STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Housing for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities has been scarce for years as the need continues to grow across the borough.

In 2015, there were over 50,000 New Yorkers with developmental disabilities living with a relative caregiver, many of whom are 60 or older. That number is likely much higher in 2018.

Diane Campione, special needs program coordinator for the New York Public Library, and Diana Thompson, lifestyle and engagement director at The Brielle, hope to get a pilot program off the ground that would ease the burden for seniors who are caring for a loved one with a disability.

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Campione is the parent of a 22-year-old son with high-functioning autism.

The Brielle, an assisted living facility which has a capacity of 188 that currently operates at 96, is looking to start co-habitating seniors who are caring for an adult child with disabilities in the facility.

“This would be a unique option to keep families together and it has not been available before,” Campione said.

“When you’re at the age when you can no longer take care of the family member with a disability and looking to go into assisted living, you’d have the option of bringing the individual that you’ve kept home with you,” she said.

Thompson said The Brielle wants to be a resource however they can. This program would fill a large void on Staten Island.

“The idea of being 80-years-old and being with my 60-year-old son is an easier transition for me as a parent and much easier for him,” Campione said.

Importance of Routine

The Brielle has companion suites — two separate bedrooms that have a common dining and kitchen area, as well as a bathroom — that could house spouses, siblings or parents and children.

Accommodations can be made based upon each family’s need, such as putting two separate beds in one room and using the second room as a living space, instead of separate bedrooms.

Their goal is to keep the family’s routine when they transition to the facility.

“A part of what keeps the seniors sharp is routine, and keeping the routine as constant as possible helps us fight off progression of dementia in a lot of cases,” Thompson said.

Campione said continuity of routine is important for individuals with disabilities as well.

Both seniors and individuals with disabilities would have access to The Brielle’s amenities — housekeeping, on-staff doctors and resident nurses, laundry services, physical therapy and more — in addition to in-house programs like games, yoga, lectures on important topics and art programs.

Thompson said when the parent dies, the child will continue to live in the facility and continue all programs and services they received while their parent was alive.

Putting Feelers Into The Community

Last year, Borough President James Oddo suggested a similar idea for co-habitated living.

Oddo suggested a community residence for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities on the grounds of the old Sea View Hospital — a cluster of attached or semi-attached homes with a central office for around-the-clock administrative staff.

When asked about The Brielle’s idea, a spokesperson for Oddo said the borough president was “intrigued” by the concept and aware of the need for housing for adults with disabilities.

The spokesperson said the borough president’s office is working on ways to amplify and move the discussion along.

The Brielle recently had a vendor and resource fair where they put out feelers into the community for the pilot program.

Campione said the idea was well received by everybody she spoke with, as well as other local elected officials who she approached.

The Brielle is a private pay community; individuals pay the facility and can be reimbursed through insurance and other planning funds that have been set up by the family.

Thompson said it hopes to operate the co-habitation suites the same way, and are working on establishing life-care funds, similar to planning funds that individuals with disabilities have, that could accommodate both parent and child.

© 2018 Staten Island Advance, N.Y.
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