Frontline Initiative: Health and Wellness
Using My Training in Health and Wellness to Encourage the People I Support
Karen Gains and Jason Lombardi stretch together so they both feel better.
My name is Jason, and I have been a direct support professional (DSP) for six years. Before working with people with IDD, I studied healthcare at State University of New York (SUNY) Orange, graduating with an associate degree in humanities. Several years later, I applied to East Stroudsburg University, where I earned a place on the Dean's list and received a bachelor's degree in Public Health Administration. That was when I first had the opportunity to work as a DSP and have built a wonderful career out of it.
With this supportive education, I often take a different perspective on what to do when the people I support are in need. For example, when one of the people I support, Karen Gaines, began to complain of chronic back pain, I recalled from my yoga practice that frequent stretching exercise was a good way to relieve pain, especially lower back pain. I invited her to join me by first stretching our backs by pushing our bellies outward, then slowly going down into a backbend, and holding there for a count of five seconds. We slowly rose back up, and she said her back felt better. We repeated the stretch two more times, and she said she was feeling much better. She then went to bed, stating her pain had completely gone away.
The next time I arrived on duty, she again came to me complaining of back pain. I encouraged her to join me in the exercise area, where the two of us did the same set of stretches. We took the time to take deep breaths in while pushing our bellies out and breathing out while folding down into our backbends. I explained to Karen that synchronizing her breaths with her movements this way would help deepen the stretch, allowing more fresh blood and oxygen into her muscles and providing more much-needed pain relief. She continues to practice yoga to relieve back pain.
Another example of an alternative approach to care is my belief in a high-protein, medium-carb diet with no added sugar. This is not realistic for everyone, but when serving breakfast, I take time to explain to the people I support the benefits of choosing cottage cheese and fruit, instead of cereal, which tends to be high in carbs and sugar. This diet is excellent for diabetics, and anyone needing to watch their weight. It also gives them longer-lasting energy, which helps them stay calm and do their best throughout their day.