Supporting parents who need help


October 10, 2002|By Lorraine Gingerich | Lorraine Gingerich,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

POWER OF Positive Parents, which met Saturday in Clarksville, is trying to increase its networking efforts, according to Ellicott City resident Ted Geppert. In an "open forum" format, the participants introduced themselves and described their personal circumstances.

The support group for parents, families and caregivers who care for adults with mental retardation and related disabilities was launched about 1990; six families began meeting informally to share information and support.

"We kept running into people with the same situation," Geppert said.

Five years later, the group founded POPP to help disseminate information to a wider audience. Recruitment was all by word of mouth because "no one's allowed to give us a list of people that have a handicapped [family] member," Geppert said.

Most of the families associated with POPP have adult children who are no longer in the Howard County public school system. When they were young, these children attended programs in the county. But once they were out of school, their parents were totally responsible for their care.

"Once they leave [school], it's like dropping off a cliff," Geppert said.

Parents choose residential and day programs for their children, but waiting lists are common. And it can be difficult to obtain funds to pay for the programs. Sometimes it takes years for a family to iron out the wrinkles in its benefits package and get a child enrolled in a successful program.

Geppert's situation is running smoothly now, but he said he has had some challenging times. His daughter, Denise, 38, is in individual family care, a program administered by the Developmental Disabilities Administration of Maryland. Denise Geppert stays at her caregiver's home during the week while she attends a day program. She returns to her father's home on weekends.

Vi Compton of Clarksville also has worked out a solution for her daughter's care. Michele Compton, 34, has spina bifida, uses a wheelchair and lives at home.

Vi Compton says she likes having her daughter at home. "My level of satisfaction is very high," she said.

She has been with POPP for years and credits the group with providing a valuable support system for people in her situation. "It's very informal," Vi Compton said. "That's why I like it."

Not everyone is as happy as parents Geppert and Compton.

Mike O'Hare says he is frustrated with the system. He attended Saturday's meeting in the hope of getting information that could help his son Brian, 27. His son lives at home, but Mike O'Hare thinks it would be better if he could live in a residential facility. Unfortunately, public funds are not available to pay for the service.

"We're his 24-hour-a-day parents," O'Hare said. "In the morning, we feed him, dress him and get him on the bus. In the evening, we do it all over again." O'Hare said his family can't participate in outside activities because his son is combative. "Nobody understands what we're going through," he said.

Geppert sympathizes. Funds for residential programs have been curtailed, he said, and the money that is available is going to older parents, usually those who are older than 60. O'Hare is 54.

Geppert does not plan to have another meeting until March, but he invites caregivers to call him in the meantime. "We know there are many, many other families out there," he said.

Information: Ted Geppert, 410-750-6349, or Jack Kaulfuss, 410-442-2011.

Dayton's parade

Patsy Bryan of Dayton is excited about the Dayton Daze Parade and Picnic scheduled for Sunday. "All are welcome to participate in the parade and picnic," she said.

The festivities are to begin at noon, with a parade lineup on Rutherford Way. As anyone knows who has been to Dayton Daze, the parade lineup is a party in itself.

The parade will begin at 1 p.m. and travel down Ten Oaks and Green Bridge roads. You never know who will participate in the parade, but some of the regulars include the River Hill Marching Band, Scout troops, children riding decorated bikes, antique cars and firetrucks.

After the parade, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., a picnic will be held at 5085 Green Bridge Road. Take food or buy it at the Lions Club stand. Wendy the Clown will be on hand, and a cakewalk, Moon Bounce, sack races and pumpkin-painting are planned.

A hopeful time

Cassie Kilroy Thompson is recovering at her Clarksville home after cancer surgery. She has started an online journal that describes her experiences with surgery, chemotherapy and recovery.

In the journal, Thompson describes how she is progressing, and she thanks Girl Scout troops and community members who have helped her.

Kathie Underwood, who lives nearby, visits Thompson regularly. "She is currently undergoing chemotherapy," Underwood said. "She is at home recuperating and doing some quilting."

You can check Thompson's Web site at www.caringbridge. org/md/cassie/.

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