The KenCrest family joined the Nation this week in recognizing and celebrating the hundreds of thousands of amazing direct support professionals (DSPs) around the world. DSPs are special people who provide support to many individuals who come to us with the hope of care, and a meaning-filled life. Although the title of this position has changed over time— from counselor, residential counselor, direct care worker, day program aide, and many other word combinations; their passion and commitment to serving our family members has never wavered.
Take a serious heartfelt moment and reflect on the importance of their work. I remember the first time I realized that even I at times need additional support; especially after I broke my arm a few years ago. I needed someone to help me put on my clothes; take a shower; tie my shoes; and many other things as you can imagine. As you read the stories below, reflect on how we all need a little extra help sometimes.
We’re all aware of the many stereotypes portrayed through the media and society as a whole—that surround those we serve; and the bias that many exude simply based on how those with disabilities appear physically. A DSP named Ralph was taking a few of his consumers shopping, and many of his guys had a few little “quirks.” Ralph often worried about how his guys would be received when out and about; and on one particular day his anxiety was at an all-time high, as an angry looking stranger approached him. Nevertheless Ralph faced the man head on. As he braced for a complaint, he instead received a compliment; “what you are doing is God’s work, thank you.” Ralph left the encounter amazed and honored by the stranger’s words.
Mateo cared for his consumer Clarence as if he were his own dad. Clarence, who was relatively young, was struggling through the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease. As the big KenCrest semi-formal approached, Mateo remember when Clarence was the life of the party at any function. He never missed an opportunity to dance, and had the photos on his bedroom wall to prove it. At this stage, Clarence was sleeping through most of the day and had little recognition of the many people in his life. Believing that he may still enjoy the event—Mateo dressed Clarence in his best suit; put on his favorite hat; and pushed him along the dance floor in his wheelchair. With one last memorable evening on the books, Clarence passed away not too long after.
Pauline was ready when the call came in that a new young woman would be coming to her home within hours. The young woman’s mother was in need of emergency surgery and her recovery was uncertain. Her mother frantically rattled off all the help that her daughter would need; especially regarding her medication that she only accepted when it was crushed up and mixed into Hostess Twinkie cream filling…just the filling. While some may find the idea ridiculous…Pauline headed to the store and stocked up on Twinkies. She knew that both this young women and her mother deserved the comfort, and the confidence that comes with the familiarity of routine during a tough time.
Where some people in society look at our family members and see a disability; direct support staff see a person, full of personality, dreams, and aspirations— deserving of respect, care, opportunity, inclusion.
All over KenCrest this week, we have been celebrating our amazing DSPs; a few highlights can be seen below. We hope that as we wrap up this week, our community recognized and embraced the importance of this profession and the many individuals who choose its path. We hope moving forward that this week and every week— our staff will know just how much we value the commitment they make every day. Happy DSP Week!
*All of the names in this piece were changed to protect the identities and privacy of our family members