A New Way of Seeing a Family Member with IDD
When parents or families helped a family member with IDD connect to larger social networks beyond the family, some were surprised to discover that others were open to being asked for support. When one son wanted to know his father’s friends, the dad asked his friends and was surprised by the positive responses. One friend said he was “humbled and honored” that the father had asked him to support his son.
When asked, another potential friend of an individual with IDD said that she would love to spend time with her. Often parents do not realize that their child could have friends in their lives that are neither family members nor peers with disabilities. Or they may not realize what gifts their family member has to share with the world.
It’s not their fault. It’s quite possible that family members spend so much time trying to find services that meet an individual with IDD where he or she is that they tend to focus on gaps that need filling. As a result, they never realize that someone they see as operating at a disadvantage may actually have something special to offer the world.
It may be something as simple, but rare these days, as a sense of exuberance, joy, or wonder. Perhaps it’s a strong sense of responsibility. Or an interest in teaching others about a favorite topic. An insatiable curiosity. Or a funny fresh way of looking at the world.
All too often, individuals with developmental disabilities are kept separate from the rest of society. In the old days, they were kept in institutions. These days, although we know that social connections can benefit all people and we encourage people to expand beyond their comfort zones, it can be hard to get individuals with disabilities involved with broader social circles or communities.
Getting involved with other people can mean more than just physically sharing space with others. It’s about connecting with others. And it can involve how we play and share our interests. Relationship building is an important building block. We know that when people with IDD participate in faith communities, sports, their neighborhoods, and community organizations, they can increase their quality of life and sense of well-being.
If you work with or have IDD family members, you know that it can be hard to cultivate a social life with people outside the family or disabled community. Part of the problem is that disabled individuals usually have social networks that consist of family, support staff, or other persons with disabilities. And while people generally agree that individuals with intellectual disabilities should be included in society, they may resist interacting with them, because they are unsure of how to behave or find it uncomfortable. Plus, as family members or outside caregivers, we may be reluctant to place outsiders into situations where we think they may be uneasy.
But maybe, as the stories in the beginning suggest, reality is a kinder, gentler place than we may imagine. Maybe we should be careful not to let our fears shape our perceptions and dictate our actions—especially if that limits the size of our IDD family members’ social circles.
Another obstacle may involve transportation. Just getting to activities so that one can participate can be a barrier. So that must be worked out.
Recipes for social inclusion
If you want to help someone widen their social web, consider a few of the following ingredients:
Being accepted as an individual beyond the disability helps a person develop a stronger sense of self worth. Consider groups where the individual with IDD might fit right in. Maybe he loves classic cars or monster trucks. Or maybe she would like to join a knitters group or a yoga class.
Having significant and reciprocal personal relationships matters. This could be as simple as creating a relationship where your disabled son spends an hour each week helping an elderly neighbor with gardening or just sitting together chatting.
Being involved in activities makes it a lot easier to expand a person’s social circle. Invite people to meet your disabled family members. Or reach out to groups that organize events the IDD member may be interested in. You can tell them, “Remember us when you organize an event. We can help out. And we want to have fun, too.” They should see your family member as a resource, someone who can help them out.
So how do you expand someone’s sense of community or belonging?
You could brainstorm community groups, people, or relationships that could be developed. Connecting with people who share similar interests means folks will be naturally drawn together. They already have something in common that creates a social glue.
After brainstorming ideas, have your family member chose their three favorite ideas to pursue. Then list a few steps you’ll need to take to get the member involved in the group
This kind of approach has helped individuals with IDD get jobs, socialize more with neighbors, and get far more involved in church or social civic activities.
Here are some of the ways people with IDD expanded their social circles:
- A married couple gave an individual a ride to their church twice a month
- Several individuals reconnected with old friends from school
- An individual got to know a man at church better after saying he wanted to meet him and working out with his parents to invite him to lunch after church.
