Frontline Initiative Aging

In Action:
Community Support Skills Standards

I am a Direct Support Professional (DSP) working in a residential setting supporting three men who range in age from 61 to 74. I notice that as the men I support age, their hobbies and interests change. Larry, one of the older men, has expressed an interest in getting involved in the senior citizen volunteer organization in the community. He heard about the organization from the local paper, had seen the members having coffee together after meetings, and thought that it looked like fun. He decided that he wanted to be a part of the group and get to know more people his own age. As a DSP I wanted to support Larry in joining the organization, but I didn’t know where to start. Should I just call the volunteer league, sign Larry up, and then take him to their meetings? Or, should I support Larry in taking these steps on his own?

Larry and I met together to talk about the steps that would need to take place to get Larry to his goal of becoming an active member of the senior citizen volunteer league. First, Larry would need to contact the organization to learn about meeting times and general membership information. Typically, Larry is nervous when talking on the phone and prefers the DSP working with him to make calls for him. This is an issue that Larry has worked on throughout his life, and now at age 74, he was ready to take another step. After thinking about it more, Larry decided that he would make the initial call to try to become more assertive and independent. We roleplayed what Larry would say on the phone and he even practiced some calls using the phone and another DSP. When he was ready, he decided to call the organization and learn how to become a member. His call went well and he thought the people were already really friendly. Larry said there were some things he’d like to improve about talking on the phone, but he felt open to continue to try. He found out that the first meeting he could attend was going to be held in a week. 

The week before the meeting, we worked together to plan for transportation and what kind of support he would need at the meetings. Larry signed out a van and arranged for a DSP to drive him there. He asked the DSP to join him at the meeting, but to stay in the background so he could try it out on his own. Prior to the meeting, we talked about volunteer projects that Larry may be interested in and how he would be interested in serving. We also talked about the excitement and worry Larry felt before attending his first meeting. I shared with him some of the feelings I experience when I start a new project and meet a whole bunch of new people. It’s exciting and a little bit scary too!

The night of the meeting, Larry was feeling pretty nervous. We talked about the success he already had in working towards his goal by making the phone call. The meeting turned out to be a lot of fun. Many meetings, months, and volunteer projects later, Larry enjoys sipping coffee and socializing with the other members of the senior citizen volunteer league.

New challenges occur throughout the life-span. Larry discovered that he is always learning and growing. He addressed some of his fears and gained new friends and volunteer service to show for it. Larry inspired this DSP to do the same.

Community Supports Skill Standards

Competency Area 2: Communication

The community-based support human service practitioner (CSHSP) should be knowledgeable about the range of effective communication and basic counseling strategies and skills necessary to establish a collaborative relationship with the participant.