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When I Worry About What the Future Holds for My Brother With Autism

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I  recently saw a news article about how seven residents and two staff members of a group home were sent to the hospital due to receiving insulin shots instead of flu shots. Although this incident was most likely an accident with no ill-intent, it still scares me. What if someone was careless? What if a staff member blew off an unresponsive resident due to a health condition they have? What if it were my loved one?

Vulnerable individuals and their families were harmed and fearful of the immediate and unknown future consequences of this mistake. Although no one has died to my knowledge, it makes me worry as a sibling of someone with autism, intellectual disabilities and other health issues. Why? Because one day my sibling will transition into another home where my family and I won’t be around all the time. He will be in the hands of whoever is staffed there, whether they have his best interests at heart or not. It then makes me obsess over the risk of abuse and how he isn’t able to report if he is being hurt, especially since he is nonverbal.

I also think of my sibling’s health issues and how he will be cared for in the future. Will a mistake like this happen again and have disastrous health consequences for him long after the event? My worst nightmare is getting a call from a hospital saying he was brought in due to someone’s negligence. I don’t want to see a day where I have to rush to a hospital to not only make the decisions, but to calm him down for treatment and ensure he is as comfortable as possible given sensory needs. Nor do I want to see him harmed long-term physically and emotionally because of it.

Families of individuals with significant disabilities hope the future will be bright for their loved one, but news stories like this make our anxiety flare. It makes some families take care of their loved ones until they are well into their 70s or older. My hope for my sibling is that he can live on his own, and always have a safe and supportive environment where he can live his best life just like the rest of us. I want all families to be able to know their loved ones are safe and as independent as possible. I hope to see it happen in my lifetime.

Getty image by Domepitipat.

Originally published: December 17, 2019
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