JJ’s List sat down – masked and socially-distanced – with two Search Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), Saul Reed and Valy Ghiurca, to learn about them and hear about their experience of living-in with residents during the stay-at-home order. Below is a short Q&A:
Q: How did you get involved with working with people with disabilities?
Saul –I got involved when my nephew was born. He has Autism. I have been close with him and supported him as he’s grown up. About 12 years ago I got involved with Special Olympics Track and Field when he started participating. I became a DSP when my aunt told me about the work. It seemed like a good fit.
Valy: I’ve always wanted to give back to the community and I’ve always enjoyed helping people. I’ve been a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) since I was 16 years old. I have also done a lot of volunteer work at several organizations, such as Big Brother/Big Sister in Chicago, Feed My Starving Children, and Skokie Public Library.
Q: How long have you worked as a DSP for Search Inc?
Saul: I’ve been here for 8 months. I usually work at our adult learning program in Mt. Prospect.
Valy: I’ve been working at Search since January 2019. I work in supported living.
Q: How has your work changed during the stay-at-home order due to Covid-19?
We went from working 8 hour shifts to living-in with the guys at the house 24/7. Since the stay-at-home order on March 17, we haven’t been able to see friends or family, go out, or enjoy a beer.
Q: What have you learned from the experience?
We both have learned extreme patience. We’re now 10 times more patient than before. We’ve had to get to know the guys in the house. Like everyone, they miss getting out and about too.
Q: What are some of the special challenges you have faced?
Catching up on sleep has been pretty tough because the work as a live-in is 24/7. Usually one of us is up. In the middle of the night, if one of the guys needs us, whoever is sleeping gets up to help the other one. We work together and make a great team.
Saul: I haven’t seen my 5 year old daughter or my parents. I miss them.
Valy: I missed out on my birthday and I missed a friend’s funeral, which was tough.
Q: How have you helped our clients deal with the boredom of being stuck at home?
We do all kinds of things with the guys to keep them engaged:
- Zoom workouts offered by Search
- making bombs & slime
- tie dying t-shirts
- playing catch in the yard
- going for walks
- exercising in the yard (jumping jacks, push ups, jumping rope, doing crunches & squats, and working with a medicine ball)
- watching Netflix
- helping the guys call or Facetime girlfriends or family
- even helping one of the guys learn road signs
Q: How are you caring for yourself, physically & emotionally, to make sure you can provide the best care for our residents?
Exercise; exercise, exercise! And staying in touch with close friends.
Saul: Talking to my daughter is also a big help.
Q: What are you most looking forward to once the stay-at-home order is lifted?
Saul: Buying a house!
Valy: Taking a much-needed vacation – anywhere!
Thank you to all DSPs from JJ’s List!