Saturday, October 20, 2007

No Place Like (Group) Home (For Real)

A number of years ago I was working in a day program with people having developmental, physical, and mental health disabilities. These folks would come to our site in four hour shifts. It was similar to a club house situation. We would play board games, do arts and crafts, go into the community for activities, have snacks, etc. These individuals had several differences in what their support needs were, and we worked with each person accordingly.

One day a man with some serious mental health issues had a major melt down. It began with him striking one of his peers for no apparent reason. It was a pretty serious blow which left the other person understandably shook up. The area that the aggressor was in was cleared for the safety of the other folks, and I was asked to deal with him one on one. It only took a few minutes for his anger to turn to remorse and sadness. He began weeping uncontrollably; repeating over and over; “I want to go home”. I told him I would call his group home and arrange for him to do as he wished. Not so fast buddy boy...

I called his house and spoke with the manager. I went into great detail regarding what had happened, and his desire to come home. This person told me he would not be allowed to come home because he was on our agency’s time, and she expected us to serve him until his ride came to bring him home. Although I wanted to crawl through the phone line to throttle this woman, I called my boss to inform her as to what was going on. My boss was no happier than me about the manager’s response, and decided to give her a call. Five minutes later my boss called me back.

I was told that the manager had changed her mind about this upset person being allowed to go home. The compromise was that I would stay at his house with him until the manager finished the paper work she was doing behind a closed office door. I didn’t think this was the best case scenario for the guy, but agreed to do it if it would make him feel a little bit better. We got in my car and I drove him back to his house.

When we arrived, the manager came out of the office to let us in. The fellow had calmed down considerably and went directly to his bed room to lie down. As I was speaking to this manager, another person came out of the office room. This was a caregiver who was apparently “assisting” the manager with paperwork. Together they let me know in no uncertain terms that they were doing OUR AGENCY a FAVOR by allowing for this change in routine. They failed to mention anything about what was in this guy’s best interest. It was all about who was responsible for him during this time period. They said they’d be done with the paperwork in about an hour, and went back into the office; closing the door behind them.

I sat in the living room within earshot of the guy’s bed room. He began coming out into the living room with a perplexed look on his face. He knew I didn’t work in his home, and seemed confused about my presence. I attempted to explain what was going on, but he wasn’t hearing it. For the next 20 minutes he’d come out of his room, see me in the living room, look at me increasingly upset, and retreat back to his room. Finally he came out of his room and I could see he’d been crying again.

At that point I’d seen and had enough. I walked over to the closed door and knocked. The caregiver opened the door and I told her I was leaving. She asked why, and I told her what had been going on. The manager had been listening and came out of their "cave". She informed me that if I left I could expect to be in trouble due to the agreement she'd made with my boss. I believe I said; “fine”, and left.

I drove back to our office to speak with my boss about what happened. I was commended for taking into consideration what was best for this man instead of “the agreement”. The following day when I came into work I was given a memo which stated from that point forward any requests by our folks to go home would indeed be honored. We sent the memo home with them for their staff to read.

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