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Around Town: Fun Things to Do in Philly

 

For a change of pace, here are a few Philly-based recreation options that caregivers of intellectually disabled individuals should keep in mind.

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation’s Carousel House is dedicated to people with disabilities. Its year-round programming includes:

  • Trips
  • Dances
  • Bingo parties
  • Nature walks
  • Arts & crafts

Carousel House, located at Belmont Avenue and Avenue of the Republic, gives people with disabilities a chance to socialize, learn, and play. This summer, Carousel House will offer a summer sports camp for people (ages 16+) with disabilities.

National Park Service’s Access Pass is a free lifetime pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents with permanent disabilities. The pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges.  

Explore National Park sites in the Greater Philadelphia area.

Team River Runner is a national nonprofit network that offers health and healing for disabled members of the community and others through therapeutic kayaking. The boats, gear, and instruction are free.

Instruction starts out with the basics in a calm river or heated, indoor pool. Team River Runner adapts the instructions to the needs of the individual with a goal of forming a supportive community that enjoys sharing a day of adventure out on the water.

Besides being a fun way to connect with nature and make new friends, kayaking offers people a chance to strengthen core muscles, improve flexibility and coordination, get excited, and clear their heads.

 

Creative Arts Therapy

The Kardon Center for Creative Arts Therapy at Settlement Music School offers music, art, and dance/movement therapy services to individuals with special needs at Settlement branches (Philly branches are at: 416 Queen St., 4910 Wynnefield Avenue, 3745 Clarendon Avenue, and 6128 Germantown Ave) and at other locations in our community.

Creative Arts Therapy is a form of non-verbal psychotherapy that uses the senses—specifically music, dance, and creative expression—to open new channels of communication between participants and their therapists, families, and communities. While goals for Creative Arts Therapy are tailored to each participant’s needs, benefits may include improved social skills, cognition, language, and physical skills. No previous training is needed to take part.

To learn about the specific offerings at the branches closest to you, contact Mark Bottos, Zausmer Program Director at the Kardon Center for Arts Therapy (Tel: 215.320.2625).

 

Avoid Sensory Overload

What counts as recreation varies by person. Those who experience sensory overload in many settings may prefer to drop in on a museum that offers special accommodations for them in Philly.

Some of the participating museums include:

  • The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University offers Access to Science events when the museum is open to visitors on the autism spectrum. The next events will be July 14 and August 25. Pre-registration is required, but can be same-day.
  • The Franklin Institute offers tools everyday for people who typically might find it a bit loud, crowded, and bright. Sensory alert maps help guide you through experiences that may involve high levels of sensory stimulation. Sensory backpacks stocked with noise-reducing headphones, sunglasses, fidgets, and weighted toys help reduce sensory stimulation while checking out the exhibits can be borrowed first-come first-served at information desks in the atrium and lobby. Plan your visit for weekday afternoons or evenings, which are less busy.
  • The Please Touch Museum offers Play Without Boundaries days, when the museum offers a more relaxed environment for individuals with autism, learning differences, and other sensory or communication needs. Accommodations include:
    • The museum is closed to the general public, so there are fewer visitors.
    • Low-level lighting and a quieter experience.
    • Tools to enhance your visit, include quiet zones
    • The next Play Without Boundaries events will be July 7, August 4, Sept. 8, October 6, and November 3. Be sure to pre-register.

Caregiving for Adults with Mental Illness: How to Diffuse Tension

Working with people who have intellectual disabilities or behavioral issues can be challenging, Daisy Williams takes steps to minimize stressors in the lives of those she cares for. She has been a direct care professional who provides care for individuals who live in Casmir Care’s Community Residential homes for eight years and counting.

Her work involves direct caregiving. The individuals she works with have cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, schizophrenia and/or bipolar disorder. She helps them with activities of daily living such as eating, bathing, dressing, continence and instrumental activities of daily living such as cooking, caring for pets, completing housework, and using the phone.

When caring for individuals in Casmir Care Services’ Community Residential Homes, she has noticed that sometimes what people watch on television can set them off. Someone who is fully bipolar, schizophrenic, or both, may think everything happening on “Jerry Springer” is about them. They may react to what they see by saying, “I don’t have no gun,” Daisy said.

 

(Residential Associate Daisy Williams demonstrates the “soft face” she uses to calm  residents down.)