- An individual joined a weekly cribbage group
- An individual joined a university women’s basketball team fan club
- An individual enjoyed a weekly trivia contest at a restaurant/bar
- An individual volunteered at a children’s museum
- An individual performed in a theater production
- An individual volunteered with an animal rescue group
Clearly, there are many people, groups, and venues that would not only welcome the help of individuals with developmental disabilities, they would benefit from their efforts. In many cases, such individuals can contribute to the greater good and enjoy the benefits of interacting with other community members.
Steps You Can Take to Avoid Catching the New Coronavirus
You may have heard that a new virus is spreading around the world. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (aka COVID-19) has infected more than 105,000 people around the world. Most (80,000+) are in China, where the disease first turned up. More than 3,500 people globally have died of the virus. As of Monday, March 9, 545 people have been treated for coronavirus in the United States. But the possible public health threat posed by COVID-19 is very high both globally and here in the U.S., according to the World Health Organization. And from day to day, the numbers keep changing.
The good news is that 4 in 5 cases (or more than 80 percent) are not severe cases, according to a large Chinese study. That means some people experience what feels like a mild cold and then it goes away. Or a small sore throat. And two days later they feel fine. Cases defined as mild did not involve pneumonia, an infection of the lungs, or only mild pneumonia.
The bad news is that mild symptoms can make it harder to control the spread of a potential epidemic. And you should know that those who are older or with underlying health conditions face a higher risk of more severe symptoms.
This new COVID-19 virus is a bit of a mystery. We do not know everything about it yet. We don’t have a vaccine yet. It’s possible that it may spread from people who haven’t shown symptoms yet and therefore don’t even know they have it. While there have been such reports, it’s not considered the main way the virus spreads.
We want all of our caregivers, families, and individuals to know that you can take precautions to avoid getting sick. While not everything is known about this new coronavirus, the better educated you are on what’s known will help protect you and loved ones in our community.
Q: What are symptoms of this new virus?
A: Symptoms can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Among confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 cases, those with reported illnesses have experienced everything from mild symptoms to severe illness and death.
Q: How can I avoid catching this virus?
A: The most important thing you can do is wash your hands often, preferably with soap and water, rubbing all surfaces of the hands for 20 seconds (imagine singing “Happy Birthday” 3 times fast).
Q: How should I prepare for a possible outbreak?
A: Keep a 30-day supply of essential medicines. Get a flu shot. Keep essential household items in stock. Have a support system in place for older family members.
Q: How quickly do the symptoms appear?
A: The CDC believes that symptoms may appear in as little as 2 days or take as long as 14 days after exposure to show up.
Q: How does the virus spread?
A: The virus is thought to spread mostly from person-to-person. It can spread between people who are in close contact, or within 6 feet of each other. It spreads via droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Q: Can I catch it from touching certain contaminated surfaces or objects?
A: It may be possible to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that the virus landed on and then touching your own mouth, nose, or maybe even your eyes. But this is not considered the main way the virus spreads.
Q: When does the virus spread?
A: People are thought to be the most contagious when their symptoms are the worst (and they’re feeling the sickest).
Q: How do you know if you’ve got COVID-19?
A: You would know if you had COVID-19, if you tested positive for the virus. The test involves taking nasal and mouth swabs.
Q: What should you do if you are sick with COVID-19 or suspect you are infected with the virus that causes it?
A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following if you are sick or think you are infected with COVID-19:
- Stay home except to get medical care.
- Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home
- Call ahead before visiting your doctor.
- Wear a facemask when you are sharing a room or vehicle with other people or pets.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains between 60 percent to 95 percent alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they are dry. If hands are visibly dirty, soap and water are better.
- Avoid sharing personal household items like dishes, cups, forks, towels, or bedding with others in your home.
- Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds.
- Family and caregivers should clean all “high-touch” surfaces every day. These include tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, keyboards, tablets, and bedside tables. Clean any surfaces that get bodily fluids or stool on them. Use a household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Monitor the sick person’s symptoms. Seek prompt medical attention if the illness is getting worse. For example, an individual might experience difficulty breathing.
Stay safe and take care!
