Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New Day Program: A Warm Welcome

Once we determined Robert needed more care at his Day Program, including having the option of using his wheelchair when his mobility was questionable, the transfer happened fairly quickly.
Robert's first day of new program (2014)

Fortunately, we had the option of going to another program run by Easter Seals.  I have been very happy with Robert’s other Easter Seals Day Program and had no doubt the new one would be just as terrific. 

We toured the facility, completed paperwork, got the transfer arranged through Robert’s Regional Center and had the intake meeting all within a few weeks of the decision to move him.

As with any change, I was a little concerned if this was the best choice for Robert.  After all, the staff at the other program knew his quirks, Robert had friends at his other program and most of all, he had his routines.

Routine is huge in Robert’s life.  We have realized that change is actually a seizure trigger for him so I do not take lightly making any changes to his routine. 

The new program had numerous benefits though: Robert could use the wheelchair whenever we thought it was necessary (and, actually, it’s become a daily necessity). There were more staff per clients and since Robert’s needs were increasing, this was a huge bonus.

Selfishly, I was looking forward to it being in a more convenient location. Since Robert returned home from the Skilled Nursing Facility, we had decided to make the morning routine less rushed.  Robert sleeps in later than he did before being hospitalized and we no longer take advantage of the morning transportation to program.  Richard or I take him to program once he is ready and we are not rushing him or stressing him (and us) out in the morning. The problem with this plan is that the previous program is 20 minutes from our home and that much further from my office. 

As a working caregiver, this was a price I decided was necessary to pay.  Even though I arrived at the office later than I would have liked, I checked emails and voicemails in the morning (don’t worry – not while driving!).  I also spent a lot more at Starbucks because by the time I was done with the caregiving part of my morning, I was ready for another dose of caffeine!

The new program is mid-way between our house and the office and five minutes from Robert’s physical therapy. (That is a whole other routine of drop off and pick up on physical therapy days.)

So, yes, selfishly, I was looking forward to this more convenient location. I was also relieved that I didn’t have to worry about sending Robert to program with a walker when he would be safer in the wheelchair.  I was looking forward to more staff helping Robert in the bathroom and helping him make safe decisions (sometimes Robert misjudges distance or his ability to pick up something from the floor which causes him to topple over).

I’d rather not get calls that Robert has fallen onto another client or over-corrected his walker and fallen sideways onto the floor. (Both have happened.)

During the transition period, Richard and I spoke enthusiastically of the new program and Robert was excited about the change.  He did have an uptick in his seizures which I believe was due to the anticipated change.  However, I knew he would establish new routines quickly and was happy with the speed of the transfer so was confident this disruption would pass.

The intake process was extremely helpful as it gave me an opportunity to tell them about Robert’s likes, quirks and things that irritated him. I asked if it would be helpful to send a list of upcoming appointments instead of calling in the morning of each appointment and they appreciated that idea.  The intake meeting was a great chance to offer suggestions on how best to communicate with Robert, especially during his stubborn moments.

I was very impressed with the staff on Robert’s first day.  They were very conscientious about the medication I was dropping off, counting it, completing paperwork and even training other staff members on how medication intake was done. 

It seemed as if the staff had read all about Robert before he even arrived that first day.

While I was discussing medications and the bathroom help that is needed, Robert made himself comfortable at a nearby table and was soon surrounded by clients befriending the “new guy.”

It didn’t hurt that most of them were women since Robert fancies himself a ladies man!

Unfortunately, Robert had an incident after the first few days (Argh! It’s only been three days!). Apparently, he refused bathroom help and got angry with the staff person trying to help him. He was eventually changed but refused help later in the day and ended up at home soaking wet.

The site manager has been terrific with communication, though. By the time I got home from work, Richard told me how Robert came home on the van soaking wet.  I had an email from the site manager explaining what happened as well as a note in Robert’s bag from the staff member who was involved in the incident. 

I talked with Robert and explained the staff were there to help and that it wasn’t okay to not be nice to them.  Robert listened intently, as he always does, and said, “I understand.”

I explained to Robert that he would have to apologize to the staff member the next day.  He agreed and I told him the name of the person he needed to apologize to.  The whole next morning while getting ready, Robert asked me who he was supposed to apologize to.  I told him he had to talk to Noah.


Yes, Noah.

“Thank you for telling me that.”

Fifteen minutes would pass and Robert asked, “Is the lady’s name Christine?”

No, you have to talk to Noah. It’s a guy.


Yes, Noah.

“Thank you for telling me that.”

We repeated this routine until we arrived at Day Program. As I pushed the wheelchair into the building, I asked a staff member where we could find Noah. She didn’t hear me at first so Robert repeated the question. She pointed us in the right direction and Robert looked at Noah and said, “I’m sorry I wasn’t nice to you, Noah” and extended his hand.

Noah shook Robert’s hand and told him it was okay.

I talked with the site manager and told her I was sure there would be more instances like this but hopefully, they would be few and far between.  I asked her to continue to keep me informed about behavior issues and we would work on them at home. She was grateful for our communication.

I too am grateful for the communication, as well as the care they are giving Robert, even on his difficult days.

Aside from the “off” day, Robert is coming home excited about his day and the various activities they have him doing.  So far, he has tried arts & crafts, a visit to the local park and a day of volunteer work.  All things he said he wanted to do. 

He is coming home telling Richard the names of the new people he met and as far as I can tell, he already has several friends. One morning when I dropped him off he greeted one of the clients by extending his hand to hers. More of a “holding hands” gesture than a handshake so I think he’s getting along with his new friends just fine.

There were bumps in the first week but overall, I think Robert is going to be just fine – if not downright excellent.

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