Lori Howard would do anything for her son Robbie, who was born with numerous handicaps. Unfortunately, when Robbie was born there were not many programs that provided help for individuals with disabilities; there was only the Georgia Regional Center which was an institution (prison-like place) for those with intellectual disabilities. This was not good enough for Lori who wanted the best for her son. She started meeting with legislators and putting Robbie’s name on waiting lists for services and group homes at the age of 6 because she knew it was a 10-year waiting list.
In the meantime, Lori and her husband Bob hired nursing students or physician assistants to look after Robbie for only 20 hours a week in exchange for room and board and even food. These students made the Howard family’s life just bearable while they were juggling full-time jobs and taking care of Robbie and his younger brother Scott.
Even in the face of rejection, Lori was still the biggest advocate for her son and continuously researched groups to join and resources to speak to about this crisis. During her research, Lori discovered United Cerebral Palsy of Georgia and learned about the services they offered, including their group homes. When Robbie turned 21, he moved into a UCP group home which was important for Lori and Bob. Robbie was able to move out of his parent’s house and be more like the typical adult child.
“The people caring for my son act as his second mothers. They take him to appointments, feed him and bathe him. I can sleep well at night knowing that my son is in the best hands. One of Robbie’s caregivers from the beginning, Maude, has always gone above and beyond; it is obvious she loves Robbie like her own,” said Lori Howard on Robbie’s current living situation.
While living in the group home Robbie has thrived. His house pairs individuals based on their personalities to ensure everyone is comfortable with the situation. However, his house is not removed from the direct support professional labor crisis the industry is facing. Robbie’s house is lucky in that their caregivers on the weekends have remained constant for years, but the weekday caregivers have constantly changed due to the high turnover.
“The caregivers providing Robbie care are truly angels doing a very hard job. These individuals living with disabilities deserve love and care and need caregivers who can dote on them and give them the focus that they need because this population cannot take care of themselves,” said Howard.