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention on COVID-19
Most Coronavirus Cases Are Mild. That’s Good and Bad News.
Video: 20 Seconds of Handwashing Could Save Your Life
Video: How to Disinfect Your Home
Working for Casmir Care Services as a Family Caregiver
Most people who work as family caregivers work for free. It’s a way to ensure a loved one gets attentive and sympathetic care. And you don’t have to worry about whether your family member will get along with and be safe in the care of a stranger. But it comes at a price. Time spent caring for a family member for free often equals time away from a paid job.
But family caregiving doesn’t have to be a financial drain. Here at Casmir Care Services, family caregivers are paid staff.
As November is National Family Caregiver Month, I took a moment to talk with Chinyere Dunkley, our Director of Human Resources, about what we look for and how you can become a paid family caregiver through Casmir Care Services right here in Philadelphia. Here’s what she told me.
One of our most common openings is for Direct Support Professionals. We offer competitive wages and health benefits to select applicants who are family members of adults with an intellectual or mental health disability. The work involves providing daily living support to individuals in Philadelphia. The work can be full-time or part-time. Shift work is required, and you must have reliable means of transportation.
What family caregivers do
Our family caregivers have jobs that always offer a mix of tasks. Common services our family caregivers provide include:
- Buying groceries/teaching how to make purchases at the store
- Cooking/monitoring with cooking in the kitchen using appliances
- Cleaning the house
- Doing laundry
- Teaching money management
- Teaching travel safety
- Teaching socialization (like how to make eye contact when having a conversation)
- Teaching personal hygiene
- Getting the individual dressed for the day/teaching how to dress and choose weather appropriate dressing
- Teaching personal information
- Assisting with showers
- Meal preparation
- Supporting with community activities and locating useful local resources
- Helping transfer the individual in and out of bed
- Making medical appointments
- Talking with doctors, care managers, and others to better understand the individual’s needs and what, if anything, could be improved
What Casmir seeks in its family caregivers
Successful family caregivers at Casmir share certain qualities, skills, and abilities in common. Those who do best tend to be people who are patient, flexible, compassionate, innovative, honest, and empathetic. It helps to have good communication skills so that you can advocate for those you care for effectively. A positive mindset also helps. We are always on the lookout for people who are encouraging and supportive.
And if you have good problem-solving skills, you’ll likely do well here. Most importantly, we look for people who are passionate about our company mission (as stated on our website) and are willing to learn and grow with us.
The application process
The whole process from the moment you start your application for a job at Casmir to starting a job can be as short as one week. First, you’ll have to fill out our application. If you qualify, we may proceed to an interview. If you’re qualified, you can then get paid training before beginning work at one of our locations. Note: Before Casmir hires you, you first have to undergo a criminal history check, a child abuse clearance, and a physical/TB test.
Each caregiver undergoes two days of intensive paid training that focuses on how we provide services and what goes into making sure individuals in our care stay healthy and safe. Training covers not only our policies and procedures, but also how to deal with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Some of the health and safety-related training includes learning how to respond if the individual experiences a seizure. First aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (which involves chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing) are also important parts of our training.
As a Casmir family caregiver, you can expect to get further training either in-person or online. And when you run into a problem or are stumped by a situation, help is never far away. We encourage you to turn to your supervisors and Human Resources to get help with resolving problems.
Of course, not all our staff are family caregivers. Sometimes a family reaches out to Casmir for a caregiver. But no one in the family is in a position to step up and fill the job. When that’s the case, Casmir can provide a caregiver immediately.
Grow with our company
We pride ourselves on the fact that our staff can grow with the company. One way is to be promoted from Direct Support Professional to Site Supervisor. Of course, the people who earn this type of promotion demonstrate great human relations skills, creative problem-solving, and compassion in their day-to-day work.
If you’re interested in applying for a family caregiving or a non-family caregiving position with Casmir, do reach out to us. You can apply online, email us HR@Casmircares.com to inquire about employment with us, or come to one of our employment open houses. We are hiring! Find us on Facebook or Instagram for details about the next one. We are always looking to grow our work family of caregivers.
