For people living in a group home or participating in day programs, the staff members often become like family. This is especially true if the person does not have other family involved in his life but is also true when the person’s family is still very involved. When a staff person leaves employment, it can be very much like a member of the family leaving. It can be quite traumatic for the adult with Down syndrome and cause feelings of grief and loss.
In chapter 3 of Mental Wellness in Adults with Down Syndrome, Dr. McGuire and I wrote:
We have often wondered what it would be like to have our families turn over every six months, which, in effect, is the situation in residential facilities with frequent staff turnover. It seems that we ask people with less intellectual ability to deal with greater change than most of the rest of us could cope with. The challenge is to create as much constancy in the “family” as possible, to appreciate the stress that occurs because of these changes, and to be supportive.
Our other resources on grief and loss may be helpful when supporting an individual with Down syndrome after a staff member has left. We are also working on a visual story about coping when staff members leave.