During most of the 19th century, individuals with disabilities were either sent to poor houses or asylums, most of which were in horrible condition, or they were cast out from their community. This was a common practice until the 20th century when more people took notice of the injustice that commonly occurred within these institutions. As more laws passed protecting the rights of people with disabilities, more institutions and facilities closed down.
Thanks to decades of advocacy and the fight for equal rights and inclusion, home and community programs became the norm all across the country by the 1990’s. No longer were people with a disability thought of as an impediment to society but instead as equal, contributing members that happen to have mental and/or physical challenges that make it difficult to perform every day tasks. Direct Support Professionals, caregivers and family members that support people at home, work, and in the community understand that first hand.
The primary job of a DSP is to provide individuals with disabilities the tools and resources needed to live a fulfilling and productive life. Tools and resources may include driving an individual to and from a shift at work, or physical assistance when going on a walk. Shared living homes, either owned by a company, independent caregiver or a family member(s), usually house 1 to 5 people and that requires at least one live-in provider, someone that lives, sleeps, and works in the home around the clock. There’s also staff that work the day and overnight shifts. Depending on the level of ability, not only are DSPs responsible for helping individuals with day to day tasks like laundry, but are also responsible for helping individuals thrive outside of the home. Exercise, socializing, and other light community activities are all considered part of home care, and as a result, home care providers are also community providers, taking on two jobs in one.
Most DSPs will tell you they are proud of their work and what they do is for a higher calling, not just a paycheck. However it’s important to remember as managers, coworkers, and CEO’s that the work of a DSP can be taxing on the mind and body and can eventually make a DSP feel unappreciated if their hard work goes unnoticed for too long. It goes a long way after a 12 hour shift by simply saying the phrase, “Great job today”, along with other incentives such as an Employee of the Month award or a small token of gratitude, such as a pocket watch or brand new wallet, resulting in lower turnover rates, boosts in productivity, and overall well being.