 

Avoiding Triggers

“So, you have to be really careful about what you put on the television,” she said, so that they don’t get all worked up. Sometimes something said on TV triggers something in their memory. Then they will react to it by becoming sad or violent or having an outburst. “And you have to know them to be able to understand what just happened to them, so you can diffuse it,” she said.

She recommends not letting these people watch “Criminal Minds,” some news programs, talk shows, or “Court TV,” because it can set off the voices they hear inside their heads. Shows with built-in conflict don’t help, because it can get them worked up.

When individuals in care are accidentally exposed to things that trigger them, Daisy’s standard procedure is to proceed with caution. “The most important thing I do is stay calm and do not speak until I’m sure that they’re ready to be approached,” she said.

If you come close to them, but don’t understand where they’re at in their head, she said, the individual might act out. And you might be attacked.

Instead, it’s safer to not move and carefully assess the situation.

 

Diffusing Tension

“And you try to look in their eyes softly,” she said. Make your eyes soft so that you can melt their heart, she advised. “Then they’ll open back up to you,” she said. “But you have to be able to do that.”

When pressed for more details, she said to put on a soft face with puppy dog eyes. You might say something like: “I feel your pain. Tell me what you need. I wish I could make it go away.” Watch the person’s body language. Once they relax, perhaps unballing fists and you see the tension drop away from the person’s body, it will be easier to approach the individual. Then you can rub an arm or shoulder and say, “That was then. We’re here for you.”

 

Mental Redirection

If a resident is having problems that day, Daisy tries to ease them into working toward having a better day tomorrow. The idea is to keep them focused on what’s ahead and the good things in their life as opposed to whatever they were complaining about. She might bring up something fun they did in the past, like going to Dave & Buster’s, and suggest doing it again. The mental redirect gives them something else to think about, she explained.

Those under care trust Daisy to understand their needs, she said. “I’m not a disciplinarian caretaker,” she said. “I’m more of a mom caretaker.”

As director of operations here at Casmir Care Services, I know that Daisy has a great sense of intuition that helps her manage our individuals’ needs with ease. Her antennae are always out, trying to a get a read on how they are feeling. She has the patience, flexibility, compassion, and empathy required to deal with the individuals we support. She has demonstrated this consistently over the years and with a cross-section of the individuals we support. Our individuals are lucky to have her help them through their days.

Resources
How to support a loved one during a psychotic episode
Solving problems can enhance resilience and improve adjustment
Being an effective caregiver
Caregiver and schizophrenia: How to handle the psychosis

Best Buddies Programs Help People with Intellectual Disabilities Make New Friends

To celebrate National Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month this March, let’s take a look at the nonprofit, Best Buddies International. It is the world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200 million people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Some of its programs empower people with IDD by helping them form meaningful friendships with their peers.

Cultivating Relationships

Because young adults with IDD are often isolated at home or in work environments, Best Buddies offers several options for one-to-one friendships. Typically, a person with a disability is paired with another person without a disability.

Best Buddies College Program

  • The college program fosters one-to-one friendships between college students without IDD and their peers on campus or in the community with IDD.
  • The Best Buddies meet two times a month.
  • The program gives people with IDD a way to be involved in their local campus and community life.
  • This option often involves having a service provider pair up with a college chapter of Best Buddies.
  • In Philly, Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, and Saint Joseph’s all offer Best Buddies chapters. In eastern Pennsylvania alone, there are about 65 chapters, but many are for K-12 kids.

Best Buddies Citizens Program

  • For adults with IDD who aren’t affiliated with a service provider and/or don’t live near an existing college chapter, Best Buddies in Pennsylvania also offers the newly launched Citizen’s Program.
  • This program offers a more customized experience that involves a one-on-one friendship with an adult volunteer in the community.
  • Typically, this program fosters friendships between adults with and without IDD in civic and corporate environments.
  • Everyone involved—the potential peer (person with a disability) and peer buddy (person without a disability)—undergoes a background screening.
  • While the Citizens Program offers opportunities to get together as a group from time to time, it’s primarily a one-to-one relationship where the buddy and peer buddy are advised to get together for a minimum of four hours a month and then stay in touch weekly, whether by phone or email. The frequency helps a natural friendship develop.

“We go to great lengths to match people based on common interests,” said Milli Protheroe, area director for the Philadelphia office of Best Buddies. It’s important for the people involved to live in the same community so the relationship can be easily sustained. They typically match people of the same gender.

