I did not know what to expect. Like many of us, I have had some contact with the community to which Ray Foley and Kevin Crudden belong, but no day-to-day experience. Honestly, I never thought a lot about what is required for them, and of them, to go about a day. However, being with them, observing their most intimate routines and external lives, I am changed because of the indelible impression they made on my heart.
On entering their apartment I was immediately attracted to a large high top table tucked into the corner. Its every inch was covered with photographs; Ray as a young handsome teenage boy holding close his tabby cat, Ray and Kevin mugging for the camera on the deck of a Canadian cruise they took with other folks from the Trudeau Center, and family pictures, lots of family pictures. They are loved, much loved by family, friends at the Trudeau Center and loved by the care providers who guide them each day so they can live life well and full.
Because the men live in an apartment, I had thought that there would be only a minor need for a staff person. Yet, once inside, the apartment came to life and I watched the carefully choreographed daily routine that includes meal preparation, aid with personal grooming, and help with finances, dispensing medication, plus out-of home-chores. The men are fortunate to be able to participate in the Trudeau Center’s many programs. They are part of The Shared Living program. It provides semi-independent living within a local community, which allows them to develop interpersonal connections with their long-term care providers and socialization beyond the Trudeau community.
For Ray, 51, and Kevin, 60, roommates for the second time, the bond is evident as I listened to their joshing of each other; still, the thing by which I am taken aback is the absolute tenderness from the Trudeau staff member. I suppose I expect a perfunctory attitude, like medical staff in a hospital, all task and little emotional output, but the mutual affection is palpable.
For Ray and Kevin, adults living with Down’s syndrome, the staff gives stability essential to maintain their progress and emotional health. Families have found a place to trust with their treasure, clients have a structure that works to keep them whole and the professionals of Trudeau have a community to serve with respectable compensation reflective of the skill, responsibility and dedication necessary to serve this population. All of this is about to alter…again.
Two recent rounds of state funding cuts hit the agency like tumultuous waves. And, now, additional, state budget cuts will once more force a decision about who within its fragile community must make-do with further decreases in services. The ramifications will shift lives. The professional and emotionally committed staff will take another cut in pay and benefits too also be trimmed. Families of Trudeau personnel will do with less. Perhaps a second job is taken, and lives are reshaped once more in order to retain their financial stability.
The needs for Ray and Kevin will remain constant, but the staff, programs and efficacy of services will not remain as is. The domino effect begins. The ratio of client to staff is projected to increase. Pressure builds on staff doing more required paperwork, transportation duties and juggling of client’s schedules.
The cuts will result in turnovers and Ray and Kevin will no longer feel the safety and comfort of familiar faces that, unequivocally, create a trusting and calm environment essential to maintain all they have worked so hard to develop.
My assignment was to capture the services provided those with developmental disabilities and show how essential they are. What I found is how dependent these people are and the dignity and love with which they are treated. A lot is at stake and the choices presented by hard economic times are not easy or pleasant especially when affecting a population that has no, or so little understanding, of why they are being made.