Fun Things To Do During the Holiday Season (Updated)
Although the weather outside may be frightful, there are plenty of reasons not to stay hunkered down inside this December and beyond. A lot of hot spots in Philly become hubs of activity in the winter. You’ll find lots of places to stroll, gawk at the sights, be inspired, and take pictures. And most of the ones listed below are free and accessible.
Christmas Light Show and Wanamaker Organ Concert
Dec. 1 – Dec. 24 (Closed Christmas Day), Dec. 26-31
Enjoy a longtime Philadelphia tradition. Since 1956, locals have flocked to the Christmas Light Show and Wanamaker Organ Concert, which is wheelchair accessible. Now at Macy’s Center City store in the historic Wanamaker Building, you can watch snowflakes, ballerinas, and reindeer float by against a blue velvet curtain. During the light show, 100,000 bright LED lights create fantastic holiday images. The shows run every two hours from 10 am to 8 pm. At the end of the light show, you’ll hear live festive music from the world-famous Wanamaker Grand Organ. Good, less crowded times for viewing the show are Monday through Thursday.
While you’re there, check out the third floor of Macy’s, which became a “Dickens Village” for the holidays. The 6,000 sq. ft. village brings Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to life with a free self-guided tour of an animatronic display that ends with a one-on-one with Santa.
Also worth a look: Macy’s animated Christmas street windows on the Market Street side.
Where: Macy’s is located in The Wanamaker Building at 13th & Market Streets. More details.
Christmas Village at LOVE Park
Nov. 24 – Dec. 24
Get into the holiday spirit at Christmas Village at LOVE Park in Philadelphia. Inspired by traditional European open-air Christmas markets, this shopper’s destination offers gifts and festive treats like warm waffles, gingerbread, and mulled wine. About 80 local and international vendors have set up shop here. Each day, street-side performances and special events will be held. For the brave, there are daily Ferris wheel and carousel rides. See the full Christmas Village calendar for upcoming events. The complete festival is wheelchair-accessible.
Where: N. 15th Street and Arch Street
More details about the Christmas Village
Here’s a vendor list.
Dilworth Park (multiple attractions)
Now – Apr. 3, 2022 (dates vary by attraction)
Head to Center City’s Dilworth Park to see seasonal attractions that have popped up for the holidays and beyond. Like ice skating? Then glide on over to Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink. Even if you prefer not to skate yourself, it’s always fun watching others zipping around. Relax with a hot cocoa at the Rothman Orthopaedics Cabin. And take a stroll through the seasonal plant arrangements and holiday topiary in the Wintergarden. On one side of City Hall, through Jan. 1 you can see a free Deck the Hall light show.
Something new this season is “Play the Lights,” an interactive instrument that works like a normal keyboard, only with technicolor visual effects that are projected onto the façade of City Hall when you play each note. While local professional pianists and organists will be around to showcase what’s possible with synchronized holiday music, you may also get a chance to try your hand at this. Every Tuesday and Wednesday night from 8:45 pm to 9:30 pm, visitors of all ages are welcome to try “playing the lights.”
Look for gifts like handcrafted trinkets, jewelry, and yummies like French toast bites and pretzels at the Made in Philadelphia Holiday Market through Dec. 24. Elevators between the transit concourse and surface streets make Dilworth Park wheelchair-accessible.
Where: Dilworth Park, 1 S. 15th Street
Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest
From now to March 4, 2022
Check out the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest, which turns Penn’s Landing into a wintry riverfront park. The Olympic-size ice skating rink, a ski chalet-style lodge and winter garden are like another world with outdoor seating, fire pits, cozy warming cabins, and arcade games. The Winterfest is a favorite for residents of every age and background. (Penn’s Landing is wheelchair-accessible. And you can take a Philly Phlash bus on the downtown loop to get to it.)
Where: Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest at 101 S. Christopher Columbus Boulevard.