She noted that the Citizens program is in the recruitment phase with 60 applicants so far. They are looking for people with and without disabilities to be a part of the program. Sometimes to simplify matching, Best Buddies partners with a business or organization. In Delaware, for instance, the Bank of America chapter holds a monthly brown bag lunch for its Best Buddies.

Exploring Philly Together

As a group, a Best Buddies chapter might hold a talent show, karaoke nights, or something as simple as a movie night. Sometimes the chapters coordinate with each other and throw a big field day or a Thanksgiving event as a way to bring people together.

The Best Buddies in college chapters are required to meet two times a month. One of those activities might be a group outing with the chapter. And the other might be a one-on-one outing.

Speaking from personal experience, Protheroe said she was matched with a buddy in the Citizens program. Each month they get together for something fun in Philly. They went to Penn Museum to see the sphinx exhibit. They’ve gone to movies like “The Greatest Showman,” “Crazy Rich Asians,” and “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Often, it’s a movie and then dinner where they discuss the movie. They’ve painted pottery. And she noted that there are lots of free things one can do in Philly. The art museum is free on Sundays. And there’s always something going on at Penn’s Landing and Franklin Square.

Expanding Horizons

The relationships help people overcome feelings of isolation and loneliness, build their confidence, helps with life skills such as communication and conversation skills. The experience is “life changing for a lot of our participants both with and without disabilities,” said Protheroe. Being around people of varying talents and abilities can really enhance your own skills, she noted.

How to Contact Best Buddies

If a caregiver wants to get the individual they care for into a One-to-One program, you can contact a college chapter directly and try to make a connection. Or you can reach out to the Best Buddies office at 888.604.7376. And the office will try to help connect you with the right people at a local chapter or with the Citizens Program.

A More Inclusive Hiring Process Welcomes Neurodiverse Workers

Companies are beginning to actively recruit neurodiverse people, according to Here & Now.

“There’s just a lot of talent out there,” said Neil Barnett, director of Inclusive Hiring and Accessibility at Microsoft. “More and more companies are seeing that.”

As we pause to honor civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., let’s take a look at a small trend but long-awaited trend. Companies are finally beginning to welcome neurodiverse people to the workplace. Different human wiring in neurodiverse populations translates into neurological differences that show up in dyspraxia, dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, Tourette Syndrome, and others, according to the National Symposium on Neurodiversity at Syracuse University.

According to Harvard Business Review, a rising number of companies have made their HR processes more inclusive to accommodate neurodiverse talent. They include SAP, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Ford. The longest running program is SAP’s, which started in 2013.

Underestimated workers

People often underestimate the neurodiverse even though they may have the skills for a job. Prospective employers tell them they are not a culture fit. Sometimes fidgeting or a failure to make eye contact during a traditional interview process can take a person out of the running. Given the requirements of typical interview processes, perhaps it is not a surprise that most people with autism are unemployed.

According to the Boston Globe, advocates see the neurodiversity movement as a civil rights issue. These aren’t disorders, they argue, they just reflect normal variation in humans. And these people should be accommodated.

More inclusive hiring process

Because the traditional interview process is even more of a challenge for people on the autism spectrum, Microsoft tweaked its hiring process to “screen people in” in a more inclusive way said Barnett, who leads Microsoft’s Autism Hiring Program.  

Under the Autism Hiring Program, candidates can come and be themselves and showcase their skills over a five-day period, said Barnett. The company lets candidates get to know each other and the hiring team. They do team exercises, like using marshmallows and toothpicks to build a bridge. This gives Microsoft a way to assess a person’s demonstrated capacity for teamwork. And the applicants spend time doing practice interviews. Instead of one day of back-to-back interviews, they spread it out over two days.

Benefits of neurodiverse workers

There are benefits to including neurodiverse workers in your workforce. Neurodiverse people see the world differently, according to John Elder Robison, an advocate and author with Asperger’s syndrome. That can give them a competitive advantage in certain fields. With autism, for example, people may spot patterns that other people cannot. Such a neurological gift can help people test software for bugs and errors.

Companies have profited from lower product defect rates and higher productivity of neurodiverse workers, according to Harvard Business Review. And at SAP, neurodiverse employees helped develop a technical fix that saved an estimated $40 million.

