Frontline Initiative: DSPs Responding to Crisis

Supporting People in COVID-19 Pandemic
Intervention and Prevention

Author(s)

Alaba Owolabi DSP-III is a Direct Support Professional at Penn-Mar Human Services in Glen Rock, PA. Alaba can be reached at alabaowolabi@penn-mar.org

Smiling African American woman with short dark hair and purple plaid shirt

Alaba Owolabi

COVID-19 impacted me and the people I support as a direct support professional (DSP). I received some training from my organization on crisis management and prevention that helped me to handle COVID-19.  I would like to describe one of the crises I handled where I used my training through E-Badge Academy.

I support David, John, and Joe (pseudonyms). During the COVID-19 pandemic, life changed so much for everyone. It seemed to be very confusing for the people I support. It was confusing when they began to see everyone wearing masks. It was confusing when their daily routines changed.

As a DSP, I know the best way to support them was to give them information about COVID-19 and its prevention. I asked them if they wanted to learn about preventing the spread of COVID-19. “Yes!” they responded. I knew I needed to do this in ways they would understand. I used cue cards and videos to provide them with information. I knew that they learn best by looking at visuals and practicing, rather than just being told what to do. These had information about what COVID-19 is, how to keep safe, and prevent its spread. I used a set of cue cards with the following steps for handwashing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Each cue card had one step so everyone could follow along:

Step 1: Turn on the water.

Step 2: Wet hands.

Step 3: Place soap on hands.

Step 4: Rub soap on hands.

Step 5: Rinse off soap from hands.

Step 6: Turn off water.

Step 7: Wipe hands with a towel.

Step 8: Apply sanitizer to hands.

Step 9: Rub sanitizer well on both hands.

I provided chances for David, John, and Joe to practice handwashing using these steps. Though the steps and the training look simple and easy, sometimes they didn’t get it right the first time. They kept practicing the steps daily, and I observed how they wash hands through the steps. I also paid attention to their feelings as they kept asking why they needed to practice the things I taught them. We talked about preventing the spread of COVID-19. They learned steps for handwashing and how this affects human health.

Though the steps and the training look simple and easy, sometimes they didn’t get it right the first time. They kept practicing the steps daily, and I observed how they wash hands through the steps. I also paid attention to their feelings as they kept asking why they needed to practice the things I taught them.

We also worked on properly wearing a mask and social distancing. It was difficult to understand that they cannot go outside to meet with people like before the pandemic. It was difficult to understand that hugging was unsafe. Joe asked, “why do I need to wear mask every day?” We discussed that this is to stop the spread of the virus in our community.

The people I support miss their typical social activities in the community. In the place of those activities, we came up with others. We played games. I taught them how to dance like I learned in Jerusalem. I am teaching them to cook new things. We love making Jell-O together. I do manicures and pedicures at their level of care. We watch television together. We listen to educative news that is relevant for their safety. We talk about the seriousness of COVID-19 and the reasons we cannot have visitors. When we go outside, they know from our lessons how to wear their mask and face shield.

The men I support are tired of wearing masks. All of the men got the vaccination for COVID-19. This brought up more questions. Now that they are vaccinated, why do they still need to wear masks? We talk about their questions and their feelings. Wearing masks has become part of their daily routine now, and I am seeing self-fulfillment and happiness in them. In fact, they challenge each other if one forgets to wear a mask. One will say, “Your mask.”

This project aligns with the NADSP Competency in Crisis Prevention and Intervention because it focuses on the safety of the people I support. The role of the people’s choice in this task was person-centered because they need to be comfortable with the support given.

During this certification, I have learned many things that enable me to serve the people I support in crisis. For example:

  • I must know my employer's policy and procedure on safeguarding adults from abuse and risk-taking.
  • It helps me to know and follow any risk assessments produced by my employer.
  • I have a duty of care to the people I support. I am accountable for my own actions as they affect each person's safety.
  • It is my duty to keep people safe.
  • I know that reporting abuse or crisis cannot be delegated.
  • It helps me to know my power as a DSP and use it in the right way.
  • To put the people who I support first and build good relationship with them while being conscious of boundaries.

This process has deepened my understanding of my responsibility in person-centered support, crisis intervention and prevention, and documentation as people’s work rather than paper work. It has helped me to grow more confident as a DSP.

 Alaba Owolabi, DSP-III was honored as the NADSP’s E-Badge Earner of the Month in November 2020 for her Crisis Documentation submission. Congratulations Alaba!