Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Slow Motion Rethink

There has been a great deal of discussion lately about “long-term care” in our field. While I accept and embrace the challenge of looking at systematic, lifelong solutions that will allow individuals with one or more disabilities to live fulfilling lives in their communities for their entire lives, I am growing to dislike the use of the phrase “long-term care.” There – I’ve said it. Now that I have said it, it probably will be around a long time.

I dislike the phrase because, like many other words associated with people we know, I think it reinforces a stereotype that many people have about the human services field – mainly, that everything and everyone in the human services field moves in slow motion.

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Nothing could be further from the truth. Models, methods, treatments, medications, technologies and expectations are changing and improving by the moment. People we serve are responding more quickly and opening more opportunities, sometimes more quickly than the “long-term care” system can adjust.

This is not a recent phenomenon in our field, either. Imagine! was formed back in 1963 by a group of parents who wanted their children (who happened to have developmental disabilities) to have the same opportunities to engage in their communities as all the other children in the neighborhood. In short, this organization was founded to bring about change.

And what a change this organization, and thousands of others across the nation, brought about. Just 50 years ago, the standard practice was to hide individuals with developmental disabilities away in institutions – and as a whole, society accepted that approach.  Now, community integration is the accepted norm. Sure, we still have a ways to go before we get to full inclusion, but you must admit that the last five decades have brought about significant (and positive) change.

That is why it baffles me somewhat when I hear people in our field complain about the ever-changing nature of what we do. Change is a wonderful thing. Change is the reason we are here – to change lives by providing tools and services to those who need a little assistance in becoming contributing members of their communities.

I believe strongly that organizations which embrace change are the ones that are going to be the most successful as we move forward. I only hope that “long term care” doesn’t stand in the way.

Then again, what do I know? 

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