Updated: Jan 26
Deborah Waller became a direct support professional (DSP) once she realized there was a need in the community.
When she first began working as a caregiver for a young man living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), it was because she was out of work for six months prior and desperately needed the job. As she became engrained in the life of this young man, she became aware of how important quality care is to the disabled community. She took him on outings, to the mall or the park, and was amazed at how engaging he was. She met his other caregivers at Hi-Hope Service Center, and they convinced her to pursue full-time employment there. Deborah has now been at Hi-Hope for two years and recently moved up Lead DSP last August.
Before entering the field, she did not know much about disabilities. Now Deborah takes it upon herself to educate other people who previously shied away from people with disabilities and explains the importance of interaction and engagement.
Although extremely rewarding, this line of work is draining and with the average hourly wage in the state of Georgia at $10.03, there are not a lot of people who willingly choose to work in this field. Waller knows she could get a higher paying job, but her passion for the people she cares for is more important than the pay. “It is rewarding to work with individuals and their families. I am here because my heart is here; these individuals make me laugh, cry, and they never mean any harm,” Waller said.
“It is more of a mental job than a physical job because you have to find ways to understand someone who cannot verbally speak to you what is going on, you have to know and study them. DSPs have been spat on, hit and slapped. It is a lot to deal with, and we must protect the individual and the other individuals around them. It is challenging to go home, and your loved ones seeing how tired you are and with scratches all over your hands.” said Deborah Waller on the challenges she has faced in her profession.
She emphasized that being a DSP is a mental process that you cannot just put off when you leave work. Waller is a mother of two and after a long day of caring for others who cannot care for themselves, she comes home to worry about her own family. Particularly, her son who has a hole in his heart which can cause strokes.
Waller wants the public to know, “People do not become direct support professionals because they must do it, but because they want to. It is a very rewarding position; we want to be there helping and want to make sure the individuals are OK. Many of us have vacation days, but we let the days sit because we want to make sure that the individuals are going to be fully taken care of and have what they need on a daily basis.”
It takes a special type of person to commit to this line of work. They must be mentally strong in order to understand individuals who communicate in unconventional ways. They must be physically strong to lift and adjust fully grown adults. Lastly, they must be spiritually strong to have the level of the compassion and empathy this job requires. They deserve more for the care, love and support they give.