Navigating services for people with special needs

Navigating services for people with special needs

MetroWest CARES (the Committee Addressing Resources for Seniors), coordinated by United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ (UJC MetroWest), brings together leaders from MetroWest agencies to promote independence and support vitality among older adults. Each month, a MetroWest CARES agency has an opportunity to address a critical eldercare issue.

This month’s article is presented by JSDD, the Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled in MetroWest. JSDD provides support, services, resources, information, and referral to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in the MetroWest community and beyond.

“SSI, SSA, DDD, DVR, JSDD, JVS, JFS… Help! What does that all mean? My child has special needs and wants a job and a supervised, supportive place to live. I should not have to become an expert in deciphering all of these government and community agencies.”

The maze of government entitlements, agencies responsible for supports and services, and who qualifies and when is overwhelming. Frustration is palpable when a family is desperate and searching for the best possible alternative for meaningful work or activity and a place to live with the necessary assistance to assure the greatest opportunity for success.

You should know that you are not alone. There are resources available to assist you in plotting a course. Unique to this community are MetroWest ABLE and MetroWest CARES. These two interagency collaborative committees work to coordinate services and support for people with special needs and their families, as well as individuals who are aging in our community with a wide range of concerns and support needs.

The alphabet soup of MetroWest Jewish Community agencies — Coordinated Care of MetroWest (CCM), Daughters of Israel (DOI), The Friendship Circle, Jewish Community Center (JCC), Jewish Community Housing Corporation (JCHC), Jewish Family Service (JFS), Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled (JSDD), Jewish Vocational Service (JVS), and jespy House and United Jewish Communities — work together to provide a comprehensive array of resources and support.

Older adults supporting an adult child at home with special needs may or may not be connected to services that exist in the Jewish or general community. Planning for the future is essential as you consider who will care for your family member when you are no longer able.

Edith is the mother of a developmentally disabled adult child. In a recent conversation, she said, “My daughter, Susan, has always been a great help around the house and a source of companionship since my husband passed away more than 15 years ago. While I love having her home with me, I don’t know what will happen to her when I am no longer able to help her manage her money, plan her meals and cook, or be sure her medical needs are met and I don’t have the same energy I used to have. Susan’s developmental disability will prevent her from living independently. I am 82 years old and am afraid, if I get sick or die, she will be alone.”

JSDD was able to connect Edith with a State of NJ Division of Developmental Disabilities case manager and arrange to have Susan begin to visit some vocational training and activity programs and become familiar with her weekday choices to be out in the community, making friends, and exploring options for a fulfilling life of her own. The case manager was also able to place Susan on the emergency list for placement in a supervised, supportive living arrangement based upon Edith’s age. She will be able to be involved in her daughter’s transition, continue to spend time with her, and have some peace of mind regarding her future.

Recently, thanks to the Healthcare Foundation of NJ, JSDD and JFS have been working together to support some of the residents in the agency’s group homes who are aging. The support needs of people with disabilities after the age of 50 include changes in physical abilities/mobility both in and out of the home, changes in medical concerns, and dealing with the loss of aging parents and grief counseling. Changing needs as one ages are no different than for people without disabilities. At JSDD, we acknowledge that and support aging in place with people who know the residents and care about them.

Professionals for both MetroWest CARES and MetroWest ABLE can be valuable resources in honing your search in connecting with the most appropriate agency professionals. Karen Alexander of CARES can be reached at 973-929-3193 or and Rebecca Wanatick of ABLE can be reached at 973-929-3129 or

For more information regarding support and services available for people with developmental disabilities and their families, JSDD and all the MetroWest collaborative partner agencies are available to help, as well.

Families and caregivers with broad eldercare questions and who need help with community resources can contact Elderlink (, a portal to all MetroWest services for older adults and their families. Elderlink can be reached at 973-765-9050 or

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