“Wow, we’ve got this thing together!”

shared courtesy of Penn-Mar Human Services 

By, Lydia Claudio, Residential Program Manager

My role as a Residential Program Manager is to oversee four residential group homes in Pennsylvania where 14 people with intellectual disabilities are supported by a staff of up to 30 people.

My duties vary from supervising team members, to screening and hiring applicants, to training new team members and ensuring that our group homes are running according to state regulations.

It’s a big job and its demands have increased exponentially with the COVID-19 crisis.

Since the crisis began, all program managers and directors have been video conferencing every day to discuss current COVID-related issues.

There is a lot of training involved to help both the staff and the individuals we support understand what is going on and how they can stay safe. This can be difficult as there are many moving parts.

Most of our people have a general understanding of the situation. They talk to me about social distancing and have learned to trade handshakes for air high fives and to cough or sneeze into their elbows. Some have a low tolerance for wearing masks for an extended period of time so it’s important to develop an individual plan for each person we support to help them follow the protocols correctly.

The people we support are adjusting to things with patience but staying occupied during the day can sometimes be challenging. Many of our people are routine-oriented and long for time with their peers in the Day Program. All of those activities are now taking place in the homes. They also want to go to church and visit their families. Our staff will often drive them by their family homes, honking and waving, to reconnect with loved ones.