Monica has been working in the kitchen of a nursing home since February. Technically she is not employed by the nursing home because she is in a Community Work Experience program through an agency that provides job training for people … Continue reading
Monday morning chores.
No dust can settle on this girl!
Wake up. Get dressed in work uniform. Eat breakfast. Brush teeth. Put lunch in backpack.
Empty and load dishwasher.
Gather laundry from hampers in the bedrooms. Take to laundry room and start a load. Whites first.
Take the city-issued garbage and recycling bins to the curb.
Practice piano – 10 minutes.
While watching for your ride, practice Italian lessons with Duolingo on the iPad.
When van comes, head out the door. Greetings to work friends! Off to work.
And it’s only 7:45 a.m.!
Because of a confusion at Monica’s job, Monica has been temporarily unemployed. Sometimes it is difficult for a person with cognitive disability to distinguish nuanced situations. At her last job some of these nuances occurred. On some days she was asked to join the residents of her nursing home for coffee, but on another day, she poured herself a cup and was disciplined. On some days free food was brought in for celebrations, but on another day she was accused of stealing a soda that was left in the refrigerator. She would refer to her phone for the time, but then if it rang and she answered it, it was a violation. Some of these incidents festered and her parents had not heard about them. (They came to light in a later interview.) So Monica has been home for several weeks, taking a breather so to speak. During that time she has greatly lamented her infractions, to the extent she can understand them. She has cried and journaled, but mostly looked positively toward her next venture.
Today her venture began. Her employer has placed her in a new facility which is actually a little closer to home. She was incredibly excited all the past week telling her relatives and friends about her new placement. Mom and Monica went out and Monica bought a watch so that she no longer needs to look to her phone at work…her phone is being safely stored in her locker during time on the clock. A journal book was purchased and inaugurated so that her employer can note any issues that come up. Daily it will circuit between home and work with a brief comment by employer and parents. Monica understands (we think) that it is better if she just eats and drinks food stuffs that she brings from home, and she cannot serve herself anything at work that she has not brought. This is a little difficult, sometimes there are mini-celebrations and birthdays celebrated during break. We will need to keep developing her sensitivities in this area.
So, today at the evening dinner table Monica reviewed her notes of the day and told us with sparkly eyes and cherubic smile all that had happened at work, new friends, new instructions and duties, new work hours. How happy we were for her, to see her laugh and almost trip over her words in her excitement. Then later this evening I was reading and came across this quote from Pope John Paul II’s document on “Human Work” Laborem Exercens (Section 22 – The Disabled Person and Work). I teared up when I read this and was struck with gratitude for all the efforts made by the agencies and employers who have worked with Monica. Despite occasional stumbles, they are participating in achieving this difficult good.
Pope John Paul II wrote in 1981:
“Recently, national communities and international organizations have turned their attention to another question connected with work, one full of implications: the question of disabled people. They too are fully human subjects with corresponding innate, sacred and inviolable rights, and, in spite of the limitations and sufferings affecting their bodies and faculties, they point up more clearly the dignity and greatness of man. Since disabled people are subjects with all their rights, they should be helped to participate in the life of society in all its aspects and at all the levels accessible to their capacities. The disabled person is one of us and participates fully in the same humanity that we possess. It would be radically unworthy of man, and a denial of our common humanity, to admit to the life of the community, and thus admit to work, only those who are fully functional. To do so would be to practise a serious form of discrimination, that of the strong and healthy against the weak and sick. Work in the objective sense should be subordinated, in this circumstance too, to the dignity of man, to the subject of work and not to economic advantage.
The various bodies involved in the world of labour, both the direct and the indirect employer, should therefore by means of effective and appropriate measures foster the right of disabled people to professional training and work, so that they can be given a productive activity suited to them. Many practical problems arise at this point, as well as legal and economic ones; but the community, that is to say, the public authorities, associations and intermediate groups, business enterprises and the disabled themselves should pool their ideas and resources so as to attain this goal that must not be shirked: that disabled people may be offered work according to their capabilities, for this is demanded by their dignity as persons and as subjects of work. Each community will be able to set up suitable structures for finding or creating jobs for such people both in the usual public or private enterprises, by offering them ordinary or suitably adapted jobs, and in what are called “protected” enterprises and surroundings.
Careful attention must be devoted to the physical and psychological working conditions of disabled people-as for all workers-to their just remuneration, to the possibility of their promotion, and to the elimination of various obstacles. Without hiding the fact that this is a complex and difficult task, it is to be hoped that a correct concept of labour in the subjective sense will produce a situation which will make it possible for disabled people to feel that they are not cut off from the working world or dependent upon society, but that they are full-scale subjects of work, useful, respected for their human dignity and called to contribute to the progress and welfare of their families and of the community according to their particular capacities.”
Monica has been at her new job for over 6 months now and loves it every day. In July, she was recognized for perfect attendance again!
Monica is working for an agency that does job training and placement and provides services for adults with disabilities. The agency made an agreement with a long term care facility to provide a group of workers to help the staff with the needs of the residents. There are six adults on Monica’s team and they do a variety of jobs at the facility. Most of the adults are similar in ability to Monica, so she truly has peers to work with. But just like inclusion when they were in school, they are all working alongside the regular employees, sharing the regular employee lunch room and interacting with all the ‘regular’ residents of the facility. So we have the benefits of friends and the benefits of having ‘typically developed’ examples of work behavior.
On an average day, Monica will help clear away the breakfast dishes after the residents finish and prepare the dining room for lunch. She will help with some food prep activities in the kitchen such as pouring small glasses of juice and putting them on trays in the refrigerator or dishing up fruit or putting cookies in baggies. She might then go with a partner to the resident rooms to ask if they would like to join the morning activity. They may help to escort the residents to the activity. If the day’s activity is exercise time or singing time, she may join the activity. On Tuesdays, some of the residents have knitting circle, so Monica joins them. Monica’s group may empty trashcans, or restock some supplies in the rooms. They might fold towels in the laundry. They might help with shredding or collating in the office. They will also clean up after lunch. The services of Monica’s group allow the facility staff to focus more individually on the resident’s needs and the residents enjoy the interaction with the members of Monica’s team. It’s a win for everyone.
Monica works Monday through Friday, 8:30-1:30. The agency provides a bus that picks her up from our home and takes her to work and brings her home in the afternoon. Monica gets up happy every day and looks forward to another day of work. She proudly takes care of her uniform. She comes home tired and satisfied.
We are all so happy with the new situation. She is working and giving service. She has a regular routine. She still has family time. She can pursue other activities, like exercise class now. The agency she is working for has helped her set goals and meet them.
Monica lived all the events of her senior year to the fullest. We were delighted to see her in cap and gown and carrying the bouquet of roses. She was a terrific hostess at her celebration. Her work at a Summer Internship through the County put her in a position to be ready when a job opened in the fall. She now puts herself 110% into her new job. She is on the cleaning crew at a county building: sweeping, mopping, cleaning tables and chairs in the cafeteria, etc. She is progressing well in her piano lessons and played a string of songs for us at this year’s caroling party. She also works one morning a week for a mom of six kids here in Fairview Park as a mother’s helper. Mary Ellen’s volunteering is in transition now with Monica’s schedule changes, so the two of them will be investigating involvements they can do together, of course looking forward to having more time with her sister and her nieces in the year ahead.