Serving the Underserved: Caring for People Who Are Both Old and Mentally Retarded: A Handbook for Caregivers

By Mary C. Howell; Deirdre G. Gavin et al. | Go to book overview

67
A SUPPORT GROUP ON THE ISSUES OF DEATH AND DYING WITH MENTALLY RETARDED ADULTS

Barbara McDaniel

Most people who are mentally retarded and old have experienced many losses in their lives, including the deaths of family members and friends, frequent staff turnovers, and changes in their living circumstances, such as being moved from their homes to institutions and moving again to community group homes. In an effort to address the ways in which a group of people who are mentally retarded and old were coping with loss, and the impact of their losses, a support group was organized to talk about death and dying. The members of the group offered support and counsel to each other and to the group leader, sharing their own pain and their ways of coping with loss.


Why a Support Group on Death and Dying?

Establishing a support group for adults who are mentally retarded on the issues of death and dying was a collaborative effort between the Kennedy Aging Project's social work intern and the director of a community-based group home that serves eight people who are mentally retarded and old. The particular group home serves mildly retarded 1 men between the ages of 46 and 65. Just in the past year, these eight men had experienced the death of a fellow resident, one client's mother had died, and another client's brother had died. The director of this group home wanted to offer these clients an opportunity to express their grief. Faculty members of the Kennedy Aging Project provided supervision and consultation to their social work intern.

The purpose of the group was to establish an arena where these clients could express their feelings, receive support, and share their

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