Kwanzaa at the African American Museum
Dec. 26 (9:30 am –4:45 pm)
Celebrate the winter harvest by lighting kinara and enjoying music, dance, and stilt-walkers at The African American Museum in Philadelphia’s annual Kwanzaa event. (The museum offers barrier-free access for the physically disabled.)
Where: The African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch Street
Fireworks on the Waterfront
If you would like to close out the year with fireworks, head on down to see Rivers Casino New Year’s Eve Fireworks on the Waterfront. You can catch great views of the free fireworks displays which will take place twice on the last day of the year at 6 pm and midnight.
Where: Various locations at the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest at 101 S. Christopher Columbus Boulevard.
Enjoy the month! And we wish you all a happy new year!
Office Manager/Front desk Receptionist
Essential Duties and Responsibilities include the following:
- Managing the reception area to ensure effective telephone and mail communications both internally and externally.
- Maintaining professional image of the agency and themselves at all time.
- Receiving visitors at the front desk by greeting, welcoming, directing and announcing them appropriately.
- Directing visitors by maintaining employee and department directories; giving instructions.
- Scheduling meetings and appointments within the office.
- Organizing the office layout and ordering stationery and equipment.
- Maintaining the overall office condition thereby ensuring cleanliness at all times as well as making necessary arrangements for needed repairs/maintenance.
- Liaising with HR to update and maintain office policies as necessary.
- Ensuring that all items/services provided are invoiced and paid on time.
- Provision of general support to visitors.
- Addressing employees queries regarding office management issues.
- Liaising with facility management vendors, including cleaning, catering and security services
- Receiving, sorting and distribution of daily mail/deliveries
- Performing other clerical receptionist duties such as filing, photocopying, transcribing and faxing.
- Answering, screening and forwarding incoming phone calls.
- Ensuring reception area is tidy and presentable, with all necessary stationery and material (e.g. pens, forms and brochures)
- Providing basic and accurate information in-person and via phone/email
- Maintaining security by following procedures; monitoring logbook; issuing visitor badges.
- Maintaining technical knowledge of one’s position to promote growth within the company
- Planning in-house or off-site activities, like parties, celebrations and conferences.
- Receiving and logging in payroll timesheets as well as onward delivery to the appropriate department.
- Liaising with support coordination agencies, the county and State departments to ensure efficient communication as well as mutually beneficial relationship with the agency.
- Other duties as assigned.
- Minimum education requirement of high school diploma.
- Knowledge of office management responsibilities, systems and procedures
- Attention to detail and problem solving skills.
- Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
- Strong organizational and planning skills.
- Proficiency in Microsoft Office
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills
- Stress tolerance
- Pleasant personality
Job Type: Full-time
Job seekers are encouraged to apply here: https://casmircares.com/apply-online/
Heartfelt Greetings for Someone Special
Many people tend to think that Valentine’s Day is relevant only for the red rose and candlelit dinner crowd. But it’s not just about cupids, flowers, and chocolates. This holiday isn’t just for people in romantic relationships.
Valentine’s Day can be far more inclusive than that. And it can still be quite meaningful even if you take a simpler approach to the day.
Whether you are someone who cares for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities or you are someone who receives care, Valentine’s Day can be a good time to show the most important people in your life that you care for them. Show that you appreciate what they bring to your world or how they make your life better by just being there for you. Perhaps that person’s presence in your life—whether as caregiver or individual with a developmental disability—makes your life more meaningful.
Showing you care for people doesn’t have to be romantic. But it can involve a high degree of emotional openness. Yet, many of us aren’t used to telling people what they mean to us. We may feel squeamish talking about feelings. But it doesn’t have to feel that way.
This year, consider giving a Valentine’s Day card to those who are important in your life. Whether you hand deliver the card or use snail mail, it will stand out in this age of texting and email. If you can’t think of what to write, you can get ideas from Mr. Rogers, who wasn’t afraid to say what he felt.
