The challenges that arise as one ages can be complicated. But for aging adults who have children with disabilities, their concerns are even more complex since they often have growing financial, social, emotional, and physical issues of their own. The gnawing worry about who will be around to care for their child with a disability can add even more stress. Statistics show that more than three fourths of older adults with disabilities are aging in place with their parents, a number that will only grow during the "silver tsunami."
JUF News spoke with Rosann Corcoran, CJE SeniorLife's Clinical Supervisor and Linkages Coordinator, to learn more about what CJE and other Federation-affiliated agencies are doing to address the rising concerns of the families and service providers in light of many recent policy changes affecting long-term supports for older adults and people with disabilities.
JUF News: What makes CJE SeniorLife's Linkages program so unique?
Rosann Corcoran: One of only a few programs like it in the country, and the only one in Chicago, Linkages was originally formed to reduce the potential institutionalization or homelessness of adult children with disabilities and to give support to their aging parents. With a state system that is finally changing its focus from institutional services to community services, families and service providers are scrambling to understand how this will impact them. Quite often, however, there is misinformation and misunderstanding about what services are actually available.
What has been done to raise awareness about services and support systems for older adults and people with disabilities?
Linkages recently collaborated with a number of Federation-affiliated agencies to host an event-Policy, Advocacy and You: An Update on Disability and Aging Services-during Jewish Disability Awareness Month. This community event for seniors, people with disabilities and professionals focused on changes to long-term supports and services at the federal, state and local levels-all of which have a direct impact on the delivery of services to local families.
What were the main topics discussed at the event?
The hot topic was the sheer number of legislative changes that are happening on a national, state and local scale while the state of Illinois still lags far behind in implementing them. This "perfect storm" has been overwhelming for both families and service providers. From the Affordable Care Act to the Illinois' SMART Act, which caused major changes to Medicaid, to the roll out of the Integrated Care Program to the Ligas, Colbert and Williams legislation and the Governor's Rebalancing Initiative-our state's attempt to save money while also trying to expand and improve services has been unduly stressful and challenging.
While these changes create the opportunity for improving quality of life and community living, they can also create fear of the unknown such as the possibility of limited choices and reductions in the quality of services and supports.
What are some of the emerging changes in the social service system that can provide support for older adults and people with disabilities?
To better help families navigate the emerging changes in long term supports and services, a network of referral agencies has been set up by the Federal government and the State of Illinois known as Aging and Disability Resource Network (A.D.R.N.). CJE currently participates in this referral network by serving as an A.D.R.N. for the Niles Township area. Typically, seniors and people with disabilities can meet with a CJE Resource Specialist to learn more about the new Health Insurance Marketplace, Medicare plans, retirement information, veteran's benefits, real estate tax exemptions, financial management, and other government and community resources as well as long term supports and services for seniors and adults with disabilities.
How can readers find out more about CJE's Linkages program or the services of the A.D.R.N.?
There are a number of ways to connect with CJE's Linkages program. Information and referral services can be provided over the phone. We have a support group for parents of adults with disabilities, which focuses on more sensitive issues within a small group setting in an effort to reduce feelings of isolation and discuss the best ways to access community aging and disability resources in Illinois. As one parent commented, "I don't know what I would do without CJE and the Linkages program. They have become family to me."
We also have a monthly information meeting for larger groups where guest speakers cover relevant topics such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, housing and financial independence for people with disabilities, and services for people with mental illness. We also hold social events twice a year, providing adults with disabilities and their families with an uplifting way to connect with one another. Our quarterly newsletter features updates on current disability issues as well as information on such upcoming programs.
You can find out more about CJE SeniorLife's Linkages program, including upcoming events, vital resources, and the latest newsletters, at www.cje.net/linkages. For more information, please contact Rosann Corcoran, Clinical Supervisor and Linkages Coordinator, at (773) 508-1694 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about A.D.R.N. services in Niles Township, please call Elisa Todd, Aging and Disability Resource Specialist, at (847) 656-6338 or email email@example.com.