JFS Celebrates International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Young man with Downs

December 3 is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. We would like to share some of the great work we’re doing to serve those living with a physical, developmental or emotional/mental illness in our community.

JFS contracts with Ramsey County to provide case management services to individuals who receive services through the state’s various Medicaid disability waivers. These waivers offer an additional package of home and community-based services funded by the state in order to allow those individuals to continue living as independently and successfully as possible within their home and community. Each person receiving services through one of these waivers is assigned a case manager to assist them in setting up the various services they need and provide ongoing monitoring. JFS currently has a team of four case managers working in those roles lead by Disability Services Program Manager Katy Cobb.

Our case managers are not only passionate about identifying the needs and limitations of their clients in relation to how their disabilities affect their day to day lives, but they strive to also help clients identify their strengths and work towards their personal dreams. The case managers put needed services in place including personal care assistance, home health aides or homemaking assistance.

Often times, people with disabilities are viewed as more passive members of society that are unable to contribute to their communities, focusing on their limitations and impairments. Our case managers work hard to focus on the opposite and try to understand the aspirations and goals of their clients in order to help them identify ways they can stay active and participate in things they enjoy.

One of the ways that our case managers help our clients achieve these goals is through the process of creating a support plan. A support plan is a person-centered process that helps people identify and access social, health, educational, vocational and other community and natural supports and services based on the person’s values, strengths, goals and needs. The support plan promotes independence; encourages individuals to make informed choices about their lives; and recognizes that the person has the right to take risks.

Often times, people with disabilities or complex health needs are seen as “difficult,” “non-compliant,” or having “behavior issues” when making decisions to take risks. There is a double standard in our society that if you are person with a disability or complex health condition you must always follow the advice given to you by the various professionals who work with you and face more strict consequences on the care or services provided to you if you choose not to follow that advice. Yet, for those who do not necessarily live with a complex chronic condition, there is more acceptance and even encouragement from others to make choices and take risks if you feel they are best for you, regardless of what others may think.

Our case managers address the risk area within the support plan so that the client remains successful in their plan. They offer support options to the client–even if other members of the support team resist–and recognize the balance of what is important to and for the client to help them make an informed choice. For example, a client’s doctor, caregiver, and/or case manager may feel that there is a risk involved with the client continuing to cook his own meals in his apartment. The client, however, was a former personal chef and has a passion for cooking. He believes it to be a therapeutic process for him to prepare a home cooked meal and feels a sense of accomplishment with every new recipe he masters. However, the client lives with Parkinson’s disease and his tremors have become so severe at times that he has had a few accidents when attempting to cook a meal.

Rather than advising the client not to cook anymore, our case managers try to think more creatively to offer suggestions that allow the client to continue to enjoy the process of cooking but acknowledge the risks involved. Additionally, the case manager could help the client think creatively about how to modify his support plan in order to allow him to continue to experience the joy of cooking. Could the client choose to only prepare meals for himself when his tremors are less severe? Could he have weekly dinner parties with neighbors and prepare meals for them while his party guests are in the next room and able to assist in the event of an emergency? Could he consider writing a cookbook and compiling his favorite recipes to share with the world?

In our experience, meeting the needs of our clients starts with the clients themselves and understanding their hopes, dreams and desires while doing our part to help those goals become a reality.

For more information on support planning and how to best support people with disabilities, check out this video of how our counterparts overseas are actively supporting their clients in similar ways.