In an article for the Post–Gazette, freelance writer Tina Calabro chronicled a tragic murder-suicide that took place in the Mon Valley borough of Port Vue. The incident involved an elderly caregiver of a middle-aged son with developmental disabilities.
In December, 78 year old Richard Lipschok of Port Vue took the life of his 52 year old son before taking his own. The elder Lipschok’s wife died the year before, leaving him wondering how to care for his only son. Calabro thinks the notions of previous generations, where the mother of the family was expected to take care of children, caused part of Lipschok’s distress.
Calabro says cases like this are not as uncommon as they may seem, as a similar incident happened in Philadelphia last summer.
“This murder-suicide type thing happens fairly regularly, but it’s not what most people do. But, we do know that people struggle behind closed doors, that they are silently struggling, and what is the situation of these people and is our public system addressing their need for information and providing services?”
Resources for Caregivers
There are organizations providing services to those who may be struggling as caregivers. However, this generation of older caregivers outlined in Calabro’s tragic article may not ask for help when it’s needed. This may be due in part to pride as well as not knowing what resources are available or how to obtain them.
Jeanine Schultz is the director of advocacy and family support for ACHIEVA, a non-profit organization that provides lifelong support and services for individuals with disabilities and their families in southwestern Pennsylvania.
She says there are many resources through ACHIEVA that provide help for older caregivers and their dependents.
“The supports and services can vary. It can be maybe a habilitative aid coming into the home to provide some additional supports. Maybe it’s some respite for the caregivers themselves to just get away for an hour, a day, a weekend, whatever they need. If the individual themselves wants to go live wherever they chose to live, their own apartment, a home, a group home, whatever that setting is, there are dollars out there for the supports and services based off of the urgency of the need.”
The intake line for Allegheny County to register an individual with an intellectual disability above the age of three can be reached at 412-253-1250. Schultz recommends calling with questions even if you are not sure your family member needs to be registered. For more information regarding legal and financial services, contact Rebecca Tyres of Family Trust at 412-995-5000 ext. 589.