Sometimes accommodations for neurodiverse employees benefit all workers. Because autistic employees don’t necessarily catch nuances or irony, corporate communications at one company became more direct and clear overall.

When he talks to companies that are looking into recruiting neurodiverse workers, Barnett said he always frames the discussion in terms of the benefits to the business. “This is not charity,” Barnett told Here & Now. “This is business impact.”

To learn more:
More companies are seeking out neurodiverse job candidates
Neurodiversity as a competitive advantage  
What is neurodiversity?
Companies tap into an underused but highly capable workforce

How to Free Yourself to be a Better Caregiver

Besides the ability to creatively solve problems and defuse tension before it escalates, caregivers who work with individuals with intellectual disabilities need a certain amount of resilience to get through their work day.

Because individuals with intellectual disabilities may not have strong reasoning or social skills, they may not know how to filter out some of the thoughts that pop to mind. And that makes them fairly uninhibited about expressing their feelings when they get worked up about something or frustrated when something doesn’t go their way.

In these situations, a certain amount of resilience, patience, and flexibility can make a caregiver’s job easier. Caregivers who are able to stay calm no matter what the individual is doing will find work easier than those who are thin-skinned.

 

It’s not about you

It’s important not to take anything an individual says about you personally, says Daisy Williams, a direct care professional with Casmir Care’s Community Residential Homes. Sometimes, she has noticed that less experienced staff at places she has worked are not as easygoing or patient as other caregivers. “Their buttons are more easily pushable than mine are,” she says.

But when you don’t take things personally, it frees you to be a better caregiver, she says.

If you do take a verbal attack personally, it’s hard to use a comforting voice to pacify the person. “You have to calm yourself first and not let thoughts run through you head” about how they should know better, she says. “No, they don’t know better. They’re angry and they’re just expressing themselves, and you just happened to be right there at the time.”

 

Tomorrow is a better day

It may also help to realize that the individual might not be angry tomorrow. You might have a good day ahead with them. “So think about that,” she says. The attitude to take is: “Okay, we’re just going to get through this day and look forward to a better day tomorrow.”

As a caregiver who has been working for Casmir Care Services Inc. for eight years, Daisy has noticed that the people who stay a long time at one company have a thick skin. They tend to be the ones who are good at controlling their emotions when situations heat up. They are the ones who are able to separate the fact that the resident is just expressing himself in a way that you would if you were at home and somebody was not doing what you asked them to do.

“It helps to stay really calm, no matter what the person is doing,” she says.

 

Offer other options

And sometimes a compromise is in order. As a caregiver, you may not always be able to convince the individual to do something your way. But you can get him to understand that there are more options. For example, you might do something his way that time, but tell him, “I want to show you other ways as well.”

A lot of her job as a direct care professional with Casmir Care involves coming up with other options, Daisy says. When the individual is focused on just one thing, he may not see that there are more choices beyond the thing he is fixated on. “I show them and help them understand they can do it in many different ways and still come out with the same outcome,” she says.

For caregivers, it’s all in a day’s work.

 

Learn more:

Tips for caregivers of disabled people
Caregiver stress: Tips for taking care of yourself
7 Tips for avoiding caregiver burnout that really work

Special Olympics Gives Millions of People with Intellectual Disabilities a Way to Stand Out

You might have noticed last week that the Special Olympics was at the center of a brouhaha after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos confirmed there were plans to cut its $17.6 million in government funding. The public outcry was so fierce that President Trump quickly reversed his education secretary’s decision and authorized the funding.

Maybe he realized that cutting the funding made it look like his administration was cruel, cutting access to inclusive programs for people with intellectual disabilities.

The Special Olympics has roots in an innovative summer camp that Eunice Kennedy Shriver started for young people with intellectual disabilities in 1962 in her backyard in a Washington, D.C. suburb. She wanted to see if they could participate in sports and physical activities. It was a revolutionary idea at the time.

When the first Special Olympics games were held in 1968, people with intellectual disabilities did not have many opportunities to take part in sports. Many lived in institutions. Most could not go to school, as several years would have to pass before the law said kids with disabilities had the same right to an education as everyone else.

The Special Olympics ultimately became one of the first places where people with intellectual disabilities could be seen and accepted. Both kids and adults now participate in Special Olympics sports.

Growing Fast
By the 1980s, the Special Olympics was recognized as the premier sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities around the world.

