Alissa (most people call her Ali) is a 34-year-old woman who attends the Hi-Hope day program and lives at home with her parents, Karen and Dan. She was born prematurely with cerebral palsy and is blind. She is smart and communicates through facial expressions, sounds or gestures. Ali has a severely curved spine and is unable to sit unsupported or stand. Her parents are grateful Ali weighs less than 80 pounds and they are still able to lift and carry her.
Dan and Karen both have full-time jobs. If the services provided by Hi-Hope and the caregivers who work there were unavailable, Ali’s world would be much more isolated. She would be home all day and would not get the social interaction and stimulus she gets with the staff at Hi-Hope.
Ali has been attending the Hi-Hope day program for over eight years, and this is the only place Ali goes regularly. Her parents know the direct service professionals (DSPs) are qualified and they can trust them with their daughter’s care.
“When I send my daughter to Hi-Hope, I know and can trust they’re doing everything in her best interest. The staff has to know and understand each individual’s special needs from physical restrictions, food restrictions and medical needs to particularities including something as simple as noise sensitivities,” said Karen Nestor of the DSPs that work at the day program.
The problem confronting DSPs is that the average hourly rate in Georgia is only $9.47 for this demanding job which often times necessitates these caregivers to seek other job opportunities with higher pay which, in turn, causes a high turnover rate of almost 40%. It is important and beneficial for all to have DSPs stay on the job long-term. In Ali’s case, it takes time to understand her and be able to communicate with her, learn her behaviors, what makes her comfortable, what agitates her and what she enjoys. Rebuilding a relationship with a new DSP takes time and can be very frustrating and confusing for Ali.
On the other hand, the caregivers that do stay in their DSP positions are extremely compassionate and I truly feel like they make a difference in the lives of the individuals they support.
“Ali has a certain set of toys that she plays with and has to have music playing when she is relaxing. Simple but mandatory to keep Ali happy. Her DSP knows this and will go out of her way to provide this, adapting as needed based on their surroundings. Her DSP is wonderful at communicating with us how Ali is doing. Ali is our daughter; it takes a special person to “choose” to work as a caregiver for individuals such as these for the salary they receive. I admire their level of commitment and compassion and am extremely grateful.” said Karen Nestor.