This was published as a Letter to the Editor in the Ketchikan Daily News on Thursday, April 30, 2020.
As we are appreciating all of the essential workers in our communities here in southeast including medical and grocery store workers, I encourage everyone to not forget those who are also on the front lines – direct support and personal care workers.
These workers put themselves at risk too. They are taking care of elders who are stuck at home – helping them with personal care, and chores around the house. They are doing grocery shopping and running errands to make sure people have the food and medications they need. They are taking care of people who experience disabilities, who are stuck at home even more now and missing out on crucial social interactions. They still need help with various life skills like cooking or good hygiene, or even just coping with the increased isolation.
I am proud of the hard work our employees at Community Connections are doing. A pandemic does not stop the needs of seniors, or people with disabilities, or families with children. On the contrary – it serves to emphasize how essential these support workers really are. Our workers are essential to the health, safety and wellbeing of the most vulnerable members of our community.
We are doing everything we can to keep our workers and the people we serve safe during this time. We have limited some services and are using telehealth as much as possible. Our Early Learning staff are meeting with families over videoconference and are sending interactive learning kits through the mail. Our Children’s Mental Health therapists and service coordinators are talking over video with families and continuing to help children who experience behavioral challenges. Our service coordinators are continuing to do scheduling and paperwork and to make sure everyone is getting the care they need.
However, much of the support that direct care staff provide cannot just be “cancelled.” Our staff work with people one on one, often in their homes. That means being there in person to help those with developmental disabilities who don’t understand the concept of social distancing or why we are doing it, or those with physical disabilities who need help with personal care.
As The Arc’s CEO Barbara Rath puts it, direct support professionals are our “other heroes.” Let’s recognize them for their valuable contributions during these trying times.
I invite you to join me in thanking all of our staff for their continued dedication, as well as all other direct support workers here in southern southeast who continue to work and provide essential support to our elders, our friends, and our families.
Executive Director, Community Connections