For me, Septembers make me think about change: changing seasons and changing routines. And this year feels like there's even more change because of COVID-19.
To get a sense of how much things have changed at NER over the past year, I went back and read the NER Newsletter from September 2019. The article referenced things like: preparing to go to the State Fair with people we support (cancelled this year), the upcoming Golf Tournament (cancelled this year), the NER Garage Sale (cancelled this year). You get the idea.
And yet, one thing the newsletter mentioned, which is still very much in place today - WE NEED STAFF!
As former Executive Director, Heidi Holste, said in that September 2019 newsletter: "Unfortunately, the staffing crisis has become worse rather than better. This is pervasive across the state in care-giving, as well as other industries and professions. Our best source of employees is through referrals from families and employees. Please encourage those you know to apply."
Well, it's one year later, and support-providers across the industry continue to struggle with filling open positions. COVID-19 and social distancing has presented additional challenges in our recruiting efforts as we seek the best people to join our team of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs).
The good news here is YOU CAN HELP!
Please tell your friends and neighbors about NER's upcoming Curbside Direct Service Professional Job Fair!
Date/Time: Thursday, September 17th at 3p - 7p and Saturday, September 19th at 11a - 2p
Location: Driveway of Northeast Residence Corporate Office, 2539 E County Road E, White Bear Lake, MN 55110
NER staff with masks will meet people who are interested in exploring a career as a Direct Service Professional as they drive up in their cars! Our staff will tell them about DSP careers and answer any questions they have. If the visitor wants to apply, we will interview them on the spot. All socially distanced, of course.
Want to help NER? Please spread the word about the Curbside DSP Job Fair! And remember, you can always view our open positions on our Web site at https://www.nerinc.org/ Until next month,
Joyce has been with us for just over 25 years. She moved into her home in May of 1995.
Joyce works at MSS and has been there for over 40 years now. She is a very dedicated, hard worker and is always willing to help when needed. She enjoys going rock climbing, hiking, and fishing with her work friends.
Some of Joyce’s favorite past-times are going to sporting events and watching sports at home. She absolutely loves the Gophers, and you don’t have to take my word for it. Her bedroom says it all.
Joyce enjoys going thrift-store shopping and going out for coffee. She enjoys bowling and going out to eat with her housemates and staff. Joyce considers her staffs' children as her grand-kids and will let you know all about them. She enjoys spending time with them. She also enjoys spending time with her housemate's dog "Lilly." She is a great help with letting her out and walking her around the yard, and she is always asking to bring Lilly with when her home goes for van rides. She will let you know that she is Lilly’s Aunt.
Joyce is one of the most loving and giving individuals you will ever have the joy to meet and work with.
In Minnesota, we have the good fortune of having four distinct seasons. Some years, it seems more like two. But this year has been particularly wonderful with a long spring and a lovely summer. Fall is in the air as we close out summer without many of our “normal” seasonal markers, canceled due to COVID. Even the 12 days of our beloved State Fair went away, with our corn dogs and cotton candy. Luckily, we have many creative and resourceful staff at our NER homes, who have made the most of time outdoors during the months we’ve needed to socially distance from one another to stay safe.
On August 14th, the Department of Human Services “turned the dial” to further reopen day services: “New changes: increase the maximum duration that a person can receive in-person, facility-based services in one day from three hours to four hours; allow day services to be provided in facility and community settings on the same day; and remove the 50-person maximum limit to allow greater flexibility for buildings with larger licensed capacity while maintaining the 50% cap on licensed capacity (including staff) of the facility. Providers must continue to follow requirements regarding capacity, cohort size, duration of shifts, screening protocols and other measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
Our day programs are partners with us, and many individuals have been eager to get back to a routine, even a modified one. Some of our families and guardians, together with their loved ones, have chosen to return. Phoenix Alternatives, Inc., Merrick, RISE, Kaposia, and ACCORD (formerly Community Involvement Programs) are some of the programs that NER individuals attend, and most people are going half-days. In some cases, only staff are masked. But in others, individuals are masked as well.
Program Coordinators and Supervisors report that once routines were re-established, they have observed people being generally energized and happy to be leaving the house to get on their van rides. When people attend half-days, no meals are served at the programs, so they eat before they leave and when they get home; however, not eating lunch at their programs is one activity they miss the most! Concerns for sanitation and closer contact during mealtimes indoors presents safety concerns, and the half-day schedule helps reduce risk. Thus far, NER individuals attending in center-programming are largely rec/leisure with some going out on job crews. Some activities reported are bowling, mini golf, walking at Como, mall walking, and picnics in the parks.
At NER on Labore, PC Briana detailed how two women at that site participate in their day programs: “Amelia and Mary are doing virtual day programs, and it's been such a vital part of coping with the pandemic. Mary goes five days a week,10 AM-3 PM, with an hour break for lunch. She's the unofficial greeter on their Zoom calls, welcoming everyone as they join the chat. She especially loves it on Friday when they play bingo. Amelia currently goes 2 hours a day, 3 times a week. She does some physical exercise with them. But more importantly, has brought her staff up to speed on the plots of her favorite soap operas, and they watch it together by Amelia turning the screen to face the TV.”
Since not everyone attends day programming, our homes continue to need day staffing during hours they didn’t pre-COVID. And staffing shortages continue to challenge residential providers such as NER. Nonetheless, our homes will go with the flow of the season, celebrating the fall colors and cooler nights and, of course, decorating for Halloween!
Lynette started working in this field doing overnights at a different company after a friend told her what a great profession it was. In 2007, she started working at the Northeast Residence Extended Day program. She then joined the Float team to pick up some extra hours before she started working mornings at Rollingview. She has been the lead staff at Rollingview for the past several years.
She states that she likes working in this field, because she likes watching and discovering the world through someone else’s eyes. Her favorite part about her job is working with the people-supported. Her advice for new staff is: to be open to new ideas and to doing things differently than how you may have done it in the past. Her supervisor states that Lynette’s strength is in the connections she makes with the people-supported.
When Lynette isn’t working, she likes going to rock concerts, cooking for herself and others, and gathering people together. When asked about her favorite thing to make for others, she replied “actually, I just had it - take out Chinese food!”