A coordinated effort to better serve seniors who have an intellectual disability requiring health and long-term care has taken root in Haldimand and Norfolk counties.
Community Living Access Support Services, Community Living Haldimand and Norfolk Association for Community Living, along with other stakeholders, have created a training curriculum on research-based best practices in the assessment, treatment and support of seniors with intellectual disabilities.
The three-year initiative began with a $50,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and a commitment from the Seniors Partnership Group, regional service providers dedicated to working together more closely.
The group has been meeting monthly since 2006, identifying common interests in supporting seniors with intellectual disabilities. In addition to the Community Living associations, the group is also comprised of the Alzheimer’s Society, Mental Health, CCAC, Support Services, and long-term care facilities.
Learning breakfasts were held to enable the organizations to better understand each other’s service offerings. Some of their initial activities centered on promoting aging awareness among families, RDSP and estate planning, and health promotion.
“It just evolved into how do we help our own agencies and those at the table from a service delivery standpoint to be prepared to support these individuals as they age,” says Susan Wavell, Executive Director of Community Living Haldimand.
The Seniors Partnership Group also undertook a community study looking at the demographics of the service agencies’ populations. The study found that over half of the people receiving services were over the age of 45. It also determined that specialized service staff for seniors is often untrained, leading to less effective care and treatment.
“That was a clear indication that we needed to look at what our long-term supports were going to be,” said Wavell.
What came out of those discussions was the idea to develop a training curriculum that could be utilized by developmental service and health-related agencies in their communities. In exchange for the curriculum, training and support network, all participating agencies agreed to prioritize internal training of their staff on the topic of aging and intellectual disabilities.
“One of the things we found was that, other than some information through the Alzheimer’s Society, which has been great in training our staff around dementia issues and related topics, there wasn’t anything coordinated and specific to people aging and developmental disabilities,” said Patricia Morris, Executive Director of Community Living Access Support Services.
“At least in our area, we couldn’t seem to find anything, so we started to build a curriculum ourselves.”
Work on the training curriculum began in October 2013, shortly after receiving funding for the project. It took a year to develop with the assistance of consultants and a train-the-trainer model in mind. The curriculum consists of multiple components and enables organizations to access them when needed. It also teaches frontline staff about the information required by health care providers.
Currently, more than two dozen representatives from the various service providers have received instruction on the curriculum, and they are now training frontline staff within their own organizations.
“I think it’s a really significant issue for our services because as people are aging, our response and our resources need to be reallocated differently within our service system,” said Stella Barker, Executive Director of the Norfolk Association for Community Living.
“If we have people within our own organizations who are really knowledgeable about the curriculum and are able to train other staff, I think that will help us be more flexible in responding to the needs of people as they age.”
The Seniors Partnership Group is in discussions to make the training curriculum available to others across the province.
Morris, Wavell and Barker will be discussing the relationships they have developed and the training curriculum project as part of their presentation, Developing Regional Capacity: Aging and Developmental Disabilities – A Training of Trainers, at Community Living Ontario’s 62nd Annual Conference and AGM. For more information on their session and others, visit our Conference website.