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

71
WORKING AT THE KENNEDY AGING PROJECT

Gerard Maria Cabrera

Working at the Kennedy Aging Project taught me more than organizational and administrative skills. This has also been a period of personal growth. What I learned extends beyond the office and the clinic; it has come home with me, to my relationships, to my outside volunteer work, and to my thoughts and dreams of the future.

Working at the Project prepared me for new intellectual and spiritual challenges. The supportive atmosphere of my colleagues freed me to express myself, knowing that my opinions would be respected. In a mutually sharing environment I learned a little about each of the different disciplines that come together here, and I have been able to put that new knowledge to use.

One of the most valuable and practical things I learned is about the right to refuse medical care, and the complicated legal and ethical issues surrounding life-sustaining treatments. I hope I can apply this to myself and to the people I care for, when and if such decisions have to be made. An appreciation for the process of dying has also formed in my mind. I know better now that how one dies is equally as important as when one dies, and that a spirit at peace with itself and the universe will pass calmly into whatever comes next, if anything.

Also, as the brother of a person with mental retardation, I came to understand more about the developmental issues in my sister's life and the ways that I can be more supportive and responsive to her needs. I have gotten rid of most of the sense of ignorant embarrassment I had growing up with her, and can separate myself from her enough to know that she has her own feelings and beliefs that I must respect.

I saw the Aging Project, through its three years, change and develop in many ways. At the beginning there was a sense of undertaking something unknown and a chance for innovation; at the end, there

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