By 2016, the Special Olympics exceeded its ambitious goal of getting 1 million athletes and partners involved in Unified Sports, which brings together people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team.

These days, 4.9 million athletes with intellectual disabilities take part in Special Olympics programs around the world. In addition, more than 1 million coaches and volunteers are involved. There are 223 programs in 172 countries.

Outstanding Athletes
In March 2019, Angela Athenas, 34, of Huntington, N.Y., won a gold medal in deadlift, squat, bench press, and overall weight lifting at the International Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi. Her heaviest deadlift was 292 pounds.” I keep going and I never stop going,” Athenas told Eyewitness News. Although she has ADHD, bipolar disorder, and a mild intellectual delay, they haven’t limited her ability to be a standout in her sport.

“The best part about being involved with Special Olympics is to meet new friends and to prove that people with disabilities can do anything that we put our minds to do,” wrote Robert Moore, 27, an equestrian with autism from Tampa, Fla., who won a gold medal for dressage, a highly skilled form of riding. He has been going to the Special Olympics for 16 years. As a young child, he suffered from poor core strength and sat curled in a ball. Working with horses, which involves considerable core power, starting at age 5 changed that.

The Special Olympics offers many ways to get involved including short- and long-term volunteer opportunities, the option of playing unified sports, and becoming a Special Olympics athlete.

Learn more about how to get involved with Special Olympics:

Become an athlete

Become a volunteer

Become an official

 

How to Prevent Autistic Individuals from Wandering

It’s every caregiver’s nightmare: Someone goes wandering off. Then a search is mounted.

For caregivers of autistic kids and adults, their tendency to wander can be worrisome.

Nearly one-third of reported Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) missing person cases related to wandering/elopement from 2011 to 2016 in the United States ended in death or required medical attention, according to a 2017 National Autism Association study. The study was based on more than 800 media-reported missing person cases in the U.S. involving people with ASD.

An attraction to water seems to pose a high risk. Accidental drowning was responsible for more than 70 percent of lethal outcomes, followed by fatal traffic injury (18 percent).

At the time of elopement, nearly half (45 percent) of the individuals were under some sort of non-parent supervision. Times of transition, commotion, and stress were associated with increased risk of elopement. And those who were upset or agitated tended to show a higher risk of abruptly going into traffic or other high-risk situations.

Precautions to keep individuals safe   

What can parents, guardians, and caretakers do to prevent such needless deaths of individuals with ASD who might be prone to elopement?

What follows are some tips from AWAARE: Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response Education Coalition:

Be aware of bodies of water near places the individual frequents.

Talk to those closest to the individual in your care. This includes neighbors, teachers, friends, and extended family. Anyone who might be near your family member when he or she wanders away may turn out to be the first person who can help find him or her quickly. Tell these people what your family member is attracted to or scared of, as this information could turn out to be valuable clues if the person goes missing.

Teach the individual to swim. Many YMCA locations offer swimming lessons for people with special needs. The final lesson should be with clothes on, according to AWAARE. Just realize that teaching a family member to swim does not mean he or she will be safe in water. If you or your neighbors own a pool, put a fence around it. Let your neighbors know about your family member’s tendency to wander and the need to take safety precautions. And remove toys or anything that might be of interest from the pool when it’s not in use.

Give the individual a medical ID bracelet to wear. Of those autistic people who wander, many may be nonverbal. So, they would likely not be able to communicate with those searching for them. The ID bracelet should include your name, telephone number, and any other critical information. For example, it might state that your family member has autism and is non-verbal. If the individual refuses to wear a bracelet or necklace, consider a temporary tattoo with your contact information.

Consider putting a tracking device on the individual. Check with local law enforcement for Project Lifesaver or LoJak SafetyNet services. These tracking devices may be worn on the wrist or ankle and can locate the individual via radio frequency. GPS tracking systems are also available.

Keep an especially close eye on the individual when you observe agitation or someone is upset. These are the times a person with ASD is particularly at risk of engaging in risky wandering behaviors.

Alert first responders before anything happens: According to AWAARE, preparing first responders with key information before an incident occurs can improve response. Create an informational handout including all pertinent information. Caregivers should carry these at all times. Give the handout to family, neighbors, friends, and co-workers, and first responders.

Taking steps now could either prevent the wandering or at least lay the groundwork for more easily locating a missing person.

