A short time ago Amanda Telford, an Ottawa mother of a 19-year-old severely autistic man, did something no parent would willingly choose by leaving her son in a developmental service office with no plans for where he would go from there. Unfortunately, due to a lack of residential placements for those living with disabilities, it was a step she chose to take when she felt she could no longer provide the level of care her son required. I am acutely aware that there are families living within Southeastern Ontario who are equally stressed.
And while the situation for those with developmental disabilities is overburdened, there is a system in place. No such framework exists for those living with ABI who have a need for ongoing residential support. For each individual who requires support, it is up to community agencies to lobby the government on the individual’s behalf to see if funding might be available. Usually the funding is not available and the person is added to a growing waitlist for services.
In Southeastern Ontario there are limited residential service options available through the Ontario March of Dimes, Pathways to Independence, and the Providence Care Regional Community Brain Injury Services. Recently, Pathways to Independence has been selected to work with the Southeast Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) to develop a proposal to provide an additional 12 residential spaces. There is a growing need for services for individuals who are currently in less-than-ideal living situations. They are living with aging parents who provide the care; they are placed in long term care homes where they often stand out as a young person with differing needs than the elderly residents they are living with; or they are living in hospitals in complex continuing care or mental health services, awaiting discharge to a safe option. They are not eligible for group homes that serve individuals with developmental disabilities.
It is important to note that individuals with brain injuries often have a different perspective and differing needs from those with developmental disabilities. They often have an acute awareness of the loss of functioning that has occurred and have memories and relationships from their lives prior to the injury. They may have families, spouses, friends, and connections to the communities in which they live. It is in everyone’s best interest for these connections to be preserved. Unfortunately there are not enough ongoing residential supports for people with ABI for this to happen.
In response to the Telford family’s plight, the Ontario Obudsman has launched an investigation into services for those living with a disability. Hopefully families will be willing to share their stories and the province will hear their need for help and be able to respond. It is what those who are living with a disability, as well as their family members, deserve.
Learn more about the Telford family: http://www.ombudsman.on.ca/Newsroom/Ombudsman-in-the-News/2013/Thousands-wait-for-a-place-for-their-disabled-adul.aspx