Although I am quite new to the Certified Trainers, I figured the best way to get into the swing of things is just to jump in and start flailing. This works for less than ideal swimming temps so it might just work for this adventure, too. But before I start, an introduction of sorts is due. My name is Ben Ferguson and I work for Community Support Services, Inc. (CSS for short) in Salem, OR. I am a Direct Support Professional and I generally work as a 1:1 in Supported Living, with individuals who live in their own homes and receive services in the way of medical, financial and life skills supports.

The last few days, I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on things and a certain Neil Young song kept popping up in my thoughts. At this point in time a great deal of change is on the horizon for our services, from financial changes (with the increasing budget cuts) to physical and structural changes in the way our company delivers services. While this has been scary for some, I (for one) am looking forward to some of those changes because many of the individuals I work with have become stagnant in the system and have developed a codependent relationship with the system. Not to say that there would not naturally be some dependence, based on the industry that we all operate in, but the dependence I speak of is one that exists within a dichotomy of total reliance while professing independence.

The phrase “staff will do that, so I don’t have to” is one that I have heard many times recently and it usually accompanies a task that the individual is not only capable of doing, but will do when they don’t think anyone is watching them. The situation becomes one of indifference and dependency in that the expectation that their staff will SERVE them instead of SUPPORT them. With the vast number of turnovers in the industry, it has become (at times) likely that a new staff will placate an individual while trying to learn their routines. This can and often does lead to a “servant role” for support staff, with an expectation of house cleaning, cooking and day planning with no participation from the individual being served. While this IS necessary for some, many do it simply because they can. Skills are lost and fulfillment can slip away from both staff and those receiving services.

SO, you ask, “how do I avoid this?” Well, I’d love to say I know all the answers but as anyone who has spent more than a month in the industry can tell you, no two cases are alike and no two people will react the same. Some respond well to structured reasoning (staff will make a minimal attempt with an encouragement that if the individual wants more they can participate, e.g. “I’ll make you a PB&J, but if you really want hamburgers, you’ll have to come in and help), others to firm direction, but there are always exceptions. Often it helps to make a game of it, to make it fun. Challenge someone to a race of window cleaning or bet them that they can’t wash more dishes than you. It may just jolt them into looking at the whole process differently.

Well, I’ve been rambling enough for the first post, so I’ll leave you with this: Have a wonderful holiday, whatever you can get (and give!) out of it and remember, I’m a lot like you were. ;)