Resources
For neighbor alert form, safety tips, an autism elopement alert form, and more, visit https://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/2018-08/Safety%20Forms.pdf.

Creative Problem-Solving is a Daily Challenge for Caregivers

A caregiver’s job at Casmir Care Services involves creative problem-solving.

Being responsible for individuals with intellectual disabilities often may involve modifying certain behaviors or defusing situations before they escalate.

One individual in the residential community likes collecting bags. Not just any plastic store bag, but the complimentary bags that are fancier than normal. Every time she goes somewhere, she’ll collect more bags and bring them home.

The downside, said Daisy Williams, a direct care professional with Casmir Care’s Community Residential Homes, is that individual has hoarding tendencies. So there’s a fine line between recognizing what brings a person joy and trying to keep a living space uncluttered.

That means Daisy can let her shop. But she must somehow limit the resident’s stuff. It might be okay to get three bags one day as long as they get rid of five upon getting home. But the individual didn’t want to do her own decluttering.

 

Overcoming Resistance

To avoid conflict over the need to toss bags out, Daisy sought to avoid confrontation that could create stress. Instead she takes a rather creative approach to manage the clutter. She will sometimes rearrange the resident’s bedroom while she’s away. That way, when the individual comes back, she can enjoy a neat room.

But before Daisy makes any changes to a room, she makes sure the individual has some say in what happens by making a light suggestion like: “I think it’s a good time to look around your room and see what direction we want to put the bed in.” Then the individual will say, “Alright Daisy, you do it while I’m in school.”

Daisy will actually get rid of those five bags when she rearranges the decor. And afterwards, everyone is happy with the change in layout. “I have to be creative a lot to make them think that most of it was their idea,” said Daisy.

As it turns out, the resident always gets excited in a good way when her room gets changed. And asking her whether she wants her room rearranged gives her some say in the matter.

 

Teaching Acceptance

Sometimes the creative problem-solving involves teaching someone something new. Another individual supported by Casmir likes getting her hair braided. But the texture of her hair doesn’t hold a braid all that well, because she is Caucasian. While this individual always thinks she can have the same hair styles as Daisy, who is African American, sometimes attempts at the same braids make her hair break.

To show how hard it was to braid this individual’s hair, Daisy bought a doll head with the same type of hair for this resident to braid. And sometimes Daisy says she would cut a braid before she gave the head back to her. When this resident went to take the doll’s braid out, a chunk of the hair would come out.

“I tell you,” said Daisy. “I can be creative.”

Daisy saw the doll’s head as a way to let the individual learn for herself how a braid might not work all that well in a type of hair. In the end, she understood that it’s not a big deal that the braids don’t “work” on the doll. It’s just the way it is.

The best part of this exercise was that it made her stop asking to get her hair in braids all the time. She was able to accept that not all hairstyles would work with her hair.

In any given day, direct care professionals need to solve problems and call upon their creativity as they work with the community’s residents to create win-win situations, using empathy and compassion to work around each individual’s needs.

What Qualities Does Casmir Care Services Seek in Its Best Applicants?

 

To help applicants get a better idea of what Casmir Care Services Inc. looks for when evaluating job applicants, we asked Chinyere Dunkley, our assistant director of Human Resources, to share what qualities and abilities we look for.

Q: What basic skills, qualities, and abilities do you look for in every strong caregiver applicant?

A: Every strong caregiver applicant is someone who is patient, flexible, compassionate, innovative, creative, honest, and empathetic. 

Strong applicants are good at communicating and can advocate for our individuals effectively. This is someone who is attentive, dependable trustworthy, encouraging, and supportive with good problem-solving skills. 

Most importantly, we look for someone who is passionate about our company and its mission and willing to learn and grow with the company. 
 
Q: What kinds of experience do you seek in applicants?

A: We look for at least one year of experience. But we encourage people who are willing and have an urge to learn and gain experience as well as grow in the field to apply. We offer extensive training and have a management team that strives to help employees become the best employees whether they have experience or not.  We also understand that people do need to at least start somewhere.

Q: What is the title for the job opening that you find yourself most frequently hiring for? 

A: The job opening that I find myself most frequently hiring for is Direct Support Professional/Residential Aide and Site Supervisor.

Q: When you think about applicants who were particularly strong, what made them pop out of the pile of job applicants? 

