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Healthy Aging

A quote of Mother Theresa’s kept coming to me, which was, “look around in your own community and you will find people who need a helping hand.” Little did I know the impact it would have on my life.

Life review work is recognized by gerontologists as an important aspect of aging well. It needs to be done sensitively, and only when a person is ready. Some people have painful periods in their past that they do not wish to touch on. This is fine. Preparing a life story book can give an opportunity to review, integrate and savour many past moments. To help a person with a developmental disability prepare his or her life story book can be a great privilege, as enriching for the helper as for the person helped. The book should be a celebration of special relationships, events and milestones in a person’s life and should lift up the person’s gifts and goodness. A simple method…

The topic of aging is a very timely and important one for us in L’Arche as it is for society as a whole.
Today in L’Arche more than fifty percent of the thousand individuals with developmental disabilities that we support in communities across Canada are now over the age of forty.

We want to continue to provide care that is person centered, of high quality and focused on relationships. Each person, situation is unique.

This PowerPoint will provide a general overview of some normal changes that may occur in aging and how to support people through these changes. It can be used as a tool within teams to train and to reflect upon better means of supporting people at this stage of life.

Changing Needs   [Top of page]

A vision of supporting people with intellectual disability as they age and die: core values.

"It is only with the heart that one sees rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye."
Antoine de Saint Exupéry

What Danielle brought us in terms of joy, surprise and trust lives on with us—in a way transfigured, because her weakness now allows us to see her as tenderness in its “purest form”.
Love revealed through vulnerability and loss.
This guide is destined for families and caregivers who accompany, in daily life, persons with an intellectual disability who have Alzheimer’s disease. You will find tips, “how-to” ideas, and other information that will help you to live even more deeply your relationship with the person you are accompanying and to discover all that is beautiful and holy in that special companionship.
The understanding, compassion and care we show those having dementia is teaching us new ways of being with each other.
This power point compiled by Jane Powell can be used as a source of information or as a tool for training teams. It looks at symptoms, behaviors, phases of the illness and facilitating communication

Complex-Palliative Care   [Top of page]

This document was created in response to the questions of when, how and who decides if a person with a disability needs to move from a home to long term care, hospice or other alternative settings. Circles of support and decision making have been an important aspect in responding to those questions.
A brief testimonial shares some of the experience lived in L’Arche Ottawa, and the wisdom acquired, as they have walked with families and people with developmental disabilities through aging and dying.
The following questionnaire is a useful tool in helping a person with an intellectual disability express clearly their wishes for a power of attorney for property, power of attorney for personal care and a living will.
Form composed of 4 levels of care for advance care directives.
"Real presence is more than the attention of a spectator. It is giving oneself as participant in a relationship. It is presence born out of availability and a spirit of quietness. It requires receiving a presence as well as giving one’s own."
Marsden, 1990


Dying is a core experience of our life’s journey.
In L’Arche we try to face death and walk with our brothers and sisters as they live their journey of dying. We believe that dying is a phase of life in which each person’s gifts can be further revealed when they are held well by a caring community.
This power point compiled by Jane Powell will examine the essential elements of palliative care, the differences and similarities between the palliative care and disability sectors, definitions of quality of life and the usual composition of a palliative care team.

Ending Life Well   [Top of page]

As one ages an end of life plan, that allows people to express their wishes for their care, their estate and their funeral and burial, is an important step. The following is a description of an end of life plan developed by two members of L’Arche Vancouver.
Two end of life testimonials: “Cecile’s capacity to speak about death matter-of-factly and peacefully pushed the rest of us to grow. She was able to ask us questions that helped us think about death.” “Following Bill’s wishes was a way of really honouring this great and humble man.”
Saying Good-Bye: Remembering, Celebrating, Memorializing. Some practices:

Several sources of legal and administrative information exist on the topic of death.
Here you will find a “pastoral” or spiritual guide to help you reflect and prepare for this final passage.
You will find several practical details that you may wish to note. Your notes could help those who remain after your death to prepare your funeral and liturgy.

Tool to help people with intellectual disabilities plan their end of life and how they wish to be remembered

Dying is the most general human event, something we all have to do.
But do we do it well?
Can it somehow become an act of fulfillment, perhaps more human than any other human act?

We, at L’Arche, believe that preparing well for one’s death is an act of love. Good preparation can also help those you leave behind to focus on celebrating your life.
The Celebration Booklet along with this accompanying power point provide tools for reflection and preparation for a person’s final journey.

Grieving   [Top of page]

The Manual sets out basic principles and ground rules, suggestions for getting started, weekly goals and a detailed plan and worksheets for a 7-week Grief Support Group with 5-6 people who have an intellectual disability. Each facilitator of the Grief Support Group should have a copy of this Manual.

The background document describes the origins of L’Arche’s work on Grief Support and what it has learned over several years. Facilitators should read this document.


Each member of the group should have a copy of My Grief Support Group Journal. It describes the theme and preparation for each of the seven weeks that the group will meet. Group members should bring their Journal to each meeting.


The following power point accompanies the article “Grieving in the Context of a Community of Differently-abled People” and contains some of the experience and wisdom gained as people with disabilities and « assistants » live and share life together in L’Arche.
This article by Jane Powell comes out of the experience of grieving in the context of a community of “differently-abled” individuals. It includes 7 steps to prepare for the loss of a loved one, what is helpful at the time of death, and supporting one another after death.

We each have our own journey of mourning to travel. This power point, by Christine Hodgson and Pippa Hall of the Institute of Palliative Care-University of Ottawa guides us through the journey.