I am a Behavior Intervention Specialist at AHRC Nassau. I think it is important to acknowledge the staff at the hubsites that I support. I work at Bethpage, East Meadow Arts, Levittown, and Seaford Hubsites. The direct support staff at these sites as well as the assistant managers have been working hands on to assist and support people every day, but especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The last six months have been unlike any that we have known during my almost 15 years at the agency. The staff have had to continue to take care of our guys even though their own safety has been at risk. Some administrative and clinical staff have been able to work from home to offer assistance, but the DSPs and assistant managers have had to show up each day, and find ways to help that are different than any they have been used to.
They have been assigned to residential IRAs and ICFs to help take care of people in the most personal of ways. This is during a time when we are being told to social distance and stay home. The people we support are not always able to wear masks, wash their hands, or maintain a six-foot distance independently. They need assistance in feeding, changing and hygiene.
The staff at my hubsites, and at all of the sites, were assigned to residences where there were positive COVID-19 cases. This was at the height of the pandemic when it was unclear how the disease was spread and how effectively PPE worked. These DSPs and Assistant Managers (who acted as DSPs) showed up each day and put aside their own fears. They limited their interactions with others in order to protect the people we support. They took care of our guys like family and listened to them and helped them to adjust to this new reality. They pushed away all of the concerns and difficulties in their personal lives to help make the lives of the people we support better.
These staff members worked in our residences, but they also worked to support our guys that were home with their families. They dropped off activity packets and individualized activities. They did senior food shopping for our seniors who were afraid to go to the supermarket even though we stopped doing those jobs. They stopped by to see them from the front yard. They called and called and called to stay in touch with the guys.
They helped support me by helping people get on Zoom, week after week, so they could be connected. They talked to family members and offered endless support through all the crises they were going through. Many of our guys felt comfortable reaching out to them day and night. Much of the staff became a second family to them. Many of these responsibilities were not assigned to them, but came out of creative thinking.
Thinking out of the box to see how they could make a difference. With day programs open once again, some of the staff are still at the residences. Some are trying to help make day programs the best they can be under so many new regulations. They are helping each and every person in our programs have a great day each day. And they are coming up with new activities and programming to replace the things our guys are used to doing. This is not a job to these staff. They could work anywhere and make the same wages. They work at AHRC Nassau because they care about the people supported the way they care about their own mothers, fathers, siblings, and children. Our DSPs and assistant managers are heroes and they are family and they are the heart of AHRC Nassau.