DSP’s Have Front Row Seat Watching People Reach Goals
Monarch celebrates Direct Support Professional (DSP) Week, September 13 – 17, recognizing the life-changing work that they do. What follows are snapshots of the DSP role within Monarch representing the over 800 people who provide one-on-one care and support each day across our sites in North Carolina.
Merry Liverman was part of a loving family growing up – a mom, dad, sisters and brother. Her brother, Jimmy, had a disability and in their family it was their job to protect him. “I didn’t realize he was different than everyone else. But my friends were afraid of him because he looked different and talked different,” she recalled.
Today, Liverman is a direct support professional at the Beach Club of Dare day program in Manteo. She has devoted her life to working, caring for and protecting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).
Whether in the beginning of her career as a member of the special education staff through Dare County Schools or in her present job as a Monarch DSP, Liverman, who has worked at Monarch for 11 years, has enjoyed the opportunities to care for others. “Twenty years later, I am still doing what I love,” she stated of working one-on-one with people with I/DD.
Liverman said she enjoys the comradery at the Beach Club and working collaboratively with the staff. “The staff is supportive and we work together as a team. Monarch has helped me through some tough times in my life such as when needing time off to be with family. I help the people we support and their families in any way I can,” she said.
Jennie Smith, a DSP at Monarch’s Pamlico County group home, has seen many changes and experienced close bonds with people supported during her 27-year career at Monarch. One thing has remained constant. “I assist the people we support in achieving their dreams and goals daily,” she said of something she strives to do every day on the job.
Smith cherishes the relationships formed with the people supported and their families. “I enjoy working with people directly and building relationships with their families. As a DSP, we receive affirmations from them that we are appreciated for all that we do to support their loved ones,” she said.
Donna Sellers is a DSP at Circle Drive group home in Cabarrus County which is a residence for individuals with Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic multisystem disorder that in adults it can cause an excessive, insatiable appetite. Some of the tasks she performs for the people supported include handing out medication, preparing meals, assisting with daily tasks and transporting residents.
“Each day I look forward to the mornings when our people supported wake up and start their days. They’re smiling faces and greetings always make my day,” she said of the current overnight shift she works and the role she has served for the past eight years.
Sellers too treasures the relationships she has with people supported: “I enjoy the interactions and laughter we share. I love when getting to know the people we support works both ways and they get to know us well and trust us, too. It makes all the dots connect!
Sellers says she has learned valuable lessons from serving people with I/DD. “People supported have hopes and dreams too. They have desires, goals and minds of their own,” she pointed out. “You can’t give the best support if you only know our people supported superficially and taking the time to understand them really makes a difference to the quality of care we provide.”
What would they tell someone considering becoming a DSP?
The essence of care for the people we serve is actually quite simple Sellers remarked: “Learn as much as you can about the people you support. Listen to them with patience and treat them how you would want one of your loved ones to be treated.”
Smith’s nearly three decades of working with people with I/DD has taught her to value being part of a team even though the one-on-one work with a person supported is personal. “Have patience and enjoy working with others and be a part of the team not the problem,” she said of working through any difficulties.
Liverman said that working as a DSP is truly a job of service. “It’s hard work and we do support all their needs. This is not a job for the money, it’s for the love of others. And, not everyone can do this job,” she observed.
Monarch DSPs Continue Tradition of Caring Despite COVID
Vice President and Chief Operations Officer, Long-Term Services and Supports, Christy Shaver, MHA, reflected on the difficult landscape of mental health care and our direct support professionals (DSPs) work over the past 18 months of the pandemic.
COVID-19 placed a road block between the personal, one-on-one connection of direct support professionals (DSP) and people supported in group homes, day programs and supervised living apartments. Safeguards such as social distancing, person protection equipment (PPE) and enhanced cleaning protocols were put in place taking precedence over a reassuring hug or congratulatory high five.
During DSP Week, Monarch will celebrate the essential role that staff play in the lives of people supported.
“The past year has been a difficult one for everyone – continuing to endure the pandemic and the restrictions in place necessary to afford the safest care environments possible. DSPs are the backbone of Monarch’s long-term services and supports that we provide,” Shaver reflected. “Each year, as we recognize the service of direct support it is humbling to think about the magnitude of their work. But this year . . . this year as we reflect on the past 18 months, my heart is heavy for what direct care staff and others have endured during this unprecedented time.”
DSPs juggled caring for their families and loved ones in addition to their work. “Even with personal tragedies, sickness, and stress, our staff worked tirelessly for the individuals supported,” Shaver noted. “Under restrictions and in isolation, staff were creative in getting through the days with activities, games, crafts, therapy sessions, or whatever was needed. Monarch staff have been amazing!”
Simply saying “thank you” seems to fall short and doesn’t fully encompass the scope of gratitude during a week set aside to recognize the extraordinary work accomplished by DSPs and the significant part they play in accomplishing Monarch’s mission.
“We appreciate and are grateful for your loyalty, compassion and dedication to the care you provide for the individuals served. The families and loved ones of the people we serve are grateful for your services and putting their family members first,” Shaver expressed to all Monarch DSPs.
Posted on: Tuesday August 31, 2021