The Daily Life & Views of a DSP During COVID-19
By: Sarah Olson
A DSP, Direct Support Professional, to some, is a pretty confusing or unknown position. For the chosen few, it is the most humbling and life-changing work you can do. We are more than just people who provide care for individuals with developmental disabilities. We are teachers, mentors, entertainers, friends, a supportive hand, a listening ear, and to some individuals,
Speaking of family, this is mine right here: Cricket, Crimson & Clover (yes, like the song).
Every day I get to come home to these sweet little faces. They are entirely spoiled, all under the age of two and a half, and are full of energy and sweetness. They rely on me for meals, care, snuggles, and playtime. The unconditional love they show me is my daily reminder of just how peaceful, simple, and quiet life can be. Nothing beats curling up with my girls to relax and watch a movie after a challenging day full of different things I did at work. Those things include many different roles that I must take on as a DSP.
During COVID-19, our roles as Direct Support Professionals expanded. We have taken on new tasks and have developed skills that we may not have deemed necessary six months ago. For example, we have become barbers, manicurists, seamstresses, landscapers/gardeners. Also, unexpected animals show up that we now need to learn and teach the individuals how to care for them.
Our new mantra is “think outside the box” for activities that will provide joy and happiness to the individuals we support. Who knew a ride through the car wash or an in-home game of BINGO could bring such pleasure. Many of us are accustomed to taking individuals out shopping. But since quarantine, our abilities have expanded to get what they need or want online. For example, Joe’s new chair, or Lawrence’s new shoes. Not items we would typically buy online, as they lose their sense of feel and comfort.
Like many other essential workers, the duties of a DSP calls for balance, preparation, and sacrifice. Often, we are at work celebrating an individual’s birthday, a holiday, or planning activities on any given weekday. We are away from our families and may miss important moments with them. But knowing that we are making special, happy, meaningful memories with the individuals we are supporting is one of the most important things we can do as a DSP. Recently, the houses all celebrated Memorial Day with cookouts, dancing, and lots of yummy food!
Pictured below: Sherrill Lane & Riverside homes cooking out:
We have even had to change the way we celebrate birthdays. Instead of hanging with friends & family and partying like rockstars, we throw surprise parades!
The best one so far was for Mr. Martin Eudy. He had NO idea it was happening. It was a magical moment to celebrate Martin!
The Roswell community came together in such a powerful and enjoyable way. Police, Fire, Disaster Relief, even other Tobosa homes and a lot of our employees joined in on the fun.
Martin was blessed with a parade filled with all of his favorite things. Friends, family, fire trucks, police cars, and of course, presents! Just look at the smile on his face.
Sadly, not everything is all cake and ice cream with sprinkles and hot fudge. As DSPs, we have to find ways to explain COVID-19 and quarantine, so that the individuals will understand. Seeing their disappointment when they can’t go to the movies, shopping, on road trips, or even out to eat has been very hard. For one of the individuals I support, it has been a challenge to explain to her why she isn’t able to visit her mother. In that past, she would visit her mother at Mission Arch a few hours a day. She does to talk to her mom on the phone, but I know she misses her and asks when she can visit her mother again daily. It breaks my heart to tell her it isn’t safe to go. She understands, but I can see in her face and body language that she is not happy.
Still, there are many positive sides to being in the homes with the individuals all day. These include teaching baking/cooking skills, watching them enjoy their favorite chair, getting plenty of exercises in, or even discovering their inner Pablo Picasso!
Speaking of Picasso, what better way to show our strength and unity not only within our Tobosa family but as a whole community? Sherrill Lane took advantage of the downtime to decorate their windows and then challenge other houses, creating the Inspirational Window Challenge! They called out the La Paloma house, and it continued from there. What fun it was to see all the amazing ideas and inspirational windows that the homes created!
COVID-19 has allowed us to slow down, relax, and enjoy things that we may have taken for granted. During this pandemic, there are ever-changing rules, policies, and guidelines set forth by our country, state, and local government. Together, we need to take it all in stride. There is a saying I hear a lot on the radio, that is, “this too shall pass.” We will get through this together. And when it is all over, there better be one heck of a party!