Over the last four decades, The Meadows has hired adults with a broad spectrum of intellectual challenges. For the most part, this has been richly rewarding for all concerned as we’ve been privileged to witness firsthand the way people’s lives have been transformed in positive and meaningful ways by being employed.
However, there is a particular aspect of working with these men and women that is incredibly difficult - but unavoidable. It is the fact that there can be overwhelming health issues that occur as they grow older.
In some cases, people with a developmental disability diagnosis age faster than other segments of the population, and eventually their capabilities can be compromised in such a way that they can no longer work safely.
While not every person with an intellectual challenge will be at risk, it is true that the onset of decline sometimes starts earlier and progresses more rapidly in someone with this type of disability. When an individual reaches that stage of their life, they become more vulnerable and, therefore, dependent on others.
This period of transition can be an unsettling time. The man or woman who is aging at an accelerated rate may not fully understand that their circumstances have changed. Meanwhile, their family faces life-altering decisions regarding the future of their loved one.
But it is important to remember that when someone is battling the ravages of age, their life still has just as much meaning as it did when they were younger and in better health. They are still the same person. They are loved, and they have an impact on the world around them. They deserve compassion and should always be treated with dignity and respect.
During the past 40 years, The Meadows has had older employees whose condition deteriorated to the point where their ability to work without risk and undue stress was negatively affected. Sadly, through close consultation with their families, it was decided that it would be best for them to step down from their job.
Those situations are the most challenging we face. No one wants to say goodbye to a valued coworker who, more importantly, was a friend. But it is undeniable that one day many of us will no longer be able to care for ourselves without the assistance of others. And when that time comes, we will each believe that our life still matters and that we should be treated accordingly.
The men and women who have left our organization because of health issues are always in our thoughts. Their years of dedicated service and commitment were an integral part of our success, and in return they experienced the dignity of work and the pride of earning a well-deserved paycheck.
Tragically, some of those individuals eventually lost their struggle with age. But the sadness we will always feel is tempered by the joy we had working side by side as we shared years of fun and laughter. Through those heartwarming memories, our friends will live on.
They will never be forgotten, and they will be forever missed.