As the helper, you’re likely going to be in charge of ensuring that the new living situation is safe, welcoming, and a place that will assist their new resident in developing and expanding upon abilities and life skills.
Ultimately, and after vetting for the necessities, the decision truly needs to go with the person who will be living in this new place. Every person should get to live their own life just like every other person gets to. Often, decisions are taken away from people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities because those helping them–consciously or subconsciously–do not consider the person before the diagnosis.
Independence wherever possible is vital for any person to live their healthiest life. Many institutions take these rights away because it’s easier to do something for someone than it is to teach them to do it for themselves.
It’s time for homes communities to let go of old practices and embrace a fresh way of looking at things. It’s time to make things fair. It’s time to get modern with it. Of course for lots of reasons, not everyone has the choice to help find the completely ideal place possible (just like any search for a new home). But, there are some elements to keep in mind when out on an apartment hunt. To help your family member find the best place for them, start with building a good foundation and expanding from there.
Modern Safety Features
Safety is the first building block, and the more modern the equipment, the better. Plenty of people have survived with older safety equipment over the years, but going as modern as possible is pretty much always going to be safer. Many of us have lived in that one apartment. You know, the one where you had to jiggle the key in the front door in a certain way to open it or the one that seemingly had only two heat settings for the shower. But, as you know, proper safety features are a crucial part of living situations when you have intellectual and developmental disabilities.
For some people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, they might be inclined to wander off premises and put themselves in harm’s way because the world was not designed through their eyes. Also, there’s a strong need for protection from people wandering into the place. Check to see if the living arrangement has taken adequate security measures to safely secure the front door and other possible points of entry and exit.
It’s not great if security measures are blatantly imposing as it is supposed to be a home, not a detention facility. For instance, like many of us do, some people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities might find security guards intimidating or even threatening. Is this the case for your loved one? If so, are the security guards in view at all times, and are they wearing a strict uniform–how does your loved one react to them during the tour? There are lots of ways to make sure a community is secure without having to have armed guard.
Do They Offer Programming?
Part two, and we’re looking at overall wellbeing and mental health. Every single person in this world would go stir crazy without things to do and people to be around. Without those, mental health takes a sharp decline. Thriving is better than just surviving–take Tom Hanks’ word for it.
Do the employees in this living situation have an active interest in helping your family member to grow? Are there programs in place to help caregivers provide structure?
Do they have a wide variety of programs such as art, gardening, life skills classes, and more? Do they have a separate room for art and one for quieter activities like reading? Is there a wellness manager on staff who you can ask?
Wherever possible, a job placement program provides a fundamental step on the road to an independent life. Does the living situation you’re looking into have a job placement program? What are the names and addresses of the organizations or local businesses that this place collaborates with? How will your loved one get to and from work safely?
On another very important note, who does the grocery shopping? And do they offer freedom in this as well as providing structured mealtimes and healthy meals? Something as seemingly small as grocery shopping and having the choice to go grocery shopping and pick your own items is key to overall well being. If a person is able to make these decisions for themselves, then they should be able to make decisions for themselves. Does the new place to live assist with independent shopping, safe travel, guided self-checkout options, and money handling education?
Another thing is getting outdoors when you can. Does this community organize regular outings for the residents? If so, where to and do they go to a variety of different places?
Are Residents Respected as Individuals?
Another essential aspect to consider when helping someone with intellectual and developmental disabilities find their new home is the community’s willingness to respect and encourage residents to embrace their own individuality.
Are the residents allowed to have a say in day-to-day matters that affect them and their community? Can residents decide how they want to spend their own time?
Just like any housing rental situation, some of the less appealing things might be glossed over or not discussed at all. Without asking questions and assessing the response, you might end up with a bucket in the middle of the kitchen, catching water from a leaky roof. The day you signed up for said apartment, it was sunny, so how would you have known? The only way you can is via referrals, reading people, and online reviews. Reading people and going with your gut goes a long way, but that’s one of those things that’s easy to forget about when you’re human and on a mission such as the apartment search. Most living spaces will undoubtedly answer that yes, they do respect residents and allow them their freedom. By assessing the management’s choice of words and manner in which they speak can be a total giveaway as long as you’re thinking with your mind and your instinct. Obviously that’s easy to say, but in practice, where there are tons of different things going on, quite a bit harder to execute.
Is There a Strong Community?
One thing you’ll want to inquire about is what sort of socialization and community they have. How many residents live there now? Are nonresidents a part of the community too? Does this place have group activities and options for spending time with others when residents decide that’s what they want to do? What are the policies about aggressive tenants and handling larger disputes?
At the end of the day, the most important aspect of all this is to remember the saying “Nothing About Me Without Me.” A person with intellectual and developmental disabilities should have as much choice as the next person.
Reprinted from https://stephensplace.org/how-to-find-apartments-for-adults-with-special-needs/