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

6
THE CONTEXT OF EXEMPLARY SERVICE

Mary C. Howell

It is a tradition of the Community Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, the parent organization in which the Kennedy Aging Project was housed, that student training and education takes place in a context of exemplary service. The Aging Project readily adopted this educational format.

Our field placement students were all enrolled in graduate training programs in their specific clinical disciplines; all had experience in providing direct service; and all had immediate supervision not only from the faculty member of their special discipline, but also from all faculty members representing the entire range of disciplines on the Team. Therefore we were able to enroll them as members of the Interdisciplinary Team in providing services.

One of the pleasures of advocating for and inventing services for previously underserved clients lies in the opportunity to think about ideal models. Clients who are both mentally retarded and old have truly been underserved. Their very existence was hardly acknowledged prior to the last decade; in addition, like every other subgroup of our population, their group longevity is increasing, so their numbers--and needs--are expanding.

There were several areas of intervention that we anticipated as foci of our efforts as a service project. While we could envision neither all the problems nor all their resolutions, we had some clear ideas of the kinds of services that we would search for and strive to promote.

Residential placement, for instance, is a universal need. Everyone has to have a place to live, and the housing needs of people who are both old and mentally retarded are more like the housing needs of everyone else than they are different. There is a need for security--a reasonable guarantee that one will not have to move suddenly or capriciously. An aesthetically pleasing and valued neighborhood, ac-

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