I have learned a lesson at the Kennedy Aging Project. It is not my role to find someone to blame for a client's unpleasant past and less-than-adequate present circumstance. What I must do is move beyond fault-finding to compassion and empowerment with both staff and clients. In such a supportive environment, caregivers and clients have a greater opportunity to realize their potential.
PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON KENNEDY AGING PROJECT FAMILIES
Susan L. Sternfeld
Ordinarily one envisions a family as composed of parents and children who live and grow together throughout their individual biological life-cycles. Parents are caregivers when their children are young; then, hopefully, adult relationships develop when the children are grown. Finally the children become caregivers, or oversee the care, of their aging parents.
However, for every family represented by a client in the Kennedy Aging Project, this traditional notion of "normal" family living has been knocked askew by the birth of a son or daughter who is mentally handicapped. The personal histories of some clients are filled with accounts of abandonment at a young age to an institution, lack of any formal education, and little, if any, contact with family of origin during the adult years. For other clients, it was family crisis, such as the premature death of their parents, that cast them adrift from biological family living and shifted caregiving to the state system. Each client's story is a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit, for each client in his unique way has coped with many adversities and survived to old age. It is easy to wonder how people so vulnerable survive in a society