The direct support workforce is and has been in crisis. People with disabilities have individual and unique needs and abilities just like everyone else. To live a healthy and meaningful life, they depend on the services carried out by Direct Support Professionals. Although many people have a good idea of what a DSP is and what they do, some people may not and that’s why I chose to follow a DSP for a few hours.

Early mornings at the Brunswick home

Pam assisting Crystal in Hoyer Lift

Today I followed one of our DSPs during the busiest part of her shift. Pamela Cudney works the morning shift Monday-Friday. After clocking in at 7 am, she immediately starts preparing for the day. When I arrived at the residential home, Pam was in the process of prepping Crystal for her daily shower. Crystal required full assistance during bathing time. After showering, Pam dried Crystal off and put her clothes on her. She utilized an electric Hoyer lift to safely place Crystal back into her wheelchair. Lindsey is Crystal’s roommate. Because she often wakes up later in the morning, Pam has to wake her to administer her meds. When Lindsey decides to fully get up and out of bed, Pam or the 2nd staff will encourage her to take a shower. During that time, they assist Lindsey by giving verbal prompts to complete the showering process. Lindsey was not up during the time I visited the home.

Breakfast Time

Pam and Crystal during breakfast

Everyone moved to the kitchen for breakfast. Pam asked Crystal what she wanted for breakfast before starting the meal. Because Crystal is physically unable to cook, Pam cooked for her. Crystal stated that she wanted her bacon to be crispy because she doesn’t like rubbery bacon. Pam respected her request, and made sure the bacon was crispy! After being asked if she picked out her own clothing each day, Crystal stated “Yes, I pick out my own clothing. I also pick out what I want to eat.” At that moment, she nicely asked Pam to set out pork chops for her so that they would be thawed before dinner. When the food was done, Pam put an apron around Crystal to protect her clothing. Before eating, I asked Crystal if she ate independently or required assistance. She stated “I used to eat independently until I had my surgery. I try to feed myself, but it takes too long and my food gets really cold. That’s why I prefer assistance from my staff.” Pam began feeding Crystal afterward. After finishing her meal, Pam assisted Crystal with teeth brushing.

The Remainder of the Shift

Because Crystal and her roommate do not work or participate in Day Services, they chose what they want to do for the remainder of the day. Pam stated that she enjoys playing UNO with the ladies and actually purchased a foam block to hold Crystal’s cards up during the game. Community access is also an important part of each day. Pam takes the ladies out in the community to places like the mall, library, or simply to the grocery store. Crystal and Lindsey display great self-advocacy skills, so that really helps when planning the day.  I asked Pam what she liked most about her job and she said “I really enjoy helping others and bettering their lives. I want to see people succeed and be happy.”

Each of our homes is different in their own way. Some of our individuals receive full care and some require very little. Some of our individuals have jobs, some go to Day Services, and some chose to stay home. At ACT, we encourage self-advocacy and choice. Pam and the rest of our caring DSPs make it possible for our agency to offer a variety of services and quality care to individuals with disabilities.