On September 23, approximately 50 communal workers who work with older adults and/or individuals with disabilities in the Jewish community gathered for an educational seminar to discuss the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and their families as they all age. Those attending the Aging and Disabilities Roundtable learned about all the resources available to them and their clients through the incredible network of agencies in Greater MetroWest. The event was co-sponsored by our Federation’s ABLE and CARES departments which both serve as umbrella organizations and conveners of the agencies serving these populations.
The session started off with a moving keynote speech by Lois Rose, a long-time community leader and advocate for special needs services in Greater MetroWest and the driving force behind Federation’s first needs assessment for people with special needs in our community. Lois shared her own story of raising a daughter with cerebral palsy who will soon by 50 years old, needs assistance with all the aspects of daily life, and lives in a group home. She made the point that the population of people with special needs is aging and that these individuals require a whole different set of care and services in order to continue to feel like contributing members of the Jewish community. Lois also raised awareness of the needs of the aging caregivers and some of the challenges facing the entire family.
Each agency shared with the group the work it is doing, as well as its goals and challenges for the coming year. And finally, smaller groups representing a variety of agencies were asked to discuss two case studies to determine how they can combine efforts to meet the changing needs of those they serve. The first was a call from a young woman whose aging mother is the primary caregiver for her grown son and young grandson, both with developmental disabilities. The young woman is concerned about what help she can get when her mother is no longer capable of providing the support her son and grandson need. The groups discussed that they would do if they received this call, what barriers to inclusion exist for older adults and family members and how we can help remove them, and what collaborative approaches could help families like this.
Roundtable participants expressed appreciation for the opportunity to learn about the breadth of resources that the ABLE and CARES constituent agencies provide, and we hope that the Roundtable was the beginning of an ongoing dialogue addressing the needs of our community’s aging individuals with disabilities and their caregivers. Raising awareness about the resources that exist in the community and providing tools to the professionals engaging with these families will help to alleviate some of the challenges faced. We will continue to explore this topic with professionals and lay leadership in an effort to better meet the needs of the greater community.