Frontline Initiative Later Life Supports
Supporting the grieving process:
A DSP's story of advocacy
As a Direct Support Professional (DSP) for over 20 years, I have found myself in a number of challenging circumstances when I did not know how to proceed. I often had to depend on my own sense of ethics to help guide me in those situations. When we are out there in the field and things happen, we have to react in the best way possible, whether we have had adequate training or preparation.
During my work as a DSP, a person whom I had supported for many years suddenly passed away. This man was close to ninety years old. He had known everyone at the organization and everyone had known him. Everywhere we went in the community someone had known him or worked with him. He had encouraged and supported others, and had offered kindness and help to others being supported. He had always watched over everyone. Everyone had loved him. He had been an incredible human being and I was blessed to have known him.
When he passed, the organization I was working at did not support DSPs in assisting other individuals receiving supports to attend the funeral. We were told it was not “a billable service”. This made the loss even harder. Many of the people I supported had known this man their entire lives. Unfortunately, as a result people were having a lot of outbursts and showing challenging behaviors.
I do not share this story to point fingers or place blame. I wish to advocate for the people we support. Everyone has the right to grieve his or her loss. This includes people with disabilities. I eventually got permission to take one of the people I supported to go see the man’s grave, bring flowers and say goodbye (though this was on my own time). This gave the person I supported a sense of closure and allowed him to pay respects to his good friend. It took me over two years to get the approval to do this, but in the end, it was worth it. Knowing I was helping the person I supported grieve and say goodbye meant the world to me.
I hope this story inspires DSPs to speak up and advocate for the individuals they support and to not be afraid to do the right thing when supporting them. I feel like I did a service not only for the person who had passed, but also for his dear friend who loved him very much. I know his beautiful blue eyes are smiling down on us from heaven.