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Day Services in Light of COVID

As it did for everyone else, things changed drastically for our programs over the last year. We had to adapt to COVID and the ever-changing Developmental Disability world. We shut down our facility in March of 2020, but services were still needed. Those who would normally be in day programs for 5-7 hours a day were now home 24/7.

As soon as Ability Works knew that we were going to have to shut our doors for an undetermined amount of time, we offered our staff to other residential providers who needed additional staff to cover shifts in the homes of individuals who required 24/7 staff support.

We partnered with three residential provider agencies, covering shifts in seven homes, providing services to 14 individuals. Our Home Maker Personal Care (HPC) staff helped to staff these other agencies but also continued providing services to the people already on their caseloads. Stopping by their homes to help these individuals with personal care, and household chores.

We are very proud of our staff who stepped up, putting themselves in sometimes uncomfortable positions to make sure that people were cared for whether they were out clients or clients of other residential provider agencies.

Adult Day Services | STEP Group

Once day programs were able to open back up, there were many limitations on the number of people allowed within our facility. Attendance dropped and remaining individuals were spaced throughout our facility while our administrative staff was moved to an off-site office space.

Ability Works STEP group making winter crafts

To adapt to these changes, we began offering a new model that represents a Start Towards Emerging Possibilities (STEP). This Adult Day Service is provided in small groups of five individuals to one staff member. This can be provided in the home, out in the community, or virtually. We currently have four individuals receiving STEP services in person. This offered these four individuals a chance to still receive traditional day services, while also socializing with limited covid exposure.


The STEP service has also given us the chance to start offering a virtual day service option, teleservices. Our first individual to receive teleservices was David Oakley. When we met with David and his family in the fall of 2020, David and his parents had not left their home or had any visitors since March 18, 2020, due to Covid concerns and his mother’s compromised immune system.

Previously, David had received many services with us. He was a very social guy and loved to be on the go. We held a meeting in the backyard of David’s home where the team could be socially distanced. We had never provided remote services but if they said yes, we knew it was a way to keep David connected. David and the rest of the team thought it was a great idea and everyone was on board. Now, it was time for us to get creative.

David’s mother passed away unexpectedly in November, and we were counting on her tech-savviness to help David connect with us over Zoom. David’s sister came in from California to help dad and David out for a while as they got adjusted to their new lives. While she was here, we set up a series of ZOOM meetings with the family letting David and his dad get familiar with how the process worked.

Fast forward, we are now providing STEP services via ZOOM to David every Monday and Friday for one hour. We meet over Zoom on a tablet, and staff walks around from group to group in our facility so David can greet his friends and his favorite staff. David will sometimes participate in a BINGO game with one of the groups or a craft activity that we dropped of at his home, other times he is one on one with the staff. David and his dad look forward to the interaction, and his sister likes having the reassurance that there are extra sets of eyes checking in her loved ones.

Ability Works Staff taking our tablet around to clients so that David can talk to everyone over zoom

The STEP service has supported the people we serve in a new way that we never imagined. While the STEP group came about because of the need during COVID, moving forward we think this will be a great option for our individuals. Providing more time out in the community, and time to socialize in a smaller group setting. It has been shown that individuals with IDD may be at greater risk of mental health deterioration and therefore need the support of friends and family. The STEP service is not just providing support from staff, but the support of a friend group.


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