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

77
INTERNSHIP AT THE KENNEDY AGING PROJECT (09/87 - 12/87)

Nancy MacRae

The Project had an impact on both my professional and personal beliefs. Despite clinical experiences, specifically with clients who are mentally retarded, spanning nearly twenty years, I discovered that I held presumptions about what they could think, feel, and express. Exposure to this Project's philosophy and, more importantly, to the people they serve, has proved my presumptions to be just that.

Validation of the Interdisciplinary Team approach and its ability to utilize collective and individual expertise to assess a client from a holistic perspective; reassertion that each person needs to reconcile, in some manner, his life and what it has meant, in order to live fully until death; and, finally, a widening of my focus, a sensitizing of my expectations, and a humanizing acceptance affecting my ability to practice with this population, have all occurred. Additionally, a new appreciation of community issues for this clientele was developed, in contrast to my institutionally-based experience and knowledge. This has led to a more balanced outlook between the challenges, problems and benefits of institutional versus community living.

When the basic approach to a clientele that is both mentally retarded and aging is one of acceptance, positive outcomes are likely. Then clients are able to express themselves fully, with or without language, as human beings of worth. This belief is repeatedly validated by the gifts of insight that reflective practitioners can gain from their interactions with these remarkable clients. When an individual who is severely mentally retarded is given the opportunity to honor his dead peer by spending time with the corpse, appropriately kneeling down, looking at and touching him before walking away to turn back and wave

-424-

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