2020 – Finding Normalcy in Challenging and Uncertain Times

It seems for most of us, 2020 can be summed up with one word, COVID. This pandemic has impacted virtually every aspect of our daily lives. The seriousness of this virus cannot be overstated. From the outset of the pandemic, the work of our staff, case managers and nurses never ceased. Families and other caregivers still needed access to services and supplies and to therapies (often virtual).

Although we made the decision to close our training centers temporarily in March, we set our sights of finding ways to reengage members as soon as possible. Many families relied on us to provide a safe and positive place for their family member while they worked. Routine disinfecting with hospital grade antimicrobial disinfectant of our centers and group homes, using sanitizer, social distancing and the use of face coverings were established as the baseline measures for having members return to the Training Centers. Members and, where applicable, their legally authorized representative, made the informed decision as to whether to return or not. Some of our group home residents, chose to remain in the home and do so as of this writing. Unfortunately the economic impact of the pandemic resulted in the closing of some other Day Habilitation programs and we received multiple requests to attend our training centers. During the past 6 months, we have gradually increased the number of attendees to about 70% capacity.

It has been said that the actions and performance of people is commensurate with the level of expectations. Have high expectations for people and they will meet them; the same being said for having low expectations of people. From the outset, our members, with some coaching embraced all of the health and safety precautions that were necessary and were soon enjoying their daily attendance.

The staff, much to their credit, were not willing to settle for just a “new normal”, but instead focused on enhancing the daily experience of the members; despite the challenges. Thanks to a generous donation from the Celanese Corporation, we were able to convert an old playground area to a sensory garden. Members enjoyed the daily tasks of caring for the plants. People from outside the organization are lending their talents to engage our member in a variety of areas such as yoga, Zumba, guitar sessions, drum sessions, art classes and clay sculpting. This done while staff have maintained the independent living and skill training components of the program.

We will continue to be vigilant in our focus maintaining the health and safety of our members and staff. I am so proud of how the team has “raised the bar” for engagement and enjoyment of our members; finding normalcy in such challenging times.