Friday, January 25, 2008

To Heck With Winter

It's a bright sunny day. However the wind is howling, making the present 30 degrees Fahrenheit feel even colder.

The cold weather and I are not the best of friends. That is why you will never find me complaining about the summer heat and its accompanying New England-style high humidity.

Let's face it. I love the heat. I am most happy when I am warm and toasty and get to wear the minimal clothing.

I would be very happy living in a much warmer climate.

In fact I revelled in Arizona, where the temperature remained consistently in the low 100s. Coming home to a 40 degree difference did not sit well with me. If I could, I would go back to that desert in a heart beat.

As you may have guessed, I am not one of these people who enjoys the transition of the four seasons.

Not me. No way.

Give me a place where the only precipitation is rain. And give me a place where my fingers won't get stiff and numb from the cold.

Right now my cold, stiff, and numb fingers are counting of the months until the warm weather arrives.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Learning and Adjusting

So, what do I think about my job so far? People ask me if I like it. But I think it's too early to make that kind of determination.

What I can say is that I do not dislike it.

I am still learning and adjusting. And believe me, there are a lot of things to learn and adjust to.

I am amazed at the staff, particularly Karla, the Program Director. Running a house is not an easy task, especially w/all that paper work and accountability.

And I am slowly getting used to the girls who live at the house.

There truly is a lot to learn and a lot to adjust to.

It's a very humbling, though at the same time, exciting experience.

More Than Meets the Eye (of the Hurricane)

Working at the group home is more than just being a parent and role model to 5 autistic and/or mentally retarded young adult women.

For one thing, there is a ton of paper work. I don't think I've seen that much paper since the time I worked for the U.S. Postal Service.

Each girl has a set of goals that she must meet daily or weekly. The Program Specialist needs to keep track of these goals and their progress.

What also needs to be tracked are behaviors, any new marks or injuries on their bodies, and the management of their ADLs (Activities of Daily Living). Then there is also the Communication Log Book that must be reviewed at the beginning of each shift.

Yesterday there was much to record.

Apparently one of the girls had a difficult day. And she made it difficult for the staff.

For 6 hours straight, Sally engaged in truly challenging behaviors.

She pulled out thick hunks of hair from her head 3 times. The scalp on top of her head was red and raw.

Sally put 3 holes in her bedroom wall. She overturned a small table. She broke a mirror. And she threw a tall table lamp and fake tree across the room.

I didn't get to see any of this because I had the other 4 girl downstairs in the rec room to keep them away from all the action, while Karla and Sue (another staff member) were busy with Hurricane Sally.

Whenever I heard a loud thud upstairs, I talked louder to the 4 girls. The biggest concern was that Sally's rampages upstairs would create a chain reaction downstairs. Thankfully that didn't happen.

All during that time we had to carefully migrate around Sally while trying to get the girls ready for their meds, showers, and bed.

Karla had to administer 10 protective holds on Sally throughout the duration.

By the time Sally finally was calm enough to go to bed, there was a guarded relief. Karla was sore, tired, and ready for bed herself.

Sally remained in bed when my shift was over.

New Year ~ New Job

The holidays have finally gone by. And I feel as though I can breathe again.

Even though I have not made any resolutions for 2008, changes have been made for me.

For one thing, I now have a job.

Yes, a job.

I am working as a Program Specialist for human services organization that I interviewed at in December.

(Please note that all of the names of staff, clients, and their families have been changed own out of respect for their privacy and in compliance with HIPAA, the great slayer of trees.)

Program Specialist does not mean that I am working with computers and writing computer programs. Far from it. What I am doing instead is working as a mental health worker in a residential group home setting.

The home where I am working at has 5 young women in their mid 20s who have autism. Most of them also have mental retardation.

Now what ever possessed me to get into this kind of work? I don't even know if I could answer that myself.

It was sort of like awaking up one morning and deciding I wanted to work in human services. And what made my choice feel even more right was that I actually felt comfortable in accepting a non-preferential shift and working on weekends and holidays. Typically I would have balked at such a schedule.

Also, I must admit that the organization offered a killer benefits package that was out of this world! Not only will I be getting health insurance, the organization will pay for any schooling that I would want to pursue in the human services field.

Just think, someone else would be paying for me to go back to school! How cool is that?! I could actually go for a Master's Degree! Woohoo!

I started work 2 weeks ago, on the 7th. The first 3 days were spent in training at corporate headquarters just south of Boston. Then, a few days after my training session, I started working at the group home.

The first week and a half was kind of boring. I had to shadow Karla, the Program Coordinator, and do lots of reading.

I had to read each girl's case files, the policy and procedure manual, the emergency procedure manual, etc. Basically I had to read everything, just falling short of reading the side panel of a cereal box.

Then, I had more training sessions to go to. This time they were on the Cape.

This place is very big on training.

So far I have managed to survive 2 weeks.