Last week, I met Curtis and the people who surround his life. I met his sister, the staff who support him, and his housemates. I started out with a goal to follow a CHS(community home supervisor) around for a few hours to get a sense of the challenges. I achieved those goals and then some.
I will start with Curtis’ sister. She told me about his early life. When he was born, his parents were told to abandon him to an institution. He would never have the ability to do anything. His mom listened, but pursued her own hopes. When she saw that he was not walking but wanted to bike with the other kids, she taped his feet to the tricycle pedals and off he went. That led to crawling and climbing and then walking.
His sister continues to see his abilities and helps him try new physical activities in a local pool or gym. He loves it. He tried new cardio machines and rope/arm strengthening apparatus. Curtis is charming. He engaged one of his housemates in a brief, whispered conversation. I saw her lean over to hear what he was saying. I later learned that she does not speak. But she sure can listen.
Curtis does not have the same athletic ability he has as a young man, but he is still thrilled to exercise and try something new. He is a role model of grace of spirit and determination.
And I met a new direct support professional. This new staff member who was supporting Curtis shares the love of exercise. The two of them pedaled side by side on one of the machines. I joked with them about who would get to Paris first. I learned that we shared a history of working from a young age. We both enjoyed the details of our work. And we could both get a lot done by being quiet. In thinking about his work, I saw just how complicated the work of a direct care staff member has become. And I started to see how long it would take to really feel like you had a handle on the job. It is so important to let new staff know we recognize them, their gifts, and the challenge we have asked them to assume.
So what about my first goal? I learned a lot about the multi-tasking necessary in a typical week. I saw a CHS who was caregiver, supervisor, teacher and quality manager. I followed her from room to room, from one site in the community to the next and was so impressed by how much needed to be done and was achieved. She had to feel a little flustered being followed around by “the boss”, but It didn’t show.
As we this week celebrate direct support , I am grateful:
For Curtis’ Mom who believed in him and gave him the direct support to reach his potential
For Curtis and the direct support he extended to his housemate
For Curtis’ sister for the direct support she continues to give to Curtis and to all of us who work with him
For Stephanie, the CHS for the direct support she gives Curtis and the staff who support him
To Tevin for the direct support he gave Curtis, to pursue fitness with joy at the gym.
For all of you, DSPs- for being heroes every day.