The comfort of home

The comfort of home

Aging in place for people with special needs

MetroWest CARES, the Committee Addressing Resources for Eldercare Services, is coordinated by United Jewish Communities with support from the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey; CARES brings together professionals and lay leaders from MetroWest agencies that provide services to older adults. Each month, a MetroWest CARES agency presents an educational column on an eldercare issue. This month’s column on the importance of “aging in place” for people with special needs is presented by Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled of MetroWest. JSDD provides supports and services to men and women with developmental disabilities that include supervised, supportive community living, continuing education and enrichment opportunities, advocacy, and community education.

Familiar surroundings, the smell of a meal just prepared, the sounds we recognize…. Whether you travel the world, go off to work, or just run some errands, there is “no place like home” at the end of the day. As we get older, it seems the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings that we associate with home become even more important. Safety and security and having our own things in our own space is appealing to most people, particularly when health and independence begin to decline.

It is no different for people with special needs or developmental disabilities. The onset of aging may begin sooner, the need for supervision and support may increase, but the desire to continue to live in familiar surroundings for as long as possible is the same.

Modifications and adaptations to the environment may be necessary to assure that each person continues to be as independent as possible in their own home, no different than anyone else aging at home. Doorways may need to be widened, grab bars may need to be installed, flooring may need to be changed, and ramps constructed.

Ben, 76, lives in a JSDD kosher community residence for people with developmental disabilities with five other men and women he considers his “family.” He enjoys reading the paper, going for long walks, watching sports on television, and spending time with his “family” and friends at JSDD’s WAE (Wellness, Arts & Enrichment) Center engaged in continuing education endeavors. He is in relatively good health, although, like most people his age, regular visits to the doctor reveal new health challenges. He has 24-hour support and supervision within his home and the people who assist him are responsible for helping him to stay healthy and active.

Susan, in her early 50s, has Down syndrome and lives with her mother, Joan, an 83-year-old widow. Susan is showing early onset dementia, which is not uncommon for people with Down’s. While Susan and her mother have always done everything together, it is becoming more difficult for Joan — who is experiencing declining health herself — to manage both her own medical needs and her daughter’s. While Joan would love to continue to have Susan live with her and care for her in the home she has lived in all her life, the concerns regarding who will care for Susan when Joan is no longer able to and how her daughter would adjust to new surroundings, weigh heavily on Joan’s mind.

Changing needs and age related issues can be addressed for people with special needs through case management services, social service providers, and planning services such as Coordinated Care of Metro West and PLAN NJ. Emergency supports and services can be accessed through the State of NJ Division of Developmental Disabilities, among other organizations.

No longer is a group home the only choice for individuals and their families. Those with developmental disabilities can now choose where and how they would like to live with the service dollars available to support their needs and any age. As health and service needs change, there are opportunities to submit requests for additional funding to address those challenges.

While this new approach to service delivery is still in transition, it does mean that Ben can choose whether to stay in his group home as long as he is able and Susan and Joan can work with a service provider to obtain in-home supports if they choose.

“There’s no place like home” — and now individuals with developmental disabilities will have the opportunity to choose what that means.

Families and caregivers needing answers to broader eldercare questions or 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, ext. 511, or

Linda Press is executive director for the Jewish Service for the Developmentally Disabled of MetroWest. For more information, contact her at 973-325-1494 or or visit

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