Exhaustion Sets In
In last month’s blog post, Mikelle and I lamented that we are still in the middle of a staffing crisis ourselves. Since then, I have met with other parents experiencing some version of this crisis in their own families. Compounding our situation are life challenges like parental surgeries and recovery, exhaustion from overwork, and the last of any clear options in the future ensuring inclusion and a strong community presence, and adequate support as we age…all of us.
To date, staff shortages do not appear to be ending anytime soon. School districts struggle. I wonder if the power of the IEP has evaporated since there are not the staff available to implement it. Check out our podcast on this subject here.
I have dedicated the last few months researching the “Great Resignation.” But, unfortunately, the research is discouraging at best. Rehabilitation providers’ struggle and systems weighed down by bureaucracy and limitations are working quickly to use American Rescue Plan Act monies to improve direct support staff salaries by a few dollars. Signing bonuses might help. Improvement to rate structures might help.
But, will that help enhance the appreciation of direct service professionals and add to the dignity of the work they perform daily?
The Dignity of Work
Recently, a New York Times article caught my attention when it stated, “Work sits at the heart of American’s vision of human flourishing. It’s much more than how we earn a living. It’s how we earn dignity: the right to count in society and enjoy its benefits. It is how we prove our moral character. And it’s where we seek meaning and purpose, which many of us interpret in spiritual terms.”
I wondered about the dignity of being a personal support professional and the accolades society gives people caring for those who need help going to the restroom, preparing a meal, taking medications, cleaning their home. Our field has been plagued by constant turnover because we have failed to value people closest to the people who do the most critical Work in our field for the person receiving services, the person with lived experience with disability. They are paid the least, ignored the most, and the further away from the person with a disability, the more money one makes in human services.
How do we appreciate the dignity of caring for someone with a disability?
It could start with appreciating families as caregivers, the paraprofessional in the classroom, and DSPs in tangible ways. Increased wages will help. The sweet hourly wage is between $22- $29 per hour. But will that be enough to win back fed-up people back to Work? Any work?
The pandemic has stepped on people’s last nerve, and the dignity of Work never fully established in healthcare and human services. Wouldn’t people flock back to open positions as the pandemic subsides if it were a foundational value?
Do we suffer from low expectations?
Once again, I wonder if we suffer from the bigotry of low expectations for people with disabilities.
Do they deserve the best support possible or marginal efforts for meager pay?
By paying low wages for DSPs and paraprofessionals, are we casting people with disabilities onto the path of poverty once again? What if the people closest to the individual with disabilities also had customized employment and support plans? What if they were indeed successful in their careers? Would that not be a powerful tool to help people with disabilities out of poverty by having those closest to them prosper?
I wonder if we are doomed to cyclical poverty for people with disabilities and those that support them.