Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Adult Day Services staff members have been working in AHRC NYC residences to provide essential support to people who live there and to assist those that take care of them.

When all of this first started happening it was very frustrating. Some of our residents understood what was happening and some of them really didn’t,” said Brittany Moore, Manager at 95th Street residence in Manhattan. “All of their normal routines were really moved around. About two weeks later, the day hab staff started coming in and the residents began to adjust.

Creativity is Key

At 95th Street, Melanie Freeman and Jason Smith, Community Support Professionals, both of whom had worked in ADS Day Hab programs in the community before the pandemic, saw an opportunity to bring creativity into the home. They each have a person they support regularly during the week live in the residence.

Melanie has drawn on her experience in the theater to engage the residents she works with. “We’ve modified the drama therapy,” she explained. “We’re transferring into a different type of setting so it’s difficult to run an actual class. We pick elements of it and we’ve made a mini-film. Jason has been writing stories with some of them. We did some Monet-style paintings recently. We’ve also done a lot of baking!

Creativity is the key for other CSPs working in residences, as well. In Brooklyn, Oleg Ovcharenkohas been supporting people in the assigned residential settings from the very first day, March 18th,” said his Director at Stephen B. Siegel Day Center, Valentina Shmulenson. “He brings joy, happiness, and feelings of success into their lives.

I see a lot of individuals very attracted to arts and crafts,” Oleg said. “They open themselves up with this. I was a director of TV programs in Uzbekistan. I want to give all of my ability to the people I support.” Oleg has previously helped people we support in creating their own puppets and stories for unique performances.

Finding New Ways to Support

“Oleg does a lot of different arts and crafts. He does a lot of painting, especially abstract works,” said Khephra Mark-Wright, Manager at 400 Ocean Parkway residence. “If there are people who need a little more help he will do an outline and help them paint the picture.

He went out in the community to gather twigs and branches to make different types of artwork,” Khephra continued. “We’ve started hanging up the pieces on the walls.

Oleg has had to adapt to a style of supporting people with I/DD. “I find interesting aspects in this work,” he said. “Residences do not have as many people around you. You work more one-on-one, and this is new to me. In our facility we have four or five people around us, always,” he said.

While residents and staff members are thrilled to have the extra support, all are eager to regain some measure of normalcy when possible. “Everybody wants to go back to their programs,” Melanie said. “It’s hard for them, being home with each other all the time. It’s hard for them to keep remembering to wear their masks and to be hygienic. For us, we are just trying to keep everyone as creative as possible. That’s the only thing we can do to keep everyone’s mind in a good place.