“Frances Gauthreaux is a hometown hero because she is leading the way for successful aging for adults with Down syndrome by helping their families connect with specialized resources, services and information.
Individuals with Down syndrome are living longer than ever before. It is now common to see adults with Down syndrome in their 50s, 60s and 70s. However, living longer is accompanied by experiencing life at a slower pace. Frances Gauthreaux is a mentor and advocate in our local community and has been setting the stage for successful aging. Her son, Excell, is almost 51 years old and has Down syndrome. He also experiences medical, physical and functional complications due to “accelerated aging”, which is common for individuals with Down syndrome, including early-onset Alzheimer’s. Older adults with Down syndrome have different needs because of their intellectual disability. Complicating this picture is that “normal aging” in adults with Down syndrome is still not completely understood, and therefore predicting and preparing for the aging process becomes more challenging. Not only is Excell part of the first generation of older adults with Down syndrome to experience aging, but Frances is part of the first -generation of caregivers caring for and learning about their unique needs.
In addition to being Excell’s full time caregiver, Frances spends time each day advocating for other aging adults with Down syndrome and their families. She strongly believes that support, advocacy, and education about successful aging for our loved ones with Down syndrome is important. Life at a slower pace shouldn’t equal life without quality and support. Existing programs like social groups and day treatment centers are more suitable for young adults with special needs, as people like Excell are unable to keep up. Due to minimal availability of specialized programs, Frances pioneered programs and services for aging adults with Down syndrome, including Down Syndrome Network’s Aging Matters program. Aging Matters is a free program that addresses safety, stability, social (emotional) issues, and symptoms. Keeping older adults involved in community activities maximizes their function by stimulating them at a level that is challenging but not overwhelming. It is truly a nationally unique program that focuses on topics such as mental wellness, caregiver management, quality of life, management strategies, behavior modifications, Down syndrome & Alzheimer’s, good health, planning, community involvement, social sensitivity and therapy opportunities through art/music. In two years, the Aging Matters program is rapidly expanding and supports more than 300 older adults with Down syndrome and their families.
Frances is dedicated to creating and providing accessible opportunities for our loved ones. She has been a volunteer for Detour Theatre Company, Special Olympics, STARS and various other organizations who provide services to the developmentally disabled. Frances hopes to continue serving our community by working with DSNetwork and Barrow’s Neurological Institute to establish an Adult Down Syndrome Clinic in the valley. Frances’ impact has given parents hope and encouragement as they watch their loved ones with Down syndrome continue to engage in meaningful programs and relationships. ”
Frances is one of 2 community leaders who were selected to receive this honor. Please join DSNetwork in congratulating Frances for all of her hard work and dedication to our loved ones with Down syndrome!