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Transitions in Aging

Promoting Community Participation

Scenario #4: Mary-Jane (MJ)

Photo of two women on couch

  • Age: 82
  • Type of developmental disability: Profound hearing impairment
  • Type of residence: Long-term care facility
  • Demographic location: Small town

NEXT: Scenario #5: Lucy

Notes and References

Mary-Jane (MJ)
Mary-Jane is 82 years old and has a profound hearing impairment. She has been living in a long-term care facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania (a small city).

MJ's daughter has recently moved to a small town in Arizona due to a job offer and decided that it was best that MJ make the move as well. MJ lived in the Allentown facility for approximately 10 years; and she had made friends and all of the support staff accommodated her wants/needs.

MJ needs assistance with the activities of daily living and uses a rolling walker to ambulate. She has been in the new facility for two weeks and has been emotionally upset and has not been sleeping properly. MJ refuses to participate in any group activities and does not acknowledge other residents. She would rather be alone or with her daughter. MJ explains a desire to leave the facility to visit her daughter's new home. Since this town is newly developed, most buildings are accessible.

MJ uses written/picture communication because no one at this facility knows sign language. The most productive, relaxed times of the day are the hour after lunch and the hour after dinner when her daughter comes to visit. Her daughter is the primary form of communication between MJ and the support staff. MJ's daughter told the support staff that MJ used to be an artist and loved working in a garden when she was growing up. At the old facility, MJ was involved in the horticulture program almost every day.

Take a couple of minutes to think about how you would help Mary-Jane become a more active community participant.

Suggestions for community integration:

MJ may be more interested in participating in the activities if her daughter is included for a short time, just until she feels more comfortable with the other residents. If this is not a possibility, the staff could also work with MJ individually and gradually expose her to the other residents. The lack of communication between MJ and the residents at the long-term care facility is a huge barrier to integrating into her "new" community. MJ and her daughter may need to be provided with an interpreter to translate for her or with resources for the use of other communication devices. Additionally, the staff could engage MJ in arts and craft activities and horticultural programs to allow her express her feelings. As MJ is very close to her daughter, the staff can assist her in planning individual trips with her daughter to explore the town and to promote a feeling of inclusion in the community.