Being and feeling special
Americans don’t talk much about feelings. We may get uncomfortable venturing into the realm of emotions. But talking about feelings is important talk. “Knowing that our feelings are natural and normal for all of us can make it easier for us to share them with one another,” wrote the TV host, musician, creator, producer, and minister, Fred Rogers, in his book, “The World According to Mister Rogers.” He was known for saying, “I like you just the way you are.”
This is a radical message. How often does someone say something like this to you? When we’re growing up, often the message from parents and other family members is that we are somehow not enough. But don’t blame them. They are just impatient for us to learn things and grow up.
Whose presence do we take for granted?
You may draw some inspiration from the teachings of Mr. Rogers in this song he sang, “It’s You I Like.” And here’s an exercise adapted from Mr. Rogers that may help you access the deep well of appreciation you have for those who have cared for you in all sorts of ways. Ask yourself:
- Who in your life has helped you grow? Who has helped you love the good that grows within you?
- Let’s just take 10 seconds to think of those people who have loved us and wanted what is best for us in life. This would be those who have encouraged us to become who we are in life.
- No matter where they are, whether here or in heaven, imagine how pleased those people must be to know that you thought of them right now.
Cherishing the people in your life and letting them know what you feel can be a powerful way to show that feelings can be mentioned and managed. It can be a powerful mental and emotional exercise.
Ways to say, “I ❤️ you”
In a letter responding to a Valentine’s Day card, Mr. Rogers noted that there are many ways of saying, “I love you.” Here are some things you can tell those important people in your life.
- I thank you for all the good that you do.
- I appreciate when you [insert action ]
- I like you just for being you.
- Thank you for always being there for me.
At the end of every episode of his TV show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” Mr. Rogers reminded his viewers of what they meant to him. “You’ve made this day a special day by just your being you,” he would say. “There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.”
And here’s wishing all of our staff, caregivers, and the individuals we serve a wonderful Valentine’s Day. You always make each day a special day, by just your being you!
Prepare Before An Emergency Occurs
As the caregiver of an adult with intellectual or developmental disabilities, you may face extra obstacles that make reacting to emergencies a challenge. It’s crucial to plan for your regular needs and know what you would do if they become limited or unavailable.
You can maximize your peace of mind if you have a plan in place. Visit these websites for more information about how to prepare before an emergency occurs.
PA Emergency Preparedness Guide
Disaster Preparedness for Peoples with Disabilities
Our agency is currently looking for a Driver to help maintain our transportation services for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. We are seeking energetic, professional and outgoing people to ensure our clients are truly served in a tangible way that has a positive influence on their day. If you have experience working with Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disability and this sound like a fun and exciting opportunity to exercise your hospitality and safe driving skills, please review the position and requirements.
If you desire to work in a professional and outgoing atmosphere where the Individuals are truly served, this is a great opportunity with flexible hours and a chance to truly impact a Licensed Residential Program. We are currently hiring for this position and you MUST complete an application to be considered.
Essential Duties and Responsibilities include the following:
- Be aware of the Individuals location and actions at all times.
- Pick up and drop off Individuals to day programs, community activities and appointments.
- Be helpful, approachable and outgoing toward all Individuals and their staff.
- Keep track of the Individuals activities and appointment schedules and paperwork.
- Required to retain availability during peak times, which might include holidays, stormy weather, public transit strikes, evenings and weekends.
- Required to have good communication skills in dealing with the Individuals, their staff and family.
- Required to have a general understanding of the time for pick-up and drop off.
- Required to strictly follow safety guidelines.
- Required to immediately report any accidents, claims or otherwise having to do with the Individuals, staff and/or vehicle.
- Responsible for the vehicle under your care while on shift.
- May be required to pick up shifts working in the Residential Sites.
- Maintain a gossip-free work environment.
- Pass all screenings of Motor Vehicle Record check, Background Check and application assessments (must complete all assessments in application process)
- Experience working with Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disability required.
- Strong desire to deliver a ‘high quality’ customer service experience
- Possess ability and willingness to solve problems independently but also reach out to your supervisor if unsure of an answer
- Maintain order and presence on property at all times through safe and aware driving practices.
