[28 / 0 / ?]

As the Retarded Live Longer, Anxiety Grips Aging Parents

No.354330 ViewReplyOriginalReport
Every afternoon at 3, Marie Covello waits for the van that brings her severely retarded 31-year-old son home from his day program. She takes John's hand to help him up the stairs of their Verona, N.J., house, pats his red hair into place, gives him a glass of water, reminds him to go to the bathroom and settles him in front of the television.

And in the back of her mind, as in those of thousands of other aging parents of retarded children, Mrs. Covello, who is 73, wonders how long she and her 75-year-old husband, Vince, will be able to take care of Johnny -- and what will happen to him when they cannot.

"Sometimes when I'm bathing Johnny and he gets ornery I think, 'God, give me the strength,' because it's hard now that I'm older, and my patience sometimes runs out," said Mrs. Covello. "I don't want to leave the problem for my other children, so we began trying to find a group home for Johnny about six years ago, but we're still on the waiting list. I worry about getting Johnny settled somewhere before something happens to me." Their Own Old Age

Many parents of retarded children never expected to face that worry. But unlike most retarded people born only a generation earlier, Johnny Covello and others of his age will probably outlive their parents. In many cases, because of improved living conditions and medical advance, they will reach their own old age.

As a result, their parents are now facing wrenching decisions about whether to place their offspring in group homes, ask other sons or daughters to take responsibility for the retarded siblings -- or simply hold on and hope that when an emergency arises, the retarded offspring will not be shunted into a large state institution for want of a better opening.
Continue reading the main story

Experts in the field say there are now at least 200,000 retarded people over 60 in the United States.