Connecticut families face difficult realities when adult children leave group homes during pandemic

Connecticut Families

(WTNH) — News 8 is continuing its look at the situation in group homes during the pandemic. Some parents took their adult children out of their group homes so they could ride out the health crisis together but, now, they’re facing huge challenges.

Robby Porter moved into a specialized group home last August. The deaf, intellectually disabled man with autism made friends and worked in a day program.

“He was in such a beautiful place before the start of this. He was so happy and proud of his life and now everything has been ripped apart and we have to start all over again,” says his mom, Sherri Zummo.

At the start of the coronavirus crisis, she kept her medically-fragile son in Mystic with her. And now he can’t go back to his group home until the visitation ban is lifted.

RELATED: How Connecticut families are dealing with the visitation ban at group homes amid the coronavirus pandemic

“Cognitively, Robby is 3 to 6 with scattered skills…he knows something is going on, he sees people wearing masks, that raises anxiety in him, his OCD is through the roof,” explains Zummo. “He’s become very aggressive. I’ve had holes put in my walls over the last 8 weeks, he’s never put holes in my walls.”

Zummo has been forced to call the police three times in the past week.

“When Robby is in aggressive meltdown, even though he’s a small guy, he’s a very strong guy, and it takes 4 to 5 people to hold him down safely,” she says. “I had some scratches and bruises and he rubs them to make them go away, tells me to take a shower, because he feels awful.”

“Our folks are with us for a reason, because the families, for a variety of reasons, aren’t able to sustain them on a day-to-day basis by themselves,” says Tracey Walker, CEO of Journey Found, noting that families, who took loved ones home, are struggling without their usual routines and services. “We do have three situations now with individuals back with their families temporarily without supports.”

“I’ve had probably an average of 1 to 3 hours of sleep a night for the past 3 weeks,” says Zummo. “Last night, Robby was awake until 5 o’clock in the morning.”

Zummo tries to engage him in cooking and cleaning. Robby, a talented artist, also loves cars, especially Ford Expeditions. A friend lent one to the family and it’s become a lifeline.

“That’s one tool I have when I see him going down a negative road, I can bring him out to the car, look at the car, check things out,” says Zummo. “I’m a mom, I’m just going to get through this.”

The Department of Developmental Services recently extended the visitation ban to mid-June and it could go longer.

Zummo fears life won’t return to normal for her and Robby until early fall.

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