A: The most outstanding applicants are usually those who fill their application out in its entirety and are very detailed on their application, most importantly, on the survey questions.

Q: What are turnoffs or red flags on applications? Or when you contact professional references?

A: I notice when people answer certain questions wrong like their date of birth, the continuous misspelling of words, gaps in employment, and those who answer the surveys with one word or only offer personal references.

Q: When you interview applicants, are there any common mistakes they make? 

A: Sometimes applicants doubt themselves and instead of guessing and/or trying to learn while in the interview, they shut down and say, “I don’t know,” or “I don’t want to be wrong,” because they think they may get a question wrong.

Q: What are rare traits or qualities that you would love to see more of?

A: We would love to see more people who come to work for the sole purpose of caring for our individuals and not to gossip, fraternize, and collect a paycheck.

 


Upcoming Open Houses  

Casmir Care Services is hiring Direct Care Professionals and Caregivers for individuals with disabilities. Come to our open house and learn about Casmir Care and the individuals we serve.

May 16, May 30

Noon – 4:00 PM

4950 Parkside Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19131
RSVP: Call (267) 292-3116 to sign up

How to Combat Seasonal Affective Disorder

 

In the depths of winter, more people say they feel tired or depressed. For some, it’s a normal response to less sunlight. Just the winter blues. For others, it can be a deeper, clinical form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that’s a regular pattern of mood changes that leaves people feeling gloomy during the fall and winter months, when there’s less natural sunlight each day.

If someone you’re caring for is suffering from SAD, it might seem like they’re hibernating. They tend to lose interest in activities they used to enjoy. Symptoms may include sadness, feeling hopeless, worthless, or irritable, low energy, difficulty sleeping or oversleeping, carbohydrate cravings and weight gain, and thoughts of death or suicide. Without treatment, the symptoms usually last until the days start getting longer.  

Since depression can be trickier to spot in individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism, and SAD is a form of depression, caregivers should realize that SAD may manifest in different ways. While people suffering from SAD may be less active when frustrated or feeling hopeless, it’s possible that someone with ID might bang his head or exhibit other behaviors. 

The exact causes of SAD are not clear. But researchers have found that people with SAD may suffer from an imbalance of serotonin, a brain chemical that affects mood. Their bodies may make too much melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, and not enough vitamin D.

The people most at risk for Seasonal Affective Disorder tend to be younger females who live far from the equator and come from families with a history of depression, bipolar disorder, or SAD.

In the early 1980s, researchers first discovered a link between light and seasonal depression. They pioneered the light therapy, which has become a first line treatment for SAD. With light therapy, patients sit in front of a light box every morning for at 30 minutes or more, according to a doctor’s recommendation. The light shines brighter than normal indoor lighting and relieves symptoms in up to 70 percent of patients after a few weeks of treatment.

A town in Norway took light therapy to a new level. Three huge mirrors stand on the mountainside above the town of Rjukan, according to Mosaic. The mirrors are mounted in such a way that it turns to track the sun while continuously reflecting its light down to the town square.

Studies also show that certain antidepressants can help treat SAD and prevent winter gloom. And mounting evidence shows that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of talk therapy, can also help people with SAD. It involves identifying patterns and errors in one’s way of thinking and challenging them, according to Kelly Rohan, a psychologist and SAD expert. Patients with SAD might rephrase thought such as “I can’t do anything in winter” to “It’s harder for me to do things in winter, but if I plan and put in effort, I can.” Therapy can also involve finding activities that a person wants to do in the winter to pull out of “hibernation” mode.

Whether you or someone you’re caring for suffers from SAD, know that you can change your thinking and behavior and feel a bit better at this time of year. And with your help, they may be able to feel better too.


Mood Lifters

If you’re a parent or caretaker of someone who shows signs of having Seasonal Affective Disorder or perhaps experiencing it yourself, these tips from the National Institutes of Health can help lighten the effects of seasonal depression.

  • Go to a movie, take a walk in a park, go do some other activity you normally enjoy.
  • Get out in the sunlight or brightly lit spaces, especially early in the day.
  • Spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative.
  • Eat nutritious foods. Avoid overloading on carbohydrates like cookies and candy.
  • Be patient. You won’t snap out of depression. But your mood can improve gradually.
  • See a mental health professional if sadness doesn’t go away or interferes with your daily life.

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