June, 2020

COVID-19 Impact on Services

Rachel Medina
Secretary, AAIDD Texas Chapter

COVID-19 has waged war on assisted living facilities and group homes. Direct Support Professionals have quickly found themselves on the frontlines of the Corona Virus Pandemic, leading the entire industry to rapidly shift the way they provide services. Visitor restrictions limit contact with family and friends and social distancing requires many activities to be canceled. Although necessary, the sudden disconnect from society has been jolting for many residents in assisted living programs. As normal activities grind to a halt Direct Support Professionals are forced to combat two new enemies within their facilities: loneliness and boredom.

 

Laura Latham, Executive Director of LiveOak Living Community stated, “Thankfully, we have not had any cases of COVID-19 at our facility. The biggest impact to the residents in our program has been social in nature. So many of our residents’ daily lives are deeply embedded in the local community. Things like trips to the coffee shop, gym, or library are a sacred part of their routine. These activities are just not possible right now. We are constantly trying to find new ways to help our residents feel active and connected to their community while also keeping them safe.”

 

Although daunting, Direct Support Professionals (DSP) across Texas have met this new challenge with determination and creativity. For example, Direct Support Professionals at D&S held a program-wide face mask decorating competition for all those living in their group home. Staff members at LiveOak Living Community held a mini-parade for residents. Employees at the Center for Pursuit have created virtual fitness classes. DSPs at the Marbridge Foundation hold outdoor movie nights for residents to enjoy. In each of these examples, we have seen how Direct Support Professionals have turned monotony into novelty, providing fun new ways to stay active. Each also fosters a sense of community; reminding residents that they are not alone.

 

Direct Support Professionals go above and beyond to ensure the physical and emotional health of the individuals they serve. As Kevin Kern, COO of Center for Pursuit stated, “Our front-line Direct Support Professionals (DSP’s) continue to amaze me. To see them come in each and every day to ensure that our clients are cared for and are happy speaks to their commitment to those we serve. Often when people talk about honoring our essential health care workers, we think of the doctors, nurses, and hospital sanitation workers.  Of course, these professionals are hero’s during this fight and are fully deserving of this recognition but let us not forget the DSP’s that work with Texas’s most vulnerable citizens.” Direct Support Professionals across the state of Texas are going beyond preserving life to preserving the quality of life of residents living in their care. Their ingenuity and dedication during this difficult time are greatly appreciated.