Retirement community sued for refusing to allow hiring of personal attendants

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Retirement community sued for refusing to allow hiring of personal attendants.

This lawsuit has a lot to do with the notions I talked about in my last post, about other people’s notions of what disabled people need at any given time. In particular, about the notion that people who need a certain kind or level of assistance belong in a certain kind of building.

In the developmental and psych systems, the hierarchy of kinds of buildings — regardless of what’s actually provided in each — tends to run from large state institutions, to private institutions, to ICF/MRs and group homes and halfway houses, to “supported apartments” and “mental health housing”, to assistance in one’s own apartment. Physically disabled and old people deal more with the threat of nursing homes in particular, although people with CP are often put in the developmental system.

In this case, the woman hires and receives assistance from attendants in her own apartment. The managers of her apartment complex are convinced that this level of support is only possible in a nursing home, despite the evidence in front of them that she is getting exactly this level of support outside of a nursing home.

This is also what happens when people say, “My daughter could never live in her own apartment, she needs a group home.” Or, “My son is in the most restrictive environment possible and I aim to keep him there.” (I heard that last one word for word at a conference on inclusion for DD people. The woman went on to describe a son whose behavior — and reactions to confinement — strongly resembled mine at his age.) People really do believe that the size and shape of a building dictates the amount of assistance people can receive, and that they have the right to decide for us what size and shape of building we should live in.

And that prejudice, as usual, shapes policy, and that needs to change.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

4 responses »

  1. Semi off-the-point from the central thrust of your blog post here, but in reading the article that you linked to, it occurs to me that this is the first time I recall reading a case in which an elderly person used the ADA in a lawsuit to protect their rights in relation to age-related disabilities. I’m sure there are plenty of other cases, and I’m probably just missing them because I tend to focus on news sources from disability advocacy organizations and so on (as well as mainstream media) for this sort of thing. But, even though it’s horrible that this woman had to go to court to defend her right to live where she wants to live, I think it’s good that elderly people and the AARP are (I hope) starting to become more conscious that the ADA can protect THEM, not just younger people with disabilities.

    I think this is important because, society does tend to sympathize more with older people than with people with disabilities, and are more inclined to believe they have a right to live as they wish without other people taking over their decisions for them. If elderly people and the AARP get more involved in disability rights, including things like defending the right to having a full continuum of living and care options — and the right for each consumer to CHOOSE where they “belong” on this continuum — then maybe that would ultimately have some spill-over effects into the disability community.

    But unfortunately, many senior citizens seem to be reluctant to associate themselves with the “disability” label. I suppose this is for a combination of reasons including: stigma of disability; stigma of aging (where disability is associated with old age); unawareness of the disability community; difficulty embracing a new “identity” later in life; negative assumptions that people with disabilities are necessarily “angry and bitter”; denial of their new disability (or even unawareness if it’s something that sneaks up on them very slowly); etc. And, from my admittedly very limited and third-hand observation, that seems to make them more reluctant to advocate for themselves as people with disabilities–even when the label could socially or legally fit.

  2. I want to join you and do some good work concerning with looking after elderly.Ian so loving and trustworthy plus caring.so dont hesitate to talk to me those who need.

  3. This case sounded like it’d have a pretty promising outcome when I read it — though I hate to think how things would’ve worked if Mrs. Bell had not had “her own money” to pay for personal assistants in the first place. It’s pretty apparent that in this case a major motivating factor — in addition to the idea that certain folks belong in certain buildings, and probably a fear of “liability” as well — is money, i.e., the establishment doesn’t like the idea that Mrs. Bell is spending it elsewhere than at their nursing home.

  4. “I think this is important because, society does tend to sympathize more with older people than with people with disabilities, and are more inclined to believe they have a right to live as they wish without other people taking over their decisions for them.”

    Here’s a theory

    Assuming that people look at those disabled in accidents and think “that could never happen to me” simply because they don’t want to believe it could (and many people seem to); and they get can away with that line of thought because there are enough people that that never happens to. I would assume the prejudice is even stronger with genetic or otherwise heretable conditions that are disabled by this society.

    With age, however, it’s much harder to get away with that sort of thing. However much people don’t want to think about it, they know that unless they plan on dying young, they WILL get old, and they WILL have the sort of experiences that accompany that. Many of the effects of aging can be mitigated, but no amount of “health-consciousness” will stop you from dying of old age, whether sooner or later.

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