Leo’s Letter: Labor Day: A Time also for Family Caregivers and Support Staff

The end of summer coincides with the Labor Day holiday. While Labor Day became a legal holiday in 1894, the first workers parade was held in New York City with 10,000 marchers in 1882.

With a formal title like “Labor Day,” it’s easy to forget family caregivers who often exhibit grace, resilience, and a steadfast commitment to those they love. More than 60% of adults with disabilities such as autism, Down syndrome, and other developmental disabilities live with family members.  This is a good time for us to think about the support their caregivers need.  In 2016 we worked hard for passage of new family support funds; $5 million was allocated.  But we realize more has to be done. We believe the right mix of Medicaid long term support services and Department of Developmental Services (DDS) is the most effective way to meet that needs of a potentially vulnerable population and families.

Direct support professionals or staff should be recognized this week, too. I saw a great definition the other day for staff and possibly parents: their role is to assist an individual with a disability to lead a self-directed life and contribute to the community, assist with activities of daily living if needed.”  Regardless of the nature of the disability? What is the person you support interested in, what is best for his/her rhythm of life? We all need some recognition of our desires and interests to live a fulfilling life.  We have to make sure our service system reinforces this healthy value – and that we recognize those staff who play this essential role. They can serve as role models to other staff who think their role is custodian or supervisor to those they assist.

Winston Churchill remarked, “…you make a life by what you give.” On this Labor Day, thank you for your caregiving and support.

Leo V. Sarkissian, Executive Director

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