The wonderful Annie Lehmann, author of The Accidental Teacher: Life Lessons from My Silent Son and parent of an individual supported by Progressive Lifestyles, Inc has agreed to allow us to share her recently authored brief essay praising the awesome of work of direct support professionals during this crisis. I know you'll find it as powerful as I did.
They don't have medical or nursing degrees, but every day, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, there are direct service providers who care for thousands of adults with intellectual and mental disabilities. My 36-year old son, Jonah, is one of them. Every day, his home manager, Darlene Mantua, along with other caregivers, see to it that he and his roommates are kept healthy and engaged even at this go nowhere, see no one time.
If it is hard for the average American to stay home, exercise, binge watch, knit, do puzzles, educate themselves with endless class offerings, imagine what it must be like to fill 16-hour days for housebound adults with extremely limited attention spans.
Each day these direct service providers, who earn very little over minimum wage, gear up and arrive at my son's house where they check his temperature three times a day, They prepare nutritious meals, that on good weather days, they eat al fresco. For his hands to be washed properly, a caregiver has to soap them for 20-seconds, rinse and repeat many times throughout the day. Nevermind that all the hand washing necessitates that moisturizer be applied regularly as well.
I call often to chat with and cheer on his caregivers, understanding that it must be hard to spend long days with nonverbal adults. I always ask if there is anything they need. Food. Toilet paper. Bleach. The answer is consistently no, “We’re doing great!”
These direct service providers step up and care for our adult children and do it graciously and with love. They remain employed at low wages and cheer the frontline workers at hospitals — without asking for acknowledgement or credit for the yeoman's job they are doing themselves. The government is not them sending them checks or bonuses, and no one is offering them free lunches or coffee.
Without a doubt our frontline medical workers deserve every bit of acknowledgment and gratitude they get— but so do the unsung heroes who care for adults unable to care for themselves.
It would mean so much to so many if President Trump could give a shout out to the deserving quiet heroes of this war!
Annie Lehmann, a freelance writer for more than twenty-five years, has published articles in many newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times and Detroit Free Press.