It is important to assess informal care providers carefully to determine the appropriateness of placement for a person with mental retardation who is old. Carefully planned intervention may relieve some of the burden caregivers experience. Support groups and programs that focus on improving coping with everyday problems, that provide opportunities for respite, and that give special attention to early intervention with family caretakers, may have considerable impact on the family's burden of caring for an person with mental retardation who is old. When an assessment team recommends placement of a client in an informal (family) caregiving system, it is essential that external supports be sought in order to prevent burnout.
TOM: THE STORY OF A FRIENDSHIP
Elizabeth J. DeBrine
Last winter I requested that my minister, Joanne, match me with a member of my church who was mentally retarded. Joanne responded, "God is gracious." Then she proceeded to tell me about Tom.
Tom is in his late forties. He is the oldest of three sons. Tom's parents died several years ago, and Joanne officiated at their funeral services. Joanne continued her contact with Tom by visiting him once or twice a month.
Tom has had some schooling. He can read and write fairly well. He used to work in a furniture store. He is an excellent housekeeper and a meticulous dresser, sometimes even a little flashy. Tom was living with his brother Fred in the apartment that they had shared with their parents. A third brother is married and has had little contact with the family in recent years.