Your crucial role . . .
Caregivers for supported persons have the most crucial role through their immediate, ongoing involvement. In Ontario, the government classifies a person as an “adult” once they turn 18. This has many implications. When a supported person turns 18, your role may well change in significant ways. Let’s speak directly to primary caregivers who are responsible for a supported person.
As a caregiver, there are very critical aspects of your involvement that need to be addressed a few years before your charge actually turns 18. Depending on individual circumstances, you may need to “get the ball rolling” a few years before that eighteenth birthday—let’s think in terms of age 14.
Becoming better prepared
The four years of flipping calendar pages needs to be matched by active engagement with agencies like Haldimand-Norfolk REACH in order to prevent a serious disruption in services and supports. There are likely to be gaps and disruptions. The point is to be prepared and to minimize the effect of these by forward-looking and forward-planning actions. Here are some more things to be aware of as the supported person turns 18.
First, while eligibility was long established and services and supports were provided during childhood, after age 18, the supported person may have to re-establish his or her eligibility as a new thing. This could mean a new round of tests and reports to confirm eligibility for new services and supports.
Second, adult developmental services are voluntary services. That means the supported person does not have to accept support if he or she chooses not to.
Third, it means that the supported person has the right to make decisions about things that affect his or her own life. If your family member receives support from an adult developmental services provider, the service provider is going to look first to the supported person for direction and guidance about what kind of support he or she wants. The service provider will also respect the role that family and friends have in a person’s life.
It is important to understand the person-centred philosophy of support that guides the actions of service providers. They regard the person as being at the centre of all decisions and believe that the person should (as best as is possible) be in control of his or her own life. The role of service providers is to provide information, options and alternatives to the person to assist him or her in making “informed choices.”
Another role of the service provider is to respect a person’s right to take risks. We all take risks. It is a means by which we grow and change. As long as a person is making informed choices and understands the possible consequences and outcomes, then the person has right to make choices affecting his or her own life.
The person-centred philosophy of support does not remove the responsibility of the agency to ensure that the person is making informed choices. Rather, it is a framework within which to provide support in a way that respects the person’s dignity and the choices that have been made.
So, as a caregiver, you will see a whole new set of circumstances come into play after that eighteenth birthday.
The Ministry of Community and Social Services (MCSS) has provided an extensive list of resources about person-centred planning. There are many are workbooks with activities that can guide involved persons.