be hard to deal with that situation. But i honestly do not think it would be that hard to be part of your daughters life, even if its a visit once a week, or simple phone call to check in on how your daughter or sister is doing? I mean is that a lot to ask of family??? I find it hard to see this reality and accept it for what it is.


  1. Wow Nicole - thank you for sharing that...
    I also worked in a group home with individuals with special needs. I am taking ed psyc 322 right now - what a fabulous class. If you have a chance to take that class, I highly recommend you do.
    When you talk about the individual not being able to comprehend the idea of a person's passing or a huge accomplishment, I think that is true to a certain extent. I think it has a lot to do with how that person is informed about the issue... For example, if I was to tell a five year old that their dad had passed away and I was crying, that child would understand that I was sad. A tear drop can say more than a thousand words... Yes I agree that they may not comprehend what exactly has happened, but they can sense that emotion to some degree.. Does what I am saying make sense to you?
    I am not sure where your group home is located, but in the group home that I was responsible for, the families had a huge part to play! They came and visited or had their family members pick the client up for weekend visits... I wouldn't say that most group homes do not have family involvement but I can also see how that must be quite devistating to watch.
    I just learnt about the 5 stages that family members go through when they find out that their child has an exceptionality: shock, disbelief, bargaining, anger, and acceptance. Maybe that accounts for why families do what they do in certain situations??
    Great blog entry, Nicole.

  2. Nicole - like yourself I also work in a group home for individuals with disabilities and I must say that I experienced a lot of different emotions when reading your post. I think that it is also important to note that I also have a brother who has Cerebral Palsy. I have worked with a lot of different individuals throughout my life and one thing I never had wanted to do is underestimate any of them. I think that one thing that really struck me about this post was the assumption that this individual would not be able to understand the passing of her father, and to an even greater extent that individuals with intellectual disabilities will experience any sort of feeling of accomplishment. I think that when we make statements like this we really show how much more we have to learn about certain individuals. To make an assumption about a persons emotion really degrades the person because we are assuming that we some how are better in touch with who that person is then they themselves are, usually just because of communication reasons. I know that I do not know the person you wrote about but I think that we need to give her the benefit of the doubt and not make assumptions of their emotions for them.

    On a side note there is a lot of literature out there that speaks to helping individuals with intellectual disabilities cope with death that you might want to look into.

    Lastly I just want to point out that although there often are families who no longer have much contact with their adult children living in group homes, there are also A LOT that do and that should be celebrated because it is not an easy thing to first make a decision to let others care for child, and then to find a good balance within that situation. I still do agree with you though that it is sad to see when some people cannot make this balance work and as a result end up not spending as much time with their family, but again before we pass judgment we should consider all circumstances.

  3. Hey Nicole, I totally have to agree with you. Sometimes people really take their loved ones for granted and do not understand that family will always be there no matter what, but that does not mean that can be pushed the side. I have a very small family, but I try and keep in touch with all of them. As for my mom when I am in regina, I talk to her about two times a day because I miss her so much. Family is really imporant to me, and I think should be for everyone. But unfortunately, some people get to caught up in their lives to smell the roses. My empathy goes out to you for having to deal with things like this at your job, as I am sure you probably have things of your own to deal with. Nonetheless, if you ever need to vent or anything, don't be afraid to ask me!

    Also, Karen still hasnt emailed me back yet! have you talked to her?? This is the address I sent an email to: kchichester@jefferson.k12.mi.us, is this the same as the address you used? I'm getting a little worried, hopefully you know whats goin' on! Anyhow, have a good day!