Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Deaf-blind residents have all of the comforts of home

Deaf-blind residents have all of the comforts of home

Politicians and visitors got a close-up look Saturday at one of the city's most valuable group home settings, Lions McInnes House on Henry Street.

"It's given her a life," Eleanor Young of Wartburg, Ont., said of her 50-year-old daughter Cathy, during the facility's annual open house.

"She can do anything in the community with help of an intervener; she's involved in activities like swimming and karaoke."

Cathy Young, like all of the 13 residents of Lions McInnes House, is deaf-blind. She has some vision, however, enough to understand sign language when the speaker's hands are close.

Cathy thinks of Lions McInnes as home, she confirmed, adding that she likes it there, has many friends and will be going home with mom for Christmas.

Cathy is a gregarious woman, and was curious about the attention being shown Saturday by the many visitors. Flash photography brought a smile and a reporter taking notes led to an up-close inspection of pen working on paper.

"It's great here," Eleanor said. "I remember when she was coming out of W. Ross (Macdonald School for the Blind), wondering, 'What's going to happen?' "Thank God for the Lions clubs. As the mother of a child, you worry about their future . . . . Lions clubs came along (with help) at the right time."

The residents get support around the clock, with 35 interveners available to them in addition to administration and staff.

It takes a special person to be an intervener, executive director Joan Brintnell said.

"In hiring interviews, the biggest thing is that they come in and learn about the clients and the philosophy of intervention," she said. "Because there's very limited post-secondary education for interveners, most of them learn here, on the spot."

Essentially, the spirit is one of assisted independence. The intervener goes everywhere with the res- ident, finds out what they need or want, and tries to help them secure that. Not every intervener is the right person for the job.

"Everyone has a variety of needs. Sometimes they'll need a different person to go to work than go to the bar and have a drink," Brintnell said. The most important thing is a willingness on behalf of both the client and the intervener to keep on learning.

"We never stop," she said. "There's no end to the client's learning and no end to our learning."

Lions McInnes House has four three-bedroom apartments and two one-bedroom apartments. It has a couple of big anniversaries coming up in June: 25 years in operation and 10 at this location.

In addition to meeting residents' needs, Brintnell said, the house also works to help the estimated 100 to 150 deaf-blind people throughout the province. Many of them would like similar placement but there simply isn't enough room or support.

"Most of our clients have been here for some time," Brintnell said. "If there's an opening, we let the Canadian Deaf-Blind Association know.

"And when people do come to visit, we want them to realize that unless someone moves out, there may not be a spot."