Challenging obstacles will allow for amazing opportunities in the future. This is the attitude KenCrest has adopted while working our way through the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. While all of us serving in the human services field are struggling to make the necessary accommodations to create a safe and therapeutic environment for those we serve, we must not lose hold of that perpetual optimism which those that work in this field carry. What unites all of us who serve is our desire to care for others and crises such as these present an unending opportunity to do just that -- serve.
This crisis is draining. It will deplete your energy, your materials (show me someone who has an abundance of gloves, masks, or sanitizer now and I will show you someone who has made a deal with the devil), your relationships, and your sanity. You are up all hours of the night worrying about staffing ratios, supply shortages, unconfirmed test results, social distancing, family visits, medical appointments, transportation issues, and the list goes on and on. These tests of the human spirit are just that though, they are tests. The creativity involved in solving this list of growing issues is astounding and I am lucky enough to be a part of a team that embraces these challenges and excels at solving them every day.
These challenges seem insurmountable at times, but I promise you there is a solution. As staff have fallen, staffing ratios have become a major concern. KenCrest staff have stepped up to the plate and have volunteered to support our residential staff by committing to direct support hours in the home. This act of support does not come without its challenges as well but as a team we work together to determine the appropriate trainings for volunteers to be successful in the home, how to supplement the work they are leaving behind while they support our residential programs, and finding the additional supplies needed to support these new arrivals, among several other obstacles that arise while orientating new staff. These can seem overwhelming but working together with a team that constantly puts our organization first has allowed us to develop a procedure that addresses these needs and allows us to create supports that are of the quality we expect.
While medical and cleaning supplies become scarce the community has come to the aide of our team. Fabric masks are being made at home by caring members of the community, cleaning supplies donated, even our own staff has donated sleeping bags and care items to insure DSP’s have a comfortable place to rest if having to work extended hours that run into overnight shifts. Our community has shown time and time again that when our people are in need the support will show up and this pandemic has been no different.
Meeting the needs of our staff and consumers has not been our only concern. To raise morale, our team has developed ways to stay connected while working our way through this crisis. Team Karaoke holds contests with submissions from social media, quiz contests, and other fun games designed for remote participation. Our organization is a family and while we are separate for safety reasons, we refuse to become disconnected.
Technology is often considered a social disconnect. Turning off phones and tablets at the dinner table or monitoring our screen time has become a norm. Cell phones and tablets have been a means of escape in the past but currently these communication devices have been a support much needed in all walks of life. Telemedicine has allowed our consumers to continue to get their medical needs met without putting consumer and staff at risk, FaceTime has allowed families to remain connected to those they love while visiting restrictions are in place, and social networks have allowed the people we serve to remain connected to the community they have fought so hard to develop relationships with. Remote supports are being considered for those who need less support in their daily lives, and this can be done through a variety of video supports. Technology has enabled those at KenCrest to remain connected to the community, their family and friends in a way that a pandemic like this would not have allowed in the past.
This crisis is far from over. We are going to struggle with the loss of freedom, loss of choice, and loss of life that will directly impact so many of us throughout the next few months. This disease will challenge your creativity and your resourcefulness especially those of us that serve in the human services field. Life will return to normal and we will find routine again, and after we do, let’s all hold on to the camaraderie and creativity it took to overcome these trying days and apply that same energy and effort to serving our individuals and their families. This too shall pass.
Joe Mancini is the Executive Director of Region 2 Residential Services for KenCrest. Joe has served individuals with disabilities for more than 15 years and has a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. Joe is also the parent of a child with a developmental disability.