- Knowledge of how to Navigate the City of Philadelphia and the surrounding counties is very essential to be successful in this position and is required.
Job Type: Full-time
Job seekers are encouraged to apply here: https://casmircares.com/apply-online/
Improving Care Services for ID/D is Her Mission
Faith guides Chetachi Dunkley’s approach to advocacy
As we pause to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, his message of inclusion, equality, and love for all reminds me of many of the ideas that led to the creation of Casmir Care Services, which aims to improve the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities through care, comfort, and compassion.
Long before Chetachi Dunkley founded this agency in 2008, she worked as a dialysis technician and saw social workers dealing with clients with kidney disease. She would ask questions. And she had a lot of empathy for those who were receiving dialysis treatment. Along the way, she learned that some of the people who were getting dialysis did not have anyone at home to take care of them.
When she went back to school, she studied social work. After graduation, she worked as a support coordinator, essentially doing the work of a social worker. In that position, she dealt with individuals with disabilities. “And I saw myself in all of them,” she said. “I saw my children in all of them.”
What did they all have in common? Just like the rest of us, she explained, they are all God’s creation. Regardless of their conditions, they are all individually blessed, she said. “Each of my individuals, they’re unique,” she said. “They’re special, and I don’t see any reason why people will look down on them. How can you look down on anyone with a disability?”
Growing up in Nigeria, she noticed that people called those with any kind of disability names. But even back then, Chetachi did not understand why they were treated differently. And each time she met anyone with a disability out in public, she would always give them something, usually food or water. Later as a support coordinator, she felt a similar call to give to the world.
Anyone with any kind of disability is special, said Chetachi. She sees autistic individuals as special, for instance. “So it was in my heart to serve them, because I believed that they needed something better,” she said. “They needed someone to advocate for them.”
As a support coordinator, her advocacy involved making sure they got the appropriate waivers and the appropriate services from the state. She ensured that any caregiving agency was actually providing the services detailed in its plans. She went out of her way to make sure that her individuals were taken good care of, because all of them were so special to her, she said.
Founding Casmir on love and empathy
The way she saw it, God created all of them. All of us are equal. And none of us should lack love, she said. And none of us should lack services. None should be treated as if we’re different. As human beings, all are children of God, said Chetachi, and need to be taken care of.
In 2008, Chetachi founded Casmir Care Services, because she thought that by starting her own organization, she could do more for individuals with disabilities. She knew she could make a bigger difference for the people she serves.
She still remembers one of her early individuals, a woman who had seizures that affected her speech. She was beautiful and talented. And she wanted to make beads and braid hair. “And I knew that I could help her achieve all those,” said Chetachi.
Several other individuals who came along, and for whom there were doubts about the capacity of the young agency to handle, have all seen great overall improvements and have become active members of the community. Some have jobs as well as do volunteering activities.
It helps, said Chetachi, that when you look at individuals and see yourself in them, you can empathize with them. “Then you will be able to take care of them,” she said.
Another part of the solution, she noted, is that in order to take care of somebody, you have to meet that person exactly where they are. It takes some time to learn about the individuals, their behaviors, their likes and dislikes, etc. The knowledge helps make a difference for staff working with individuals.
Seeing them as family
What sets Casmir Care Services apart is its emphasis on treating every individual they serve as a family member. “We treat them like our brothers, our sisters, our mother, our father, and we look at them as family,” Chetachi said. “That’s what Casmir Care Services is all about. It’s about love and caring. It’s about having empathy. It’s about understanding. And it’s about going above the call of duty to take care of the individuals.”
Since it started out, Casmir Care Services has not shied away from accepting the most challenging and difficult individuals. Some of the toughest cases, with profound behaviors are accepted at the agency. We accept these cases, because we know that we can do better for them, said Chetachi. And we know that with love and caring, these individuals will become the best.
Since the agency was founded in 2008, one thing has stayed constant, said Chetachi. We’re still the same one big family. And the same philosophy applies: You have to love yourself to treat others with love. “If you see yourself in someone, then you will be able to take